Law Times

September 14, 2009

The premier weekly newspaper for the legal profession in Ontario

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Follow on TitlePLUS title insurance and you, together we have all the tools TitlePLUS title insurance and you, together we have all the tools. www.twitter.com/lawtimes $3.55 • Vol. 20, No. 28 Covering Ontario's legal Scene Lawyers want details before celebrating 'historic investment' lawyers in the province kept the champagne on ice last week and are waiting for more details on where the government's four-year, $150-million investment will fl ow. Bentley, in an interview with Law Times, calls the new funding a "historic invest- ment that supports Ontario's most vulner- able" and added it will "transform the legal aid approach." Th e new funding for Legal Aid Ontario Boycott to continue despite $150 million A BY ROBERT TODD Law Times ttorney General Chris Bentley calls it the largest investment in the history of Ontario's legal aid program, but is expected to raise its base funding by $60 million a year by 2012. In 2013, Bentley hopes to put in place an "automatic index- ation" system for legal aid that would aim to ensure that its funding increases in step with other segments of the justice system. "I think we want to get to a position where we are able to make sure legal aid's budget is protected in the future," he says. Th e government singled out four areas where it plans to direct the new resources: legal clinics, family law, big-case management, and cutting court delays. It did not say how much money would fl ow to each of these areas. Ad- visory groups, chaired by representatives from legal aid and made up primarily of lawyers, will be set up to help direct the funds. Th e government said the new investment in legal clinics will allow more people to get legal advice and help integrate anti-poverty and so- cial services eff orts. Th e funds will help clinics attorney General Chris Bentley says the four-year boost for legal aid will protect Ontario's most vulnerable. become "a central part of new co-ordinated legal supports that respond to the full range of issues — from landlord and housing issues to employ- ment issues — that those in diffi cult situations are faced with every day," according to a release from the Ministry of the Attorney General. "We want [legal aid clinics] to be a key an- chor of co-ordinated legal supports from the fi rst-contact, very simple advice that you might get over the phone through a hotline or a web site, through to full legal representation," says Bentley. "We want them to be able to lead the charge as we begin to bring together the eff orts of diff erent parts of government." Avvy Go, director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, says the impact of the new funding will depend on how it's divvied up. Th e investment must help clients get lawyers for complex legal problems they can't deal with on their own, she says. "I'm hopeful that legal aid and the attorney general recognize that, so that whatever new initiatives that they come up with are not just going to be about self help," she says. "Because those services are not going to be able to resolve the legal issues that my clients face." Th e new money for family law is expected to provide "access to a faster, less confronta- tional, and simpler system," said the govern- ment. Help for clients and service providers that deal with matters in "collaborative and non-confrontational" ways was singled out in the announcement, along with more upfront information for family law litigants. Steven Benmor, a member of the Ontario Bar Association's family law section execu- tive committee, calls the government's an- nouncement "vague" and suggests it may be premature to pass judgment. It remains un- clear, he says, just how much money will fl ow to family law initiatives. "What we are hopeful for, however, is that there will be representation on these commit- tees from the family law bar, specifi cally the See Funding, page 2 Probe finds 20 jury-vetting cases in Barrie: AG A BY TIM NAUMETZ For Law Times review by the provincial government has found Crown prosecutors con- ducted jury vetting in at least 20 trials in Barrie, Law Times has learned. Th e number includes three cases that have already been made public during the controversy over juror background checks that erupted last May. A spokesman for Attorney General Chris Bentley disclosed the new number in response to questions from Law Times. Bent- ley's department is conducting a review of possible jury vetting in trials dating back to March 31, 2006. Spokesman Brendan Crawley confi rmed nine defence lawyers have been informed that Barrie trials in which they were counsel involved undisclosed jury vetting by Crown prosecutors. "After examining every case from Barrie where there was a conviction following a jury trial where either the jury was se- lected after March 21, 2006, or there is an outstanding appeal, we have identifi ed 20 cases in which jury background checks were conducted," Crawley wrote in an e-mail. He added the number includes 12 past cases and eight cases still under appeal. Th e revelation comes as a de- fence lawyer in a Windsor mur- der trial that was halted after dis- closure of improper jury vetting worries the extraordinary costs a judge awarded to the accused may not end up in the coff ers of Legal Aid Ontario. Greg Goulin, one of the law- yers representing two co-accused through legal aid in the trial, says he fears the Ministry of the At- torney General, responsible for LAO as well as the prosecution, may simply settle the issue in- ternally with no cash transfer to legal aid. "In eff ect, it would simply be going from one branch of the ministry to another," Goulin says. He says under the rules of civil procedure, through which the costs were argued and awarded, LAO could meet the terms of the award by producing a "satisfac- tion piece" — a method by which costs in civil cases are sometimes Focus On Human Rights Law Quote of the week "The area where there's a huge shortfall is in services to families to keep their children at home. That drives a lot of children into child-welfare care unnecessarily." — Cindy Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada See Tribunal, page 13 titleplus.ca September 14, 2009 tlePlus_LT_Jan26_09.indd 1 1/20/09 12:14:52 PM Inside This Issue 4 LSUC Honours 7 The Hill 9 settled other than with a cash payment. "Legal aid can fi le a document saying they have been satisfi ed," Goulin adds. Crawley did not provide a re- sponse to questions about the le- gal aid issue by press time. Superior Court Justice Bruce Th omas declared the mistrial last June after the Crown prosecu- tors in the case, Scott Pratt and Th omas Meehan, confi rmed they had obtained background infor- mation on jurors from the Wind- sor Police Service. Th e prosecutors used the in- formation, which had been gath- ered from the police department's database and included private information such as prospective jurors' views on police, to reject See Cost, page 2 Click here LAW TIMES To subscribe today to WHICH DIRECTION IS BEST FOR YOU? RainMaker Group 110 Yonge Street, Suite 1101 Toronto, Ontario M5C 1T4 Untitled-7 1 Tel: 416-863-9543 Fax: 416-863-9757 www.rainmakergroup.ca www.lawtimesnews.com 5/29/08 1:05:49 PM

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