Lack of legal aid leads court to overturn conviction

Boycott receives unexpected boost by ineffectual defence mounted by Windsor man accused of arson

Kirk Makin

A rapidly expanding boycott of Ontario's legal aid plan got a boost from an unexpected source Friday, when the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned an arson conviction because a defendant who had been denied legal aid was forced to mount his own, ineffectual defence.

A 3-0 majority concluded that William Rushlow – a Windsor, Ont., man who was sentenced to a year in jail for burning down his own home – had been no Perry Mason when it came to legal argument and cross-examination.

“The lack of assistance of counsel impaired the appearance of fairness and, possibly, the ability to make full answer and defence – and in that sense, resulted in a miscarriage of justice,” Mr. Justice Marc Rosenberg said.

Against that backdrop, the number of Ontario lawyers who have pledged to boycott serious legal aid cases to protest against chronic underfunding has risen from 150 to 270.

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The expansion was largely due to a decision by the Criminal Lawyers Association to allow lawyers with five years of experience to join the movement. The boycott had been previously limited to criminal lawyers with 10 years of experience.

“The board initially thought that the senior members of our bar would carry the issue, but we have been swamped by requests to participate,” CLA president Frank Addario said in an interview.

Mr. Addario said that nearly 90 per cent of lawyers who are qualified by Legal Aid Ontario to handle “extremely serious cases” have now joined the boycott. They include such legal luminaries as Edward Greenspan, Clayton Ruby, Marlys Edwardh, Brian Greenspan, Austin Cooper, John Rosen, Alan Gold, William Trudell and Mark Sandler.

Another veteran defence lawyer, Peter Zaduk, also joined the boycott last week, just hours after winning a major acquittal in a high-profile murder case. Mr. Zaduk's client, Ashleigh Pechaluk, had been charged in a lesbian axe-murder case.

“I've done these cases for 31 years, but I can't do them any more,” Mr. Zaduk said in an interview. “The system is out of balance and relies on free services from defence counsel. I'm fed up.”

Mr. Addario said the Rushlow ruling underlined the fact that “the need for an adequately funded, publicly supported defence bar is the same as for any other public service.

“Many of our judges were lawyers when the legal aid plan was vibrant and well-funded, so they might be finding the present situation frustrating,” he said.

The ruling revolved around whether the trial judge ought to have granted Mr. Rushlow a “Rowbotham order” – an order instructing the Ministry of the Attorney-General to fund the defence of an accused person who has already been denied legal aid.

Judge Rosenberg said the trial judge erroneously felt that she could grant a Rowbotham order only if a case presents “unique challenges above and beyond those that would ordinarily be expected in a criminal trial.”

The trial judge also noted: “Were it otherwise, an enormous number of self-represented individuals might well be entitled to state-funded counsel, thereby causing a serious interference with the administration of the state sponsored Legal Aid plan.”

However, Judge Rosenberg said a judge can grant a Rowbotham order if the impending trial will involve some complexity and it seems clear that defence counsel “is essential to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial.”

Judge Rosenberg also said that the health of the legal aid plan is not their business. “It was not the trial judge's concern how the decision to appoint counsel in this case would impact on Legal Aid Ontario's operations,” he said.



6/8/2009 8:36:56 AM
Ontario's legal aid is a sick, a very sick sad tragic joke of government criminalization of the poor who are most of the time, criminalized because of their poverty and often the poverty is caused by the lack of legal aid.

Back 200 years ago, the British Government just rounded up the poor, convicted them of petty and serious offenses, and transported them off for life.

Ontario has a new version of the same thing particularly against males.

First, its a Dead Beat Corrupt Family Court Judges, like the underbelly of the Ottawa Ontario Superior Court. The Dis-Honourables Allan Sheffield, Denis Power, Cheryl Robertson, Aitkin, and chief organizer of that den of criminals, cHuKcY HacKLand.

They first, make sure a father can't file a defense or have a trial, then they hit him with a child support order, they KNOW he can't pay on income that never existed or will exist, its an Automatic life time jail sentence and a life time of terror, OR, you leave the country or Ontario, its the Ontario way of "shipping out" the poor of the province to "other places" to "make the problem go away".

Many don't "go away", it results in chronic Jail overcrowding, their children never see their father's again, and increasingly more generations of dysfunctional children.

The Legal Aid Budget could be slashed to 10% of its present bill by -
1. A Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting after separation

2. Child support calculated on MONTHLY E-Filed income tax returns, not on what the last 3 years WERE.

3. Equitable child support that has NO Spousal support component.

4. Gender Neutral application of Spousal Support, currently Ontario Judges REFUSE point blank to issue or allow even a trial of spousal support by a woman to a man.

5. Psychological screening of judges, presently the worst psychopaths in the legal profession, most likely to flagrantly abuse power, seek and obtain judicial appointment.

6. Real Consequences for Flagrant Judicial Abusers. \


Another comment

Re "Ottawa Mens Centre"
"The Legal Aid Budget could be slashed to 10% of its present bill"

The Ontario Government is the author of its own misfortune and the destruction of untold hundreds of thousands of lives of children who never get to see their father.

The Ontario Government has systematically engineered an entire social and legal system that makes being born male, the reason why all legal rights are removed as soon as he becomes a father and becomes involved in the criminal or family court.

Ontario Judges may have gender neutral legislation but practically, they give women anything and everything they want and if a male makes the least protest, he will be hit with punitive costs orders for having the audacity of actually asking for access.

Ontario blatantly encourages women to make fabricated allegations of criminal assault or domestic violence, harassment, you name it, the Provincial Courts are CLOGGED with Quasi-Family cases, that is, most of the Criminal Court is dealing with cases that are women verus men, with the prime objective of the mother is to destroy the father and make sure a child or children never see their father again.

The Ontario Government created the problems, and they can solve it, just by ending the Male Apartheid enshrined in Ontario Legislation, and a Family Court system that spends more time getting rid of cases, creating injustice that breeds endless litigation because they have an entire system that is set up to NOT solve issues but create issues that create more work for the Feminist industry that operates its numerous forms of "One Stop Divorce Shops".



Orest Zarowsky says "the lawyers can surely afford to chip in"

Orest, you need to talk to all the lawyers who have been 'burned' by Ontario Legal Aid. Check any major city, the number of lawyers who will take legal aid are few and far between.

Often its only the junior lawyers, with next to no experience who get to do legal aid.

For the pros on legal aid, its another story, if they work really hard, and play it right, they can make a six figure income.

Ontario Legal Aid also breeds and encourages a legal cancer of lawyers who do a very high volume with a next to zero quality.

The Ontario Government has slowly but surely kept adding new requirements or introducing or changing rules that slowly, eradicate almost anyone who applies for legal aid.

If you are eligible then you can still be rejected, the first appeal to the area director can succeed but the next level is a complete waste of time.

Once approved, if you are a female, your lawyer can get an unlimited number of hours without too much effort.

If you are a male, the lawyer will have to fight for every few hours and spend a significant percentage of his time, arguing with legal aid as to why the certificate should allow more hours.

The lack of hours is reflected in the pleadings, they are banged out in super quick time with lots of omissions and often doomed to failure.

Its not just Ontario Legal Aid, There needs to be a Provincial inquiry into a reform of the entire Ontario court system including legislation and government employees and agencies who are all on a gravy train that relies on a revolving wheel of endless litigation created by a Province with a Feminist Engineered legal system that has one goal, the criminalization of men.