From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 02:53AM EDT
The Ontario legal aid plan faces a staggering $56-million budget shortfall - a funding crisis that comes as it is already reeling from a boycott by senior criminal lawyers.
In an internal memorandum obtained by The Globe and Mail, Legal Aid Ontario president and chief executive officer Robert Ward warned that the impact of the deficit promises to be "very significant," and will soon necessitate a cash infusion unless quick action is taken.
The memo - written on April 9, 2009 - ascribed $40-million of the shortfall to a precipitous drop in funding this year from the Law Foundation of Ontario, which gives LAO interest payments that accumulate on its trust accounts, which are administered by lawyers.
Mr. Ward predicted that it will be "several years" before revenues from the Law Foundation rebound. His memo sketched out several options for cutting or modifying services to legal aid clinics, courthouse duty counsel, and a certificate program that allows clients to retain lawyers.
The Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, representing 450 people who work as staff lawyers or duty counsel in the province's 77 legal clinics, reacted angrily yesterday to the probability of severe service cuts.
ALAL chairman Walter Van de Kleut said that government funding has failed to keep pace with inflation over the past two decades, a pattern that threatens the entire program.
"Now, we are learning there are plans to impose so-called 'efficiencies' to the program," Mr. Van de Kleut said. "They want to 'rationalize' legal services - which is business-speak for degrading existing funding. Just when the poor and unemployed need a hand up, they're getting a slap down."
Mr. Van de Kleut said that the cuts are likely to eliminate much of the face-to-face contact between clients and legal aid lawyers. He said that clients will be forced to obtain information by telephone or on the LAO website.
"The poor and unemployed need experienced lawyers who can sort through complex problems to arrive at real solutions," he said. "They don't need a telephone overview of options or websites or brochures that don't apply to their situations.
"No MPP or cabinet minister would accept this kind of legal service for themselves or their family. Why should poor people take sketchy legal services?"
In another development yesterday, the bulk of the defence bar in London, Ont., joined a Criminal Lawyers Association boycott to protest against low legal aid pay rates for senior defence counsel.
The move is particularly embarrassing to the McGuinty government because Attorney-General Chris Bentley - a veteran defence lawyer - was a leader of the London bar before he entered government.
Andy Rady, a senior London lawyer, said that Mr. Bentley's government cannot continue to starve legal aid.
"Government can't use the excuse that we're in a recession," Mr. Rady said yesterday. "The program was ignored during boom times, when the government was awash in revenue. Let's face it. This is just not a priority, and it won't be until the justice system collapses."
Mr. Rady said that legal aid work has become so unattractive that the new generation of lawyers is refusing to become involved. "The low rates for lawyers and experts create a justice ghetto that is unacceptable in a wealthy society," he said.
The erosion of the legal aid program has been decried recently by a broad spectrum of the justice system, including the Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association, the majority of the CLA and Hugh Locke, a prominent former judge of the Ontario Superior Court.
The Ontario Government is directly responsible for creating the legal
problems in the first place that require litigation.
95% of Family Court is caused by Judicial refusal to apply the law of gender equality. Best interests of children is interpreted as what's best for mother.
When we have a legal presumption of equal parenting, our family law court load will virtually disappear overnight. As will most of the criminal cases that are the effect of Ontario's blatant feminist policies of allowing women to use Criminal law for a family law purpose.
The Ontario Government funds Crown Attornies, and prisons with incredible costs that would not exist if there was a Legal Presumption of Equal Parenting.
Its the Ontario Government's policy of Male Gender Apartheid and its failure to police the Judiciary that costs Canada billions of dollars that could otherwise be spent helping children, promoting functional families and a positive birth rate.
Ontario has a judicial council that is set up to promote dysfunction, it does nothing to address the underbelly of the judiciary's flagrant abuses.
its time for change and, a legal presumption of equal parenting.
The Ontario Government could start by reforming family law. The entire
process is set up to avoid hearing cases, that prolongs litigation.
Take Ottawa probably one of the worst places in the world to be in family court.
Typically a 75 cases are set down for trial, note that these are NOT legal aid cases, these are full blown tens of thousands or Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal "accounts" as they are called.
Of those 75 cases, perhaps 4 might make it trial, another 4 will be resolved by "summary judgment', that's the use of "power orders" or "sheffield orders" that just throw out a case completely and let one side get everything they want usually for corrupt improper "judicial" abuses.
Then you have a minefield of rules that are guaranteed to trip up any self represented litigant, its designed by a cartel to protect their own monopoly and all that is done with the official approval of the Government of Ontario, for the Cartel of course, while damming citizen's legal