I was recently interviewed by Law Times regarding Pro Bono Law
Ontario's (PBLO) focus on expanding its amicus curiae services
in civil lawsuits. Both Elizabeth K.P. Grace and I were approached
by PBLO in connection with this project. In our view, it is a
positive move and an important component in promoting access to
fairness and justice.
Last summer, Superior Court Justice Eva Frank reached out to
PBLO for amicus counsel when faced with an unrepresented defendant
in a complex civil sexual assault case. Law Times reported on
the PBLO amicus project, noting that both Elizabeth and I were on
board. In October, Elizabeth and I were appointed to the role of
amicus, and we recently completed a three day trial in which we
assisted the court through this role.
I believe that working with PBLO, and doing pro bono work in
general, is an important way to give back to the community and
assist the courts. This is an excellent initiative and Elizabeth
and I both see it as a privilege to have been asked to take on this
role. Elizabeth is quoted in AdvocateDaily.com: "...the legal
system can be difficult to navigate for self-represented parties.
Amici are in a position to assist the court by ensuring that
complex matters do not get bogged down with procedural problems,
and that the broader goals of justice are met".
"In our adversarial system, trial judges cannot themselves
test and challenge the evidence. However, the system is premised on
the theory that evidence will be tested through cross-examination
and this process will assist in the search for truth.
Self-represented parties, however, may not have the legal knowledge
and skills necessary to test the evidence in an effective manner.
Experienced counsel acting as amicus will have the skills to assist
the court by ensuring that the evidence is probed and analyzed in a
way that will ultimately help the judge make findings of fact on
which his or her ruling will be based."
Elizabeth and I were aware that challenges would arise as we
took on the role of amicus curiae. It was necessary to very quickly
acquaint ourselves with the complexities of the case as we did not
have carriage of the file from the beginning. Other challenges for
lawyers acting as amicus include the fact that in this role, you do
not act as an advocate for a client but must focus on impartially
assisting the court with its truth-seeking function. Also, as
amicus, you do not have a client and must prepare without the
insight that a client can offer with respect to the case.
We believe that despite these challenges, PBLO's amicus
project is a positive development that will benefit both lawyers
and the community. We wish the PBLO every success with this
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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