TORONTO, April 13 /CNW/ - Pickering lawyer Michael Head of Walker, Head
recently presented a cheque for $19,500 to Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO), to be
used to fund access to justice programming in Ontario. The cheque represents a
cy pres distribution from settlement awards that could not be distributed to
class members named in Davies v. VIA Rail et al., a class action lawsuit
successfully completed by Walker, Head.
Head, who is a past President of The Advocates' Society, didn't hesitate
to recommend PBLO as a suitable recipient for any unclaimed funds in the case.
"One of the key objectives of the Class Proceedings Act is the enhancement of
access to Justice. PBLO struck me as the appropriate beneficiary of unclaimed
funds. The Judge and other counsel agreed. There may be further unclaimed
funds from this settlement in July, when a number of cheques posted to class
members become stale dated," says Head.
PBLO Chair David Scott was pleased by the news - significant because it
is the first cy pres to be awarded to PBLO. "We are grateful for the
opportunity to use these funds to serve low-income clients," says Scott. "We
are also grateful to Michael Head for approaching PBLO in 2006 with the idea
to name the organization a cy pres beneficiary. Courts and trial lawyers in
the U.S. have for years been using cy pres awards to support programs that
provide free legal services to the poor. It's time Canada caught up, and we
hope that trial lawyers will follow the example Michael set."
Scott hopes to see a change to more awards going to low income legal
services providers. "There are a number of worthy agencies across Canada
providing free legal services to help low income clients who cannot afford the
high cost of legal assistance and who do not qualify - for one reason or
another - for provincial legal aid. I hope the courts will keep in mind that
the underlying premise of class actions is to make access to justice possible
for "the little guy" who otherwise couldn't afford to take a case to court.
Channeling excess funds to programs that provide free legal services to help
the same type of client is a perfect extension of this principle."
"Another untapped, court-based source that could help fund these
initiatives is cost awards," says Scott. "If a lawyer takes on pro bono
litigation on contingency - or is referred a case by a group like PBLO - and
costs are awarded, after paying for disbursements the balance should go to an
organization like PBLO. Otherwise, if it goes back to the lawyer, it's no
longer pro bono."
Pro Bono Law Ontario is a registered charity that promotes access to
justice in Ontario by creating and promoting opportunities for lawyers to
provide pro bono legal services to persons of limited means. Addressing the
needs of unrepresented litigants has been a strategic priority for the
organization for a number of years. For more information, visit www.pblo.org.
For further information:
For further information: PLACEMENTS & INTERVIEWS: PBLO: Carol Austin,
(416) 302-7699, firstname.lastname@example.org; WALKER, HEAD: Michael Head, (905) 839-2575,
email@example.com; MORE INFO: www.pblo.org, www.walkerhead.com