Practising Lawyers' Group Urges Legal Aid Reform

    TORONTO, July 28 /CNW/ - Court backlogs could be significantly reduced,
more people could access legal aid and more lawyers would take on legal aid
cases should recommendations from Law Professor Michael Trebilcock's newly
released report be implemented, the County and District Law Presidents'
Association (CDLPA) said today.
    "This report echoes what the County and District Law Presidents'
Association has been recommending for some time. More lawyers need to be
enticed to take on legal aid work and the income cut off line for qualifying
for Legal Aid is simply too low. The current legal aid tariff system is
universally recognized as far below the necessary rate and needs immediate
attention," said Randall Bocock, Chair of CDLPA.
    CDLPA's own submission to Professor Trebilcock highlighted an urgent need
to increase access to justice for the average Ontarian. CDLPA's
recommendations included the following suggestions, as noted in Trebilcock's

    -   The guidelines to be eligible for Legal Aid are far too high and too
        few Ontarians qualify even though they qualify for social assistance.
        This means more people are representing themselves in court which
        creates a myriad of additional pressures on the overall system of

    -   The hourly legal aid rate needs to be increased to encourage more
        lawyers to take on legal aid work. As it stands now, there is a
        serious shortage of newer lawyers willing to enter the practice of
        family and criminal law - the two main areas that attract the most
        clients who need legal aid help.

    -   Legal Aid - funded Criminal Law Offices, operating in Barrie, Ottawa
        and Brampton have overall costs higher on a per case basis than the
        practising bar in private practice. This has always been CDLPA's
        position and, in our estimation, are not cost efficient and lack an
        economic reason for existing.

    "CDLPA is very pleased that Professor Trebilcock has recommended these
important changes to the system," said Ken Hall of CDLPA's Legal Aid
    "We support the idea of the tariff system being reviewed every three
years once the rate has increased to achieve what Trebilcocok calls initial
equilibrium. This would ensure the long term sustainability of legal aid,"
said Paul Kowalyshyn of CDLPA's Legal Aid committee.
    "If you qualify for social assistance but can't qualify for legal aid
help, there's a problem with the system," said Bocock. "That coupled with the
fact that younger lawyers are not interested in legal aid work because of the
low hourly rate means the system needs changing," said Bocock.
    CDLPA welcomes many of the suggestions in Trebilcock's report and hopes
there's serious consideration for implementation. It is CDLPA's intention to
consult practising lawyers in Ontario on the findings.

    The County and District Law Presidents' Association represents 46 member
Associations in Ontario and over 7,100 members of the practising bar.

For further information:

For further information: Nancy Daigneault, (705) 220-0016

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