Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Legal Aid and Getting What You Pay For

In today's Post (Story) Bob Tarantino points out that Michael Bryant, former Attorney General and (deservedly) prominent Ontario lawyer was crushed by a $300,000.00 legal bill for his matrimonial and criminal law issues (readers may remember Bryant was with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death with respect to an incident where an inebriated and belligerent bike courier was killed. The Crown ultimately withdrew all charges against Bryant stemming from the incident, noting there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction.")

Assume the matrimonial fees were in the $50,000 range (the separation was apparently amicable).  That means the criminal legal costs were around $250,000.

Clearly the criminal costs were money well spent -- after six court appearances, none substantive, the charges were withdrawn.  The Crown said "[Bryant] was attacked by a man who unfortunately was in a rage. [Bryant] was legally justified in his attempt to get away", and noted that Sheppard had run-ins with six other motorists in the same month before his encounter with Bryant.  The result was a good, and proper, one.

But remember, Mr. Bryant was able to retain highly effective legal representation.  What of the ordinary accused?

Consider a young man charged with criminal negligence causing death -- in all likelihood he would end up being on legal aid.  Now there are fine legal aid lawyers (I take legal aid so I am perhaps biased), but they can only work with the resources they have.  And what would legal aid pay for six court appearances followed by a withdrawal of charges?

My experience would say around $2,500.  But even if there is a significant discretionary increase the most would be double that -- or about two percent of what Mr. Bryant was billed.

If you get what you pay for, then the young accused man would likely face a much more difficult fate than the former Attorney General.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

$250, 000.00 for 6 court appearances is outrageous. I am a criminal defence lawyer so I know how much work goes into a file like this, and in this case that work was done by the prosecution just as much as by the defence. The Crown does not want to go to trial, particularly on a high profile case, when the evidence does not support guilt. Who did the work gathering that evidence in the first place?

A properly funded staff legal aid model provides superiour work to many private bar lawyers who charge an arm and a leg for their services. Or, as I have often said, I have a law degree, not a business degree. Just because a lawyer happens to be good at making money does not mean that lawyer is is good at practicing law. I know many rich lawyers who have a poor reputation with their colleagues because they focus on the money and not on the law - and it shows.