Public proceeding of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on October 18, 2013

Attendance

Board members present

John McCamus (Chair); Aly Alibhai; Nancy Cooper; Michelle Haigh; James McNee; Derry Millar; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio)

Staff

David Field; Sue McCaffrey; Stephanie Mealing; Kathleen Murphy; Heather Robertson; Nye Thomas

1. Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda was adopted.

2. Disclosure of conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest were identified.

3. Board Reports (Part 2)

3.1 Chairs report

Journal of Law and Social Policy

The Chair reported a request for LAO to assign, to York University, any and all interest it may have in the Journal of Law and Social Policy, including its interest in a 1998 reprint rights agreement with William S. Hein & Co.

Osgoode Hall Law School had expressed an interest in continuing to publish the journal when LAO decided to discontinue publication. The Chair will execute an assignment agreement with York University.

Decision

The Board approved the assignment of any and all interest that LAO may have in the Journal of Law and Social Policy, including any and all interest it may have in the William S. Hein & Co. agreement, to York University; and authorized the LAO Chair to execute an assignment agreement to give effect to the above.

3.2 Recent activities

The Chair attended, on behalf of LAO:

  • a number of clinic annual general meetings
  • a discussion with LAOs CEO and the Deputy and Assistant Deputy Attorneys General
  • a meeting with the Premiers Chief of Staff, who advised that the current provincial government is interested in legal aid.

3.3 Board Advisory Committees

The Chair presented the LAO Board Advisory Committees spring 2013 report and meeting notes. Committee suggestions are listed and will be followed up. Commencing in spring 2014, Advisory Committee agendas will be reordered to more closely align with the LAO business planning process.

3.4 Requests by stakeholder groups to meet with LAO Board

The following stakeholder groups have asked the Chair to meet with them and the LAO Board of Directors:

  • the Refugee Lawyers Association
  • Friends of Community Legal Clinics
  • the executive director of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario

LAOs policy and reporting structure provide for stakeholders to meet with senior management who report to the Boardwith the sole exception of meetings with stakeholder groups the Board specifically invites.

The Board then discussed:

  • the prospect of allowing stakeholders to meet with some Board members and representatives of senior management
  • designating a specific day for stakeholder meetings with the Board and senior management
  • whether agreement to stakeholder demands would set an unattractive precedent
  • LAOs robust Advisory Committee process, which designates Board liaisons to regularly attend meetings with stakeholders.
  • whether the Chair and the CEO should meet and report back to the full Board to provide one voice for the organization
  • current efforts to dispel myths and rumours about clinicsLAO is finding more positive attitudes when dealing with individual clinics

The Board agreed to keep the existing policy on requests from stakeholder groups, but could reconsider it in future. In the meantime, LAO staff will meet with stakeholder groups as follows:

  • Refugee Lawyers Association concerns will be discussed at the Immigration and Refugee Advisory Committees next meeting, on October 19. If the RLA repeats its request, staff will arrange a meeting with the Chair, the CEO and the Advisory Committee liaison.
  • The Chair will meet with the Friends of Community Legal Clinics group
  • The Chair, accompanied by LAO staff, will meet with the ACLCO executive director.

3.5 Board retreat and strategic planning session

The retreat will be off-site, and an outside facilitator will assist. It will include a:

  • self-assessment session
  • training session on strategy, financial management and governance roles and accountability
  • discussion of succession planning and
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis.

3.6 Board appointments

The Chair discussed a potential candidate who is knowledgable about poverty law issues.

3.7 Complaint about LAO panel lawyer

A complainant has written several letters to LAO about issues with a legal aid panel lawyer on a Consent and Capacity Board matter. Staff are preparing a response.

3.8 Proactive expense disclosure

The Chair disclosed expenses of approximately $3,500 for travel to The Hague for the International Legal Aid Group symposium.

the Board discussed disclosure of expenses for outside contractors. The CEO reported that all contractors expenses are approved by the Vice-President and CAO, and posted on LAOs external website.

3.9 Decision

The Board received the Chairs report.

4. President and CEOs Report

The President and CEO reported on the following:

4.1 Federal Committee on Legal Aid Innovations

The Deputy Minister of Justice has invited LAOs CEO to join other senior individuals on this committee, to study improved service delivery and financial issues for legal aid.

4.2 Meeting with United Chiefs and Council of Manitoulin

The President attended a meeting with the United Chiefs and Council of Manitoulin to discuss access to justice and Gladue reporting.

4.3 Justice on Target (JOT) expert panel

JOT data is trending down. There are efforts at rejuvenation, including a realignment of the governance structure and more central oversight. The CEO discussed instances where certain members of the judiciary and Crown Attorneys treated LAO duty counsel disrespectfully.

4.4 Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAPC)

The President and CEO is the Chair of ALAPC. He informed the Board that ALAPC recently issued a press release endorsing the Cromwell report (also known as Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change).

4.5 Financial update

Staff are forecasting a small surplus, a decline in the deficit and a debt position in the range of $8 million. LAO is reducing its accumulated deficit in a manner that complies with government policy. The cost-per-assist figures demonstrate a positive trend downward. Duty counsel, the Client Service Centre and other areas of LAO are delivering more services.

4.6 Discussion with the ACLCO

LAO is open to a meaningful communication process and the exchange of new ideas, including Board-approved position papers, in a safe environment.

4.7 Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC)

Staff are following up with the LSUC on the Auditor Generals recommendation for service provider audits.

The LSUC has expressed support for increased financial eligibility.

4.8 Relationship with the private bar

Staff have met with members of the private bar to discuss irritants in the billing process. LAO will implement the bars suggestions and enhance training for account payment staff.

In the CEOs view, the tariff system is antiquated and overly complicated, and LAO should experiment with new compensation models. Alternative Fee Arrangements could reduce administrative tasks for LAO, ensure regular cash flow for panel lawyers and encourage a trust-based relationship.

4.9 Litigation report

The Vice-President and General Counsel reported the following:

  • The police recently served LAO with a search warrant for LAOs records on a particular client, to support a charge of fraud against that client. LAO refused on the basis of solicitor-client privilege.
  • Upcoming litigation reports will include Information and Privacy Commission appeals resulting from LAO decisions on Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests.

4.10 Issues with LAO lawyers

The Vice-President and General Counsel reported on LAOs lawyers campaign to secure collective bargaining rights.

The Attorney General has agreed to meet with the organizing committee and representatives from SEP.

A communiqu to staff lawyers and a response advising the President of SEP that LAO does not recognize SEP as representation for LAO lawyers was approved and will be sent.

4.11 Decision

The Board approved the communiqu to LAO lawyers and the response to the President of the Society of Energy Professionals.

The Board received the President and CEO report.

5. Committee reports

5.1 Audit and Finance Committee

Decision

The Board adopted the minutes of the Audit and Finance Committee meeting held on September 25, 2013.

6. LAO/MAG Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

The President and CEO reported that:

  • the ministry has cooperated in MOU negotiations and recognized LAOs policy and accountability requirements
  • LAO is not just another government agency; it is a large entity which represents a very substantial component of the defence side of the justice system; its independence is critical.

The Vice-President and General Counsel presented a report on the LAO/MAG MOU. LAO has successfully changed the MOU to confirm that:

  • LAO is distinctive, responsible and independent
  • the administration of LAO is LAOs exclusive responsibility
  • LAO is solely responsible for the oversight of clinics, SLASS etc.
  • the Attorney General will meet with the Board once a year and will meet with the Board Chair at least twice a year
  • the Attorney General will support timely appointments of new Board members
  • there will be a communications protocol to address how MAG interacts with LAOs stakeholders
  • the Boards ability to advise the Attorney General and MAG will expand
  • LAO can publish its own business plan (previously prohibited).

She also reported on outstanding issues.

6.1 Decision

The Board approved, in principle, the Memorandum of Understanding document for finalization by the Chair and the Minister, subject to LAOs provision to MAG of the Boards directions for improvements. In the event that these improvements are rejected by MAG, direct LAO to advise MAG that approval of the document is withheld until the unresolved points of contention have been addressed to the Boards satisfaction.

7. Corporate service reports

7.1 Procurement of Microsoft enterprise agreement

The Vice President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented a report on a staff-endorsed agreement, which would, if signed, enable LAO to update its software and maintain better security of its IT through the use of patches. This updated software is covered by the Ontario Public Service (OPS) Vendor of Record directive, which provides for a provision to rent software. Its cost is approximately $1 million lower than the alternative.

7.2 Decision

The Board authorized the President and CEO to enter into a six-year contract with Compugen to procure a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement.

8. Policy/PCMO reports

8.1 Financial eligibility

The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented an update on LAOs financial eligibility modernization strategy. The current projects include a well-received pilot to expand financial eligibility for the Group Applications and Test Case Committee program (GATCC). Staff are now developing proposals for a new provincial investment to address the issue of unrepresented litigants.

8.2 Decision

The Board received the Update on Financial Eligibility Modernization Strategy.

8.3 Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)

LAO proposes to pilot AFAsa more efficient means to pay LAOs service providers and establish a trust-based relationship. Other principal benefits include reduced administrative costs for LAO and better cash flow for the firms. The Vice-President, Provincial Case Management Office and Special Projects, reported that:

  • the bulk of legal aid work is in the hands of a group of dedicated lawyers
  • LAO is considering quality and regional issues to determine which lawyers or firms to approach about the proposed AFA pilot
  • LAO representatives will consult with service providers to discuss the status of the arrangement and obtain feedback
  • LAO continues to consult on the AFA pilot.

Senior policy counsel reported on the proposal for Big Case Management cases. She added that the AFA pilot program is designed for LAOs most trusted service providers across all practice areas, based on their practice history, and that the program will be evaluated at the end of one year.

A draft contract will be brought to the Board for final approval.

8.4 Decision

The Board authorized the pilot project to proceed, with implementation decisions to be made by the President and CEO.

9. Policy, Research and External Relations Reports

9.1 Consultation papers on family law and mental health law

The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research presented these papers, and the Board approved their text. The Board Chair remarked on the excellence of these reports, and recommended that discussion papers should be a standing item for future Board agendas.

The Board discussed the need to provide transparency on LAOs strategic plans as well as the opportunity for stakeholders to impart advice on policy development.

The recent National Action Committee (Cromwell) report and other recent reports recommend comprehensive reform in the area of family law. LAO will move quickly, to comply with these reports, and demonstrate leadership in the field. Already LAO has committed to substantially expand family law pilots, and is seeking input on this from Board members and other stakeholders.

LAO is currently conducting an extensive consultation on mental health law. A Board member suggested that LAO liaise with other community partners on youth mental health issues.

9.2 Decision

The Board received the consultation papers on family law strategy and mental health strategy and authorized the Chair and the President and CEO to approve the text.

9.3 Aboriginal Justice Strategy (AJS): update and next steps

The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research explained that LAO is updating and renewing its AJS, in response to the Boards June 2013 direction. It is considering Gladue service expansion, improvement of local services as well as Iacobucci report and northern services activities. A final proposal will come back to the Board in the next few months.

A number of inquests on hold due to the lack of First Nations people on juries are now being scheduled for hearings. Two LAO lawyers will be rotated in to help Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto represent many of the families.

9.4 Decision

The Board received the LAO Aboriginal Justice Strategy: update and potential next steps.

9.5 Refugee law reports

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance, presented the report, Review of Refugee Reform Initiative: Judicial Review Coverage Changes.

There has been a significant decline in the number of judicial review certificates issued, which holds the potential to effect clients adversely. There is a need for LAO to assess how clients have been affected by LAOs elimination of certificate coverage for judicial review opinions and requirement for private bar lawyers to write opinion letters without LAO coverage.

LAO could conduct quantitative analysis and obtain feedback from stakeholders on potential changes to the current policy, including proposed interview guides. Options available that could replace the previous system include a panel of judicial review specialists to handle these cases. A report will be presented to the Board in December.

9.6 Decision

The Board received the preliminary analysis of the impact and approved a plan to seek stakeholder input on potential changes to the current policy, including the proposed interview guides.