Response to article in the Toronto Sun

Posted on: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Toronto Sun, Letter to the Editor

Re: “Legal Aid Lawyer a no-show…again”.

Dear Sir,

I am writing in connection with Tracy McLaughlin’s article of March 15, 2010 entitled “Legal Aid Lawyer a no-show…again”. Lawyers in private practice who provide services to clients pursuant to a legal aid certificate must be members of a legal aid panel. Panels are established in local areas in a variety of practice areas such as criminal, family and child protection. Each panel has a set of standards which the lawyer must meet and adhere to in order to be granted membership and remain on the panel. Compliance with the standards is actively managed and monitored. When a situation such as the one described in Ms. McLaughlin’s article comes to the attention of the area director responsible for the panel, steps are taken to correct the situation.

This can include meeting with the lawyer, placing conditions on the lawyer’s panel membership and, if appropriate, bringing proceedings to remove the lawyer from the panel.

I would also like to correct the impression given in the article that LAO appoints lawyers to represent clients. LAO does not appoint lawyers for clients who are legally and financially eligible to receive a certificate except in cases where, due to mental incapacity, the client cannot retain counsel independently. Otherwise, the client receives confirmation of their eligibility for a certificate and is authorized to select a lawyer from the legal aid panel. Panel lists are maintained and provided to clients, if requested, to assist them with their selection. In fact, the Legal Aid Services Act, 1998 and regulations prevent legal aid employees from recommending any particular lawyer to act on a certificate.

Randall Ellsworth
Vice President
North, Central and Eastern Regions, Legal Aid Ontario