Top court says superior
courts can order funding
for public interest cases
in lower courts
CRISTIN SCHMITZ OTTAWA
For the first time the
Supreme Court has ruled that
superior courts are empowered
to order governments to fund
public interest litigation before
statutory courts and tribunals.
“Such orders must be highly
exceptional and made only
where the absence of public
funding would work a serious
injustice to the public interest,”
Justice Ian Binnie stipulated in
his 9-0 judgment Feb. 4.
months into trial when Caron
ran out of money. Caron had by
then exhausted all other possibilities for funding his case,
which the courts below found
had prima facie merit and great
public importance and could
end up requiring Alberta to reenact all its unilingual statutes
in both official languages.
“In mid-trial the provincial
court, so to speak, had a tiger by
the tail,” Justice Binnie observed.
“A lopsided trial would not have
put the languages issue to rest.
Mr. Caron’s challenge was considered by the courts below to
have merit and in their view it
See Caron Page 3
97-year-old lawyer still
practising in Winnipeg
debate its merits
present environmental cases
Judges give tips on how to
JEREM Y HAINS WORTH VANCOUVER
The futility of national
Tips on treating all clients
with dignity and respect
DAN RIEDLHUBER FOR THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
Lisa Semenchuk and Graham McLennan acted for
the plaintiff in a decision that sets the standard of
care required of collaborative family law lawyers.
See story on page 13
Litigators seeking successful
case outcomes should first treat
judges like human beings and
make their jobs as the triers of
fact as easy as possible, a panel of
judges told a Vancouver environmental law conference Feb. 4.
The judges discussed creating
summaries of complex cases, case
preparation, expert witnesses and
The group heard B.C. Court of
Appeal Justice Harvey Groberman, Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes, former B.C. Environmental Appeal Board and
Ontario Environmental Review
member Toby Vigod and New
South Wales, Australia Land and
Environment Court Chief Judge
“Help the tribunal out,” said
Vigod. “Define your issues.
Come in with a framework of
what you think the issues are.”
Barnes said litigators need a
solid understanding of justi-
ciability, noting at times he has
been asked to proclaim legisla-
tion, something he said is
beyond his power.
“If you can find something
that’s enforceable, then we will
order the government,” he said.
He advised lawyers the gov-
ernment will often try to argue
standing issues instead of the
merits of a case.
“Crown often doesn’t want to
get to merits,” Barnes said. “They
know they have a loser case.”
Added Vigod on the roles of
tribunals, “it’s really important
to look at the role of tribunals
and what processes are available
Groberman advised lawyers that
they are not approaching a hostile
environment when appearing
He suggested that litigators
bring information to court in a
digestible manner, especially
when it comes to expert witnesses
who should have comprehensibility, candour and completeness in
“A lay person should be able
to comprehend what they’re
hearing,” Groberman said. “As a
lawyer, it is your responsibility
in preparing a witness. You can’t
baffle us because if you baffle us,
we throw your case out.”
See Judges Page 26
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