FOLA received notice yesterday from Legal Aid Ontario about changes that are coming in the duty counsel program, effective July 7th.
The lists of what duty counsel will do/won’t do are attached.
The central changes are as follows, though the detail is really in the service guides:
- Criminal duty counsel: duty counsel will continue to serve in-custody accused without financially testing as always, but will serve only financially and legally eligible clients for out-of-custody accused. Duty counsel won’t be providing dedicated courtroom services (ie staffing courtrooms all day) except for bail court. However, duty counsel will continue to go into court (not trial courts, of course) to serve legally and financially eligible clients.
- Family duty counsel: duty counsel will assist clients with some aspects of Motions to Change, and will provide in-court service to financially and legally eligible clients in the Ontario Court of Justice and the Unified Family Court.
- Agency work: duty counsel will provide routine agency work for lawyers on certificate matters.
As a practising lawyer, with over 25 years experience, and with my practice restricted, by choice, to criminal law for well over half my career, please, accept this personal note of encouragement. I can say that in reviewing the DC restrictions rather than enhancement of DC services we, the practising Certificate counsel Bar, should see a wee glimmer of positivity as this is good for us and not as harmful as anticipated. In the meanwhile, I as FOLA LAO chair, and Katie Robinette, FOLA’s Executive Director, plan to continue to actively participate with the Alliance for the Sustainability of Legal Aid (ASLA). The next meeting is Tuesday next. We and other stakeholders are seeking a course of action to address your concerns.
FOLA Legal Aid Chair