About 600 legal aid certificates are typically given out a year for civil cases in Ontario, a practice that appears to have ended.
The Toronto Star reports that starting April 1 coverage was eliminated for a number of claims including, “lawsuits seeking damages for abuse, claims for reinstatement of disability insurance, malicious prosecution, assault or wrongful detention, mortgage actions and personal injury claims…”
Kristian Justesen, a spokesperson for Legal Aid Ontario, has indicated that contingency fee arrangements in the province allow lawyers to take on these cases as an alternative to legal aid, and that funding was often only provided for disbursements, and not for lawyers’ fees.
Paul Copeland of the Association for Sustainable Legal Aid, who gained some notoriety for defending Mohamed Harkat, rejects the notion that contingency fees are an appropriate substitute, as low-income clients may have a good case, but one that won’t result in a large award.
Marshall Swadron, a lawyer used to service civil legal aid certificates, notes that disbursements often helped with the extensive costs associated with expert witnesses.