Fair Aid v. Legal Aid - Alcyonenews

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Posted August 30, 2019

Fair Aid v. Legal Aid

On June 18, Richard Wagner, the new Chief Justice of Canada went public against Premier Ford reducing by 3% the almost $0.5B legal aid budget of Ontario.  Ostensibly Legal Aid protects and preserves the "Just Society" Trudeau (The Father) created after making the "Land Strong", which is how he then slogan-bombed us.

“Chief Justice  says legal aid essential to the Justice system”, is how the CBC echoed the Judge. I am of the opposite view.

Wagner’s pronouncement appears wholesome only because of the “mind conditioning” we have been subjected to. This has made us receptive to the contents of the “box”,  it being the “conventional wisdom”, as Kenneth Galbraith called it.  Viewed from outside the box, legal aid is an anachronism to say the least, in a class with judges curly wigs.

The assertion has a parallel in “tobacco being essential to our social system” at the times Churchill was smoking fat cigars and Roosevelt puffed on cigarettes in a holder as long as Marlene Dietrich’s.  The Justice system is as addicted to legal aid as society was to tobacco, which calls for a detox job. Paying out legal aid, is like boosting nicotine content to make quitting smoking more difficult. Legal aid takes the wind from the sails of reform, thereby hindering the advent of a fair justice system in sync with current levels of civilization.

David v. Goliath, Cinderella, Eliza Doolittle are perennial heroes because they beat the odds. But not all of us can do that, hence we have a justice system  to eliminate the power imbalance for  reason to prevail. The courts are meant to equalize adversaries – legal aid is meant to disguise inequality.

“Both duellers have guns”, if one has a musket and the other a machine gun; but equal are not. Was this to hold, it would make dueling even more stupid than it inherently is. Similarly, legal aid just does not ensure equality, it only tempts arbitrary court decisions.

Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice, is depicted blindfolded, which manifests the significance of  equality of citizens in the eyes of the law. Judges have answered the high calling of ensuring equality, which is a daunting task – unfortunately failures are intolerably frequent.

Judges’ have relieved themselves of the onus to ensure equality by subcontracting this duty to lawyers. Judges now need only assert whether litigants are represented. Even if a neophyte lawyer faces a “legal team”, the Court pretends being satisfied that the scales of justice would not be unduly tipped. Legal aid aids Judges in coping with unrepresented litigants so as to maintain the illusion of equality.     

Pontius Pilate’s infamous hand-washing is a classic case of accountability evasion. Judges writing in judgements “the accused was represented” manifests recognition that their judgments are suspect. Imagine Joe Q. Public going with a legal aid budget against SNC Lavalin, in this the “Just society” Justin Trudeau inherited from his father.         

Ok, legal aid may work in some high profile cases. But such cases are widely watched and this would cause the process to be fair anyway, at least when viewed against the background of the “system”. Hence, unfairness when it happens, is smokescreened in a cloud of “legalese”.  Remember Brian Mulroney demolishing John Turner with one phrase: “You had an option, Sir, you could have said No”. This unfolded  before the ultimate jury, Canada’s electorate. It did not need more because these 10 words were true. But when Mulroney was caught getting cash in a hotel room, it cost us $5.5M to “vindicate” him.

“Corporate Walfare Bums” get legal aid in the form of a tax deduction of legal expenses.  Low income people get legal aid, resulting in questionable gain due to judges being reckless because by and large those are “not watched” cases.

The large  “middle class” who get neither direct legal aid nor tax deductions, see the courts as the “worse crap game in town” which is how the Chief Justice of a province characterized it, privately of course. Prudent folk avoid the courts like God-fearing people avoid socializing with the Devil.  Wagner’s predecessor Justice McLachlin, often exposed the “un-affordability” of justice, but she did nothing to ameliorate it.

There are pragmatic solutions to shrinking the inequality of people before the Law, and I will suggest one: Request litigants to deposit with the Court what each is willing to spend on the case; add the two figures, even if one or both are zero, and have the Court pay to the lawyers appearing for each side one half of the sum. It can be taken one step further by having the Court choose the lawyers for each side, thereby helping  citizens who know nothing about selecting a lawyer.

This is merely a starter. Once the problem is opened up to the public for suggestions and thrown onto the floor for discussion, it will evolve alongside the other solutions that will sprout and society will have options to chose from. This will result in the best system to the owners of the justice system, who are the populace.

Lord Bowen’s “passenger on the Clapham omnibus” is entitled to a fair judgement, no less than than to cheese or kippers from the grocery store being fresh, or to the bridge an engineer builds being safe.     

Judge Wagner can start reform with the elimination of “the party was represented” as a “defense” of  judges dishing out injustice. Being un-represented is not an offence and certainly it does not detract from the obligation of the Justice system to mete out justice and only justice.

There is no room in a democracy for non-accountability. Judges are not immune from Lord Acton’s “power corrupts” syndrome any more than royal blood is blue.

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