The County & District Law Presidents' Association

The County & District Law Presidents' Association

April 20, 2012 13:05 ET

CDLPA Presents to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy

Amendment to Bill 34: Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities, and Nuclear Facilities Act, 2012, required to protect client - solicitor privilege

QUEEN'S PARK, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 20, 2012) - The County & District Law Presidents' Association (CDLPA) appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, seeking an amendment to Bill 34 in order to address concerns by its Membership that in its current form the proposed legislation to improve court security allows for the possible violation of client - solicitor privilege through its extraordinary search powers.

Under the proposed legislation, sections of the Police Services Act would be amended to allow for a search without warrant any person, vehicle or property in a person's custody seeking access to a public courthouse. Such search powers would include a person's lawyer and could expose privileged communications between a lawyer and their client when applied.

"In our view, it is neither reasonable nor necessary to include lawyers in the search powers contemplated by Bill 34 as relates to courthouses," said CDLPA Chair Michael Johnston. "Lawyers are ethically bound to protect privileged communications between themselves and their clients. The importance of this privilege has been widely recognized and is sacrosanct. Our concern therefore is that the search powers in Bill 34 might well abrogate the longstanding obligation we have to our clients."

Currently in Ontario courthouses lawyers are exempt from search procedures upon the presentation of valid Law Society of Upper Canada identification. The CDLPA therefore recommended to the Standing Committee that this practice be enshrined in the proposed legislation through amendment. The CDLPA called for an exemption for lawyers who identify themselves with a Law Society identification card from the search powers of section 138 of the Police Services Act, subsection 1, Part 2.

"Put simply, the current practice is working," said CDPLA Vice-Chair Janet Whitehead. "In accepting our recommendation, the Committee will honour our mutual obligations to client - solicitor privilege, without compromising the overall goal of ensuring our courthouses remain safe."

The County and District Law Presidents' Association represents 46 member Associations in Ontario and together with its affiliate, the Toronto Lawyer's Association, speaks for over 11,000 members of the practising bar.

Contact Information