Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

May 09, 2013 09:30 ET

Retransmission-Two Events on Tap-Re: (1) The Tax on Legal Services (2) Wrongful Convictions

Legal Aid Lawyers Rally on May 9 & Major Conference Targets the Innocent May 10 & 11

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - May 9, 2013) - Separate events this week will highlight two important aspects of the legal system. The first features a rally of lawyers that will be staged on the steps of the Provincial Courthouse in Vancouver. The second is a major conference presented by the Trial Lawyers Association of BC (TLABC) in conjunction with the UBC Law Innocence Project.

Event 1 - Re: TAX MONEY FOR LEGAL AID - Rally Scheduled for May 9 at 12:45 pm

Advocates calling for a far better system of legal aid in British Columbia will rally outside of the provincial courthouse in Vancouver (222 Main Street) at 12:45 pm on Thursday, May 9 to draw attention to the lack of services provided for citizens in need of assistance. There is a critical shortage of funding, despite the fact the BC Government collects more than $140 million each year through a tax on legal services paid by BC's citizens.

A brief statement will be made at approximately 12:45 pm.

Individual citizens should not be facing a closed door when it comes to the justice system. Lawyers from TLABC's Legal Aid Action Committee are volunteering their time to help raise awareness about the need for greater funding of legal aid. Counsel from across the province - particularly those involved in family law, criminal cases and immigration matters - continue to call on the BC Government to increase funding and expand services. The provincial tax on legal services took effect in the early 1990s, yet legal aid is funded at less than half of what is taken in by the tax, and the system lacks the level of support necessary to take care of many of society's most vulnerable citizens. Self-represented citizens stumbling through the court system cause a severe slow-down effect on the administration of justice, making matters take longer than they should and therefore further burdening taxpayers and the system as a whole.

It's been more than two years since the final report from a province-wide Public Commission on Legal Aid was released (March 2011). Commissioner Leonard Doust QC reported that BC is seriously lagging behind other jurisdictions. He concluded: "We can no longer avoid the fact that we are failing the most disadvantaged members of our community."

Previous awareness efforts by lawyers saw duty counsel conduct an escalating series of withdrawals, last year, followed by widespread refusals to accept certain types of cases on the legal aid system (which is administered by the Legal Services Society of BC). Legal aid is one of six important areas referenced in "The Public Matters" - a pre-election questionnaire TLABC issued to political parties in advance of the election on May 14. Regardless of which party forms the next government, the money collected through the tax on legal services should be directed to the provision of legal aid.

Event 2 - MAJOR CONFERENCE Re: Wrongful Convictions of the Innocent - May 10 & 11

Featuring high-profile experts from the United States and Canada, the Trial Lawyers Association of BC (TLABC) and the UBC Law Innocence Project will proudly present Developments in Forensics & Eyewitness ID: Lessons Learned from the Wrongful Convictions of the Innocent - Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver (655 Burrard Street).

The conference will be held over two days, with a full-day program set for Friday (8:40 am - 5:00 pm) and a half-day scheduled for Saturday (9:00 am - 12:30 pm). The list of speakers includes an array of judges, lawyers and law professors from various locations in Canada (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC) and the United States (New York and California). Topics include: forensic pathology, expert testimony, cross-examination, DNA, eyewitnesses, fingerprint evidence, bias in 'scientific' evidence and remedying a wrongful conviction. The keynote speaker is Peter Neufeld from New York, co-founder and co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project. Mr. Neufeld is well-known for his role, alongside lawyer Barry Scheck (the other co-founder of the New York-based Innocence Project), in the murder trial of OJ Simpson (Los Angeles, California, 1994-95).

This conference is co-chaired by local criminal defence lawyer Richard Fowler (an executive officer of TLABC) and director of the UBC Law Innocence Project Tamara Levy. The following nine professionals were also part of the planning committee: Bruce MacFarlane QC, Bernard Grenier, Alan Young, Alain Hepner QC, Richard Peck QC, Peter Wilson QC, Joanne McLean, Marilyn Sandford and the Honourable Madam Justice Kathleen Ker.

CONTACT: Bentley Doyle (TLABC's director of communications) to arrange interviews with any of the speakers and/or program officials, as well as for access to the conference. bentley@tlabc.org / 604-682-5343 / tollfree 1-888-558-5222.

The conference brochure can be called up online from here: http://www.tlabc.org/index.cfm?pg=upcomingprograms

Contact Information

  • Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
    Bentley Doyle
    Director of Communications
    604-682-5343 or Toll Free: 1-888-558-5222
    bentley@tlabc.org
    www.tlabc.org