Mental Health Lawyers Join Legal Aid Boycott

Mental health lawyers in Ontario have joined the boycott of Legal Aid Ontario. In accordance with the terms of the boycott, as of December 15, 2009, I will no longer be accepting appointments as amicus curiae to the Court of Appeal for Ontario on appeal from the Ontario Review Board. I also, as of December 15, 2009 and as a member of the Mental Health Legal Committee, will no longer accept certificates of opinion to conduct appeals from decisions of the Consent and Capacity Board. It is with great reluctance that I take this step together with my colleagues in the mental health bar. As noted by Marshall Swadron, Chair of the Mental Health Legal Committee in his letter to Bob Ward, CEO and president of LAO:

Our lawyer members have struggled over the years to maintain a professional standard of service with limited resources. As legal aid funding has eroded, the MHLC has seen the attrition of our collegues to better paying work representing hospitals and to other practice areas. Some have left the practice of law altogether. Few new lawyers join our ranks. Those who remain are overburdened and discouraged.

For me, the playing field is so unbalanced that my continued work in an unfair system brings legitimacy to a system that does not deserve it. Despite that, I will continue to do some legal aid work in order to serve this vulnerable community and support the boycott in its limited fashion to hope to effect meaningful change in a system that is broken.