Court of Appeal Legal Advice and Assistance Clinic

Please find below correspondence from the Supreme Court of NL, Court of Appeal regarding a new initiative, namely the Court of Appeal Legal Advice and Assistance Clinic. This Access to Justice initiative is designed to provide legal information and assistance to unrepresented litigants dealing with matters in the Court of Appeal.

The Law Society supports this important Access to Justice program and encourages members to participate. Members of the Law Society who wish to get involved and contribute should contact Ms. Maria Sokolova, Legal Research Officer at the Court of Appeal, who can be reached by email at mariasokolova@supreme.court.nl.ca

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Court of Appeal Legal Advice and Assistance Clinic

In order to promote access to justice within Newfoundland and Labrador, the Court of Appeal intends to launch free legal advice clinics and information sessions to serve unrepresented litigants in the Court. To start, clinics will be approximately one evening a month and hosted by the Court of Appeal at its Richardson Building. If there are enough volunteers, as well as demand from the public, clinics will be held more often. Volunteer lawyers will meet with clients who have signed up for an appointment with the Court and give them advice. If a volunteer lawyer sees merit in the case, they may choose to provide further pro bono or low bono representation. Information sessions would happen as needed, likely once or twice a year. Both projects would follow models from across the country which, experience shows, regularly help some of the most disadvantaged members of our society.

The Court has reached out to the Legal Aid Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian Bar Association, Newfoundland and Labrador branch, all of whom support the project and will contribute to it.

All of the clinic’s operations will be on a voluntary basis. The Court is therefore looking for volunteers who want to assist in making the project come to fruition. Legal Aid has committed several volunteer lawyers who will attend clinics at least once every two or three months. However, Legal Aid is unable to provide more in-depth representation. The Court therefore seeks volunteer lawyers from the private bar who would be willing to attend the clinic to maintain consistent service and staffing levels as well as those who would be willing to accept referrals for more in-depth representation of meritorious cases. The primary goal of the clinic is to provide free legal services and lawyers cannot charge for hours spent providing summary advice at the clinic. However, if the client’s finances permit, lawyers who provide more in-depth representation may consider charging a fee, perhaps reduced.

Access to justice in Canada is in crisis. This is an opportunity for all who work in the legal system to make a difference for those who struggle to find justice. The Court welcomes any help in achieving this goal.