Lawyer salary

Defense lawyer associations call for better funding for legal aid

“These short-term consequences have long-term implications and will inevitably lead to a list of lawyers with limited criminal law experience”

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Several Alberta bar associations are calling on the provincial government to increase funding for legal aid in the province.

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Calgary’s Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association, Edmonton’s Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association and the Southern Alberta Defense Lawyers’ Association released a joint statement Saturday saying the government has underfunded legal aid in recent years. The groups say funding has not kept up with inflation, leading defense attorneys to struggle to make a living.

“Like Legal Aid lawyers, Crown prosecutors hadn’t seen a pay raise in seven years. During the same period, the Bank of Canada announced an inflation rate of 19.7%. Many defense attorneys have been unable to earn a living, leading some to switch sides and opt for the stable pay and benefits offered by Crown prosecutor positions,” reads the statement. communicated. “Like the Association of Crown Attorneys, our members demand only fair compensation. Our remuneration must be aligned with the list of lawyers in other provinces. Right now it’s almost 40% less.

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Earlier this year, Crown attorneys in Alberta raised concerns about their compensation, which led to the start of negotiations with the province.

Defense bar associations said in their statement that the “most minimal provisions” of legal aid in Alberta were at breaking point. They said the underfunding of roster lawyers discourages senior and experienced lawyers from taking on legal aid cases, reducing learning opportunities for junior lawyers.

“These short-term consequences have long-term implications and will inevitably lead to a roster of attorneys with limited criminal law experience,” the statement read. “The quality of legal services will deteriorate and the risk of wrongful convictions will increase. Which means more appeals, more new trials, more victims returning to court, more valuable court time wasted, and more serious stays of prosecution. You can count on it.”

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The associations said the province also failed to meet a funding agreement agreed to in 2018 with a funding shortfall of $40 million in 2021-22, according to figures released by defense attorneys.

They said they contacted Shandro to request a response to their concerns by July 29, but received no response. They said they will meet later this week to discuss next steps.

Requests for comment sent to Shandro’s office on Saturday evening were not returned.

Legal Aid is a publicly funded non-profit organization that provides Albertans with affordable legal services in family law, domestic violence, child protection, immigration, and youth and adult criminal defense .

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