Laval Municipal Court | Legal aid slams the door

Nothing is going well at the Laval Municipal Court, where stormy relations between municipal prosecutors and legal aid lawyers have led the latter to desert the premises, risking depriving the accused of an adequate defense.

“We are obliged to suspend the services of permanent legal aid lawyers at the Laval Municipal Court, for an indefinite period,” their employer announced Monday, in a note obtained by The Press.

Since 2020, the Municipal Court has managed a large volume of less serious criminal charges, previously handled at the Laval courthouse. This significant increase in the volume of files coincides with a marked increase in tensions between the two groups of lawyers, who rub shoulders on a day-to-day basis.

Tensions grew to such an extent that last summer, the City of Laval asked its prosecutors to “limit verbal exchanges” with legal aid lawyers and to stick to emails, according to a directive municipal. If a discussion is absolutely necessary, “we consider it preferable that […] two prosecutors are present on both sides in order to avoid any divergence of interpretation.”

“Conflicts between people”

This directive is directly cited by the Montreal Legal Community Center (CCJM, the official name of legal aid) to justify the departure of its employees. This decision was taken “out of concern for protecting the fundamental rights of our customers to full defense and fair treatment before the courts”, indicates the organization in its note.

The boss of the CCJM, Me Emmanuelle de Champlain, refused the interview request of The Press.

“Considering that we are actively in the process of finding solutions to the problems encountered, we do not wish to discuss the conflict publicly,” she indicated by email. “We are eager to restore relations so that we can resume representing litigants in Municipal Court in the near future. »

Me Simon Tremblay, Laval’s chief lawyer, indicated in a telephone interview that “there are measures that had to be taken following conflicts between people.” “We hope that the rights of the accused will not be jeopardized and we intend to collaborate in a transition, if necessary,” he added. We remain open to trying to find more sustainable, long-term solutions. »

“A significant impact on the accused”

In his note, Me de Champlain indicates that “it goes without saying that litigants will nevertheless be able to benefit from legal aid through the services of lawyers in private practice working under the legal aid regime”, i.e. mandates of juridical help. Its teams work “actively to ensure the representation of all litigants” who will lose their lawyer. “We will ensure that customers do not suffer any negative repercussions from the situation. »

“This decision will obviously have a significant impact on the accused,” said the Association of Defense Lawyers of Montreal on Monday in a note to its members. The organization did not call back The Press.

The Quebec Bar and the Laval Bar did not call back either, Tuesday.

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