Justice and Public Safety
March 6, 2018

Government Removes Choice of Counsel Provision in Legal Aid Act

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is introducing an amendment to the Legal Aid Act which would remove a Legal Aid client’s option to choose a private practice lawyer. Instead, the client will be provided with a lawyer employed by the Legal Aid Commission. In extenuating circumstances, the Director of the Legal Aid Commission will continue to have the authority to appoint a private practice lawyer.

In 2008 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador introduced an amendment that allowed Legal Aid clients, who were charged with murder or manslaughter, to choose a lawyer employed by the Legal Aid Commission or a lawyer in private practice. In years where there is a high number of murder charges, Legal Aid’s costs associated with hiring private practice lawyers increases significantly. If this continues, it could negatively impact services the Legal Aid Commission provides its other clients.

The Legal Aid Commission employs highly skilled and experienced lawyers with expertise in family and criminal law. Legal Aid lawyers deliver a high-quality service, competently representing the commission’s clients on matters on which they have vast amounts of experience.

This amendment is expected to come into force at the end of this sitting of the House of Assembly. The amendment will not impact Legal Aid clients who are already receiving private legal counsel funded by Legal Aid.

“I have a tremendous level of respect for the staff of the Legal Aid Commission and the work that they provide to the people of the province. Ensuring that everyone has access to legal services in Newfoundland and Labrador is very important to a strong justice system. These amendments will enhance the delivery of Legal Aid services to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
Honourable Andrew Parsons
Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General

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Media contact
Lesley Clarke
Justice and Public Safety
709-729-6985, 699-2910

2018 03 06                              9:25 a.m.