Legal Aid Alberta announces extension of new initiative to help Albertans prepare for court remotely

Legal Aid Alberta is urging Albertans to call the Advance Appearance Duty Counsel program up to 14 days ahead of their first court appearance.

Communications and Public Relations
September 28, 2020

Legal Aid Alberta is urging Albertans to call the Advance Appearance Duty Counsel (AADC) program up to 14 days ahead of their first court appearance. AADC is a new initiative to support access to justice and relieve pressure on the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has been extended until Nov. 30, thanks to support from the provincial government and the courts.

Legal Aid Alberta launched AADC this past summer to help manage backlogs in the court system amid courts reopening in July. Instead of attending court for their first appearance, Albertans can contact LAA duty counsel lawyers by phone up to 14 days prior to their court date to receive preliminary legal advice, help obtain disclosure from the Crown and other assistance.

“I worked with one woman who started preparing for her first appearance well ahead of time and it made her feel like someone was on her side right from the beginning,” said Marino Eliopoulos, a Calgary staff lawyer with Legal Aid Alberta.

“We’re connecting with people we simply wouldn’t have before.” Marino Eliopoulos, Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer

In just under three months, AADC has fielded more than 1,300 calls, facilitated 630 court appearances, provided free legal advice to 695 people, and referred more than 255 people to legal aid for additional support.

Whether they’re in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray or Drumheller, Albertans have access to Advance Appearance Duty Counsel, allowing them to prepare for court by phone or e-mail instead of making a trip to the courthouse in person.

AADC was put in place temporarily as a response to the pandemic and scheduled to be phased out by Labour Day. The program was so successful that LAA will continue it through the fall thanks to widespread support from within the courts and funding from Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General.

“Alberta’s government is taking steps to ensure Albertans have access to justice, even during a global pandemic,” said Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu. “We are extending support for Legal Aid Alberta’s advance duty counsel program, so that Albertans can continue to prepare for court by phone instead of needing to go in-person to get ready for their first court date. This measure is beneficial to those who don’t live near courthouses, and helps to take pressure off the courts during this pandemic.”

“We’re helping Albertans live up to their obligations to appear in court while keeping hundreds of people physically distanced and away from the courthouse,” added Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Colin Laychuk who is based out of Edmonton.

“Advanced appearances by phone alleviate some of the stress of showing up to court and feeling overwhelmed and confused by the process. There’s a level of preparation that wasn’t there before.” Colin Laychuk, Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer

Legal Aid Alberta continues to work with the courts and partners to reimagine processes and innovation in order to serve more Albertans and help them navigate the justice system. For more information on Advance Appearance Duty Counsel and how to call, visit the Alberta Courts website.

About Legal Aid Alberta

Legal Aid Alberta is a not-for-profit organization that provides legal representation and support for Albertans facing legal issues.

LAA provides legal services to clients in support of fairness in Alberta’s justice system – services that help ensure Albertans in all circumstances can understand and defend their legal rights.

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