Ask a Lawyer: Upholding the rule of law for major cases

Legal Aid Alberta Advisory Counsel Katie Clarey appears on this month's segment of Ask a Lawyer to talk about LAA's Major Cases Panel

Legal Aid AB
August 01, 2023

When you’re faced with serious criminal charges, it’s critical to have quality representation by your side – a lawyer with years of experience, knowledge and understanding of criminal investigations can make all the difference when the stakes are high and your future hangs in the balance.

Legal Aid Alberta Advisory Counsel Katie Clarey joined Global News Morning Edmonton’s Ask a Lawyer to shed light on LAA’s specialized Major Cases Panel, a group of 100 roster lawyers who not only hold expertise in serious legal matters, but have worked with vulnerable communities, including Indigenous communities. For individuals facing major charges, this is an initiative that offers high quality legal representation and improves the overall administration of justice in the process.

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Transcript of the program:

Vinesh Pratap: Well we often see news stories about people who are on trial facing serious criminal charges. Someone is accused of a serious crime, there’s a lot at stake, and for lawyers managing these cases requires a lot of time and energy, as well as a deep understanding of the law and court procedures to ensure justice is complete. Legal Aid Alberta has recently established a panel of lawyers handling major cases, with us today to explain what the legal panel is all about and the impact it will have is Advisory Counsel, Katie Clarey. Good morning Katie, thanks so much for being here.

Katie Clarey: Thank you for having me.

Vinesh: Give us the quick definition of what is a major case and how does this new panel kind of factor into all of it?

Katie: Major cases refers to essentially the most serious offences you can find in the criminal code, which come with serious outcomes. If you’re charged with one of the serious offences, you’re in a really, really tough spot. You could be facing significant jail – for example, if you’re charged with murder you’re potentially looking at life imprisonment, and often these types of charges come from lengthy police investigations. There are often very complex legal issues that come up at trial, so it’s really, really important to ensure that we’ve got quality, experienced counsel acting for our clients on these types of matters.

Vinesh: So how does this panel work? What is its role ultimately now?

Katie: So the major cases panel includes lawyers who were selected based on their experience, working not only on serious and complex cases but working with vulnerable communities, working with Indigenous communities, so they were selected based on their experience and ability to handle these types of cases.

Vinesh: Does this mirror or something that’s taking place in other jurisdictions or is this something new?

Katie: It’s not new to Legal Aid, this is going to be fifth panel since 2021. I’m not aware of other jurisdictions that currently have panels but it’s possible. This is something new that we’re doing at legal aid.

Vinesh: OK, so the fifth panel so far. So how has it worked so far based in the administration of justice?

Katie: It is fantastic. So our panel has approximately 100 private practice lawyers from all over the province. We want to make sure that people who qualify for legal aid that they’re being set up with the best lawyer for their case so essentially, when you have a good, quality lawyer with extensive experience in these types of matters, it makes the court process run a lot smoother, there is less delays, less possibilities of appeals. Sometimes if you have a lawyer who is not quite experienced, it can cause a lot of frustration with the courts and potentially more appeals down the road.

Vinesh: Are legal aid lawyers – are they interested in this? I want to delve into the administration of justice vis à vis the delays overall that this system is experiencing, does this help the system overall for everyone?

Katie: Absolutely. I mean, it’s a cost-effective way because were cutting down potentially trial time, and people are able to have their matters heard more because it’s opening up more time for other cases to be heard because the trials being run by quality lawyers are running much more efficiently, and it really does – having high quality representation not only protects society, it protects the client, it supports the rule of law, so there’s just so many benefits to having this panel.

Vinesh: Very, very interesting Katie thank you so much for coming and explaining what’s happening in the work that you do, and your colleagues do at Legal Aid Alberta – it’s greatly appreciated.

Katie: Thanks for having me.

Vinesh: For sure. Legal Aid Alberta lawyers specialize in family law, child welfare, domestic violence, immigration, and youth and adult criminal defence. If you have a question for a lawyer, send it to [email protected].

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