Roster Update

Financial Eligibility Guidelines Changes

March 21, 2024 – On Monday, April 1, Legal Aid Alberta’s Financial Eligibility Guidelines will be increasing. The primary impact for roster lawyers is that more Albertans will be eligible for legal aid funding, resulting in a larger pool of certificates in the long run. Over the next few weeks, however, the more immediate impact is likely to be an increase in the number of questions you receive from current and prospective clients.

To equip you to respond to their inquiries, here are the answers to some of the questions that Legal Aid Alberta has been receiving.

What is the new income threshold in the guidelines?

For a single-person household, the income threshold is now a net annual income of $25,346. While this amount was calculated based on a gross annual income of $30,000, Legal Aid Alberta will continue to base its eligibility decisions on net income. Specific thresholds for larger households will be available on our website on April 1.

Can a person who was previously assessed, but did not qualify due to their income, reapply?

Yes. They must reapply after April 1, 2024, as our current guidelines continue to apply until then.

Have there been any changes to the services eligible for legal aid?

No. The same criminal, family and immigration matters that are currently eligible will continue to be eligible under the new guidelines, and no new areas of law have been added.

Where can clients go to find more information?

Please direct clients to our website for more information on the new guidelines. We have posted a FAQ with answers to these and other common questions. In addition, the recording of yesterday’s webinar (“Legal Aid for Working Albertans: What You Need to Know”) can also be accessed online. The webinar panelists discussed the legal aid process from beginning to end including eligibility, applying for legal aid, and the vital role of the Legal Aid Alberta roster.

Merit Opinions: What Are We Looking For?

LAA is seeking the background information that you have as trial counsel so that we can determine if there is merit to fund an appeal for the matter. Our staff lawyers make the final determination on merit for every appeal file, but the information in your opinions helps us know what issues were at play and what potential grounds of appeal might be present.

Your opinion should include the following:

  • a summary of the relevant evidence presented at trial;
  • a statement of the issues and a summary of the arguments and evidence;
  • a summary of the decision; and
  • counsel’s opinion regarding the presence of meritorious grounds of appeal—what cases or principles you believe were not properly applied at trial or at sentencing.

Providing us with thorough and detailed opinions helps us make our coverage decision as quickly as possible for the client. If you’re looking for a refresher on what we’d like to see in the opinion, you can access that information in the Roster Handbook.

As always, if you have any questions about what to include, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

Reminder: Gladue Report Requests

A friendly reminder from Legal Aid Alberta’s representatives on the Gladue Report Committee that effective April 1, 2024, only electronic requests will be accepted for Gladue reports submitted by Counsel. Please use the online Gladue Request Form. Once submitted online, this form is automatically forwarded to the appropriate offices for processing.

This form is the only method to be used by Defence Counsel after the Court has ordered a Gladue report for sentencing purposes. Please note that there are several mandatory fields that must be completed by Defence Counsel in order for the report to be prepared in a timely manner. In the past, partially completed forms have resulted in incomplete reports, significant delays and a risk of not having the report by the court date.

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