Andrew Parsons, our minister of justice and attorney general, should not be taking swipes at Bob Buckingham, a lawyer in this province, in public and here is why. Recently the department of justice in their wisdom, did away with a provision that allowed people accused of unlawful death related crimes, such as murder, to seek counsel of their choice. This right was basically for those people who had been accepted for legal aid for their legal work. Full disclosure; I was a legal aid solicitor for almost 20 years and my view of that noble body is biased. The legal aid commissioner made mention of the true factor, which is that many legal aid lawyers could do a good job on these trials. I agree wholeheartedly, but that is not the point. The point is that Buckingham is entitled to his opinion, and he does not need, anymore that the rest of us, some pinhead in justice trying to curry favor for a political decision, by taking shots at the one doing the complaining. Parsons attempted to diminish the lawyers’ dissent by stating he was invested in the decision, as he could get more work before this practice was changed. That concerns me in two ways. 1) How does the Hon. Minister know this? And 2) is Parsons saying that interested parties should not be entitled to their opinion?
I for one would be tickled to get a homicide trial by legal aid certificate as would many other lawyers. I handled one way back when and it was exhilarating. True they overtake any other work you are doing, and true you may not sleep for a few weeks, but they are still worth it. You are helping a poor person fight what is the most terrible crime that one can be charged with. Remember “To kill a mockingbird?” That was it.
So it is not the decision that bothers me. Rather it is Parsons personal, vindictive smack at a member of the public. Because here is the thing; Buckingham is not lying; people will lose the option for counsel of their choice. If you like some private lawyer who always had your back, that is too bad. Since that is the truth, why besmirch someone for stating the obvious? It is the same as if a noted surgeon complained that a specific operation that was not funded ought to be. Does the doctor have a material interest? Yes. Would it be ok for the appropriate minister to deride that surgeon in protesting the budget cut? How? The real and only measure that a political operative could criticize such a statement would be if the statement was untrue. But legal aid certificates for homicides will no longer be issued to lawyers in private practice, but will be kept for staff layers in legal aid only. That is the truth.
What further gets me riled on his is the simple fact that our minister is himself a lawyer. He ought to know better that attack a private citizen in a manner sideways from the main point. Yes that lawyer possibly is involved in that type of work, but that is hardly a secret and beside the point if what is being said is correct. And the minister has gotten the government sued over it. For millions. That is also a fact and also worth stating in public. He and the department are being sued for cheap shots at a senior lawyer. Wow. Never saw that coming.
I think the AG messed up on this and I hope he does the right thing and apologizes to that particular lawyer. As a criminal lawyer I can attest that the last thing we; as criminal defense attorneys; need is an elected official calling us a bunch of crooks.