Archives November 2022

Criminal Lawyers’ Association calls on Ontario for more funding of legal aid

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association is calling on the Ontario government to boost the province’s legal aid program, saying insufficient funding is leading to more accused being unrepresented and discouraging young lawyers from staying in defence law.

The association, which wrote to the province last month seeking a funding model that keeps pace with the cost of living, said it’s set to meet with the government next week to discuss the issue.

Association president Daniel Brown said stagnant legal aid funding has led to many accused having to represent themselves in Ontario courts because they don’t qualify for the program, which in turn leads to inefficiency in the justice system and places an extra burden on the courts.

“This is just a system in crisis,” Brown said in an interview on Tuesday.

Cases involving unrepresented accused can take three or four times longer than cases with criminal defence lawyers, Brown said.

“We have judges who have to spend time teaching self-represented accused persons how to defend themselves. They have to equip them with the knowledge and they have to spend extra time with them in courts,” he said.

“[The accused] have long meandering questions and convoluted legal applications that often don’t go anywhere because they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like the equivalent to somebody trying to do their own open heart surgery. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

An Ontario provincial courtroom is pictured here at Toronto’s Old City Hall. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The low income cutoff for legal aid falls well below the poverty line, Brown noted.

“Somebody who is making a minimum wage job would not qualify for legal aid,” he said. “Quite frankly, they wouldn’t have any hope of paying for private counsel, especially in the complex cases in the Superior Court.”

Betty Vavougios, president of Ontario

Read the rest

Law Society: Proposed legal aid fee increase marks progress but more action needed

Law Society: Proposed legal aid fee increase marks progress but more action needed

A proposed rise in legal aid fees is a step in the right direction, but further action is urgently needed to resolve the long-term crisis in the sector, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

Following discussions with the Law Society, the Scottish government has proposed an £11 million increase in spend across both criminal and civil legal aid fees for solicitors.

The society has said while the proposals do not resolve all of the long-term, deep-rooted problems in legal aid, it is a step towards addressing some of its concerns, including the need to reverse the acute reduction in the number of solicitors currently able to offer civil, children’s and criminal legal aid.

In addition to increasing legal aid fees, the Law Society has stated that a robust fee review system will be essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the legal aid sector and ensuring access to justice.

Murray Etherington, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “While this brings much needed progress, after more than two decades of chronic underfunding, the government’s proposed increase does not fully resolve the deep-rooted issues in the legal aid sector.

“Access to legal services is a key part of living in a fair and just society. However across Scotland, the network of legal aid support is diminishing, while the demand for help is increasing.

“In many areas, including some of the poorest parts of the country, people are unable to access a legal aid solicitor. That means that some people cannot access the legal advice or representation they need and can be severely disadvantaged as a result, for example if they have been unfairly dismissed from work or are going through a complex family matter.

“We are keen to see the proposed increase implemented as quickly as possible. We

Read the rest

Civil legal aid review in the pipeline, agency reveals | News

The government has quietly revealed that it will embark on a major review of civil legal aid – but the chief executive of a practitioner group warns it could be too little, too late to prevent the sector shrinking further.

The Legal Aid Agency announced yesterday that it was extending 2018 standard civil contracts until 31 August 2024 ‘to allow us time to consider findings from the planned Ministry of Justice Civil Legal Aid Review’.

The ministry has repeatedly told the Gazette that the government has been conducting an internal review on civil legal aid sustainability. Yesterday’s announcement appears to be the first official confirmation of a major review.

A spokesperson for the MoJ told the Gazette today that more detail on the terms of reference and process for the review will be announced shortly.

As well as the findings of its internal sustainability review, the ministry will have a wealth of research to feed into the review, including the Law Society’s review on sustainability and the findings of the Legal Aid Practitioner Group’s legal aid census.

After conducting what is believed to be the biggest inquiry on legal aid, the Westminster Commission on Legal Aid published a 95-page report this time last year. The House of Commons justice select committee also conducted an inquiry on the future of legal aid.

According to government figures, there were 1,369 providers with civil contracts in February 2022. There were 2,134 providers in April 2012 – a year before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into force. LASPO removed vast areas of law – such as housing family, immigration, employment and welfare benefits – out of scope for legal aid. The LAA has repeatedly had to plug gaps in advice provision, particularly in housing.

Law Society president I.

Read the rest

St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputy suspended 6 days in non-fatal shooting

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — A deputy who non-fatally shot a man that investigators said appeared to be “experiencing a critical mental health episode” was suspended after it was determined she drew her firearm rather than her Taser, according to records released Monday and an official.

Deputy Cortney Hoyt received a 6-day unpaid suspension and will get remedial training following the Sept. 6 incident in which she saw a 30-year-old man standing on the outside guardrail of the North Causeway Bridge.

A written statement issued Monday by Sheriff Ken Mascara marked the first time it was disclosed that Hoyt mistakenly drew her firearm, rather than her Taser electric shocking device.

More: St. Lucie deputy shoots man after struggle on bridge, talk of harming himself, sheriff says

The man was arrested after the incident, which appeared to escalate quickly and involved a struggle and a number of law enforcement officers.

The man made “bizarre statements,” eventually dropped off from the bridge and ran to the other side, according to officials and records.

Hoyt saw a silver object in his hand that she thought was a weapon, and told dispatchers it appeared he put away the weapon, according to an Oct. 11-dated letter from Assistant State Attorney David Dodd released by the sheriff’s office.

Meanwhile, Deputy Jorge Mendez arrived and drew his gun, telling the man to get to the ground but he didn’t do so.

Mendez switched to his Taser, and the man ran away. Mendez used his Taser, which incapacitated the man. For about 30 seconds the man struggled with investigators as they tried to handcuff him. He got back on his feet twice and removed the Taser probes.

He ran and Hoyt drew her gun and fired once, striking the man in the upper leg. The man kept running and

Read the rest

A car was found buried at a California estate once owned by a man convicted of murder

A car containing unused bags of concrete has been discovered buried in the yard of a 1.63-acre estate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Landscapers found it at an Atherton home worth $15 million and police are investigating.

On Thursday, Atherton Police Department issued a press release that said cadaver dogs indicated the possibility of human remains, but none have been found. Technicians from the San Mateo Crime Lab were called to the scene.

The car is a Mercedes-Benz, the release said. It had been reported stolen in 1992.

The vehicle was about 5 feet underground and may have been buried in the 1990s, according to the police. It was there before the current occupants — who said they were unaware of the buried car — bought the property in 2020. The prior homeowners had bought it in 2014 for $7.3 million, according to Redfin.

Before that, the house belonged to Johnny Bocktune Lew, who lived there with his family in the 1990s. Police have not mentioned a connection between Lew and the buried vehicle.

Lew’s daughter, Jacq Searle, told the San Francisco Chronicle that her father built the house and that she was shocked to learn of the car. She described a dysfunctional family life at the property.

“My father definitely had emotional issues,” theburied-car-Home-s-former-owner-has-17525310.php” Chronicle quoted her as saying. “This wouldn’t surprise me, just based on how sketchy my father was.”

According to court documents, Lew moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1959, marrying his first cousin two years later. They lived in San Francisco, followed by Los Angeles County where, in 1964, he met Karen Gervasi while attending El Camino Junior College.

Lew and the young woman had a romantic relationship, despite Lew being married. In 1965, Gervasi died from a

Read the rest

‘The day the bar died’: Criminal barristers react to legal aid deal

Disappointment, frustration and calls for collective unity

Criminal barristers have taken to Twitter to share their thoughts and feelings in the wake of their narrow decision to accept the government’s pay deal on legal aid.

Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis has described the result as a “breakthrough” which he put down to both the government and criminal barristers “coming together and restarting what I hope to be a constructive relationship as we work to drive down the backlog and ensure victims see justice done sooner”.

The acceptance of the government’s offer is an early boost for Lewis who was appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice at the beginning of September. However, political pressure will now be mounting on the government concerning other strikes by public sector workers.

In the lead-up to the vote, several barristers who were opposed to the government’s deal voiced their criticisms on Twitter. Amongst those who have gone public saying they voted the deal down were the Secret Barrister and Chris Daw KC who both have a large following on social media.

Several barristers shared their strong and raw emotions at this morning’s result which saw 57% of those who voted accept the deal.

Many have indicated that this result does not necessarily mark the end of the government’s troubles.

Read the rest

Grant money went to the employer of a councilmember’s spouse. Memphis to audit program

Frank L. Monteverde
1918 – 1919
Harry H. Litty
1917 – 1918
Thomas C. Ashcroft
1916 – 1917
George C. Love
1915 – 1916
E. H. Crump
1910 – 1915
James H. Malone
1906 – 1910
Joseph John "JJ" Williams
1898 – 1906

Frank L. Monteverde 1918 – 1919 Harry H. Litty 1917 – 1918 Thomas C. Ashcroft 1916 – 1917 George C. Love 1915 – 1916 E. H. Crump 1910 – 1915 James H. Malone 1906 – 1910 Joseph John “JJ” Williams 1898 – 1906

The Memphis City Council plans to hire an independent auditor to look at its own grant program and investigate how the funds were spent over the past three fiscal years.

The move could bring transparency to how the City Council spends between $2 and $2.5 million every year. This year, it is more than $3 million. Each councilmember typically directs about 1/13th of the money to local nonprofits through a program that is often seen as political patronage.

The decision to hire an auditor comes after one member of the City Council, Michalyn Easter-Thomas, did not disclose a personal interest when the City Council voted on allocating thousands in grant dollars to the nonprofit where her husband ran fundraising — Communities in Schools of Memphis.

She also did not disclose the connection before the City Council voted to allocate $500,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to Communities in Schools last fall.

Easter-Thomas acknowledged questions from The Commercial Appeal but did not return a request for comment Monday.

MILLIONS IN UPDATES:Downtown Sheraton moving forward with $226 million update. Here’s a look the plans.

STADIUM PLANS: Memphis’ big plan: $684M in stadium plans for Grizzlies, Tigers football and replacing the Mid-South Coliseum

Darren Thomas II, Easter-Thomas’ husband, worked as director of development for Communities in Schools of Memphis, according to its website. He left about a month ago, according to a post on his LinkedIn page.

He is listed as the applicant for the organization in city documents that detail grant funding received by the city.

Read the rest

Society edges closer to nuclear option on legal aid | News

Striking criminal barristers will vote this week on whether to accept the government’s revised legal aid offer – as the Law Society edges one step closer to issuing an unprecedented warning over the future of criminal defence work.

Justice secretary Brandon Lewis is hoping he has done enough to end the criminal bar’s action, which began in April, by offering what he announced last week was a package of reforms representing a further £54m investment in the criminal bar and solicitors.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association will be balloted on the new offer tomorrow. The ballot will close on Sunday and the results will be announced the following day.

However, the Law Society is unhappy about the deal, warning that it would advise members not to undertake criminal defence work if the government does not offer the minimum 15% fee uplift recommended for solicitors by the Bellamy review. Chancery Lane repeated the warning following an urgent meeting with justice minister Gareth Johnson MP on the day the new deal was announced.

Of the £54m being offered, £19m is earmarked for solicitors and the Ministry of Justice says further uplifts for solicitors will be announced later this year. However, the Society says the further investment is mainly a one-off and not increasing rates in the long-term, so solicitors are still well below the 15% increase barristers are receiving.

Chancery Lane said it presented its arguments ‘strongly’ to the minister.

Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said it was positive that, as a former minister criminal defence practitioner, Johnson understood the problems in the criminal justice system. ‘However, rather than anything substantial, all that is currently being offered to solicitors by the government is more promises of jam tomorrow. We will continue to push for a fair deal for solicitors for

Read the rest

Trump ally Tom Barrack to take the stand in his foreign lobbying trial, attorney says

Former Trump inaugural chair Tom Barrack will take the stand to testify in his own defense in his criminal trial on charges that he illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, his attorney said in court Friday.

Barack, whose testimony was not expected, is fighting charges that he acted as a foreign agent of the UAE from 2016 to 2018 without registering, which prosecutors say constitute a crime.

Prosecutors earlier this week rested their case against Barrack, a California-based billionaire who ran Trump’s 2016 inaugural committee and has been a longtime friend of the former president. Barrack began presenting his defense on Wednesday, and his testimony comes as the almost five-week trial is nearing its end.

The trial has seen testimony from a number of former Trump administration officials and has at times offered a glimpse into the inner workings of the Trump administration in its earliest days.

Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testified on behalf of Barrack on Thursday, and earlier former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified for the prosecution.

Prosecutors also read to the jury dozens of communications between Barrack and Trump aides including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates.

In one exchange, Barrack emailed one of his UAE contacts in May, 2016, that he had “intercepted” a UAE sheikh who had “reached out to the Trump Organization to Jared … to try and set up a meeting.”

PHOTO: Tom Barrack, a former advisor to former president Donald Trump, leaves U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in a short recess during jury selection for his trial, Sept. 19, 2022, in Brooklyn, N.Y.barrack-gty-er-221021_1666375907597_hpMain_16x9_992.jpg”/

Tom Barrack, a former advisor to former president Donald Trump, leaves U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in a short recess during jury selection for his trial, Sept. 19, 2022, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

“I told him to cancel that is bulls—,” Barrack wrote days later regarding a separate potential meeting.


Read the rest

Stanbic, Autochek inks deal to provide vehicle financing for businesses

Autochek Uganda Manager Jacob Muddu (3rd L) and Stanbic Bank Head of Vehicle Asset Finance, Ronald Ssonko (4th R) during the partnership signing agreement on Oct.20.

This comes at a time car prices have surged by between 10 and 15 percent citing a drop in supply from source countries

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local businesses seeking to boost their field operations can now benefit from affordable vehicle financing options courtesy of a new partnership between Stanbic Bank Uganda and Autochek, a Pan-African auto-dealership company.

The offer which also extends to individual buyers enables customers of Stanbic Bank Uganda to acquire new or used vehicles of their choice, for personal or commercial use, through Autochek’s digital platform with over 50, 000 verified and high-quality vehicles.

With an inbuilt auto-loan system, the Autochek platform enables a customer to search for a vehicle of their choice and proceed to apply for financing at competitive market rates in partnership with Stanbic Bank Uganda.

Through the partnership, Stanbic Bank customers are to enjoy Autochek’s 360-degree solution that offers car search and acquisition financing, after-sales service as well as an opportunity to sell their Auto assets.

Powered by a data analytics engine that makes it easier for financial institutions to offer credit to consumers, Autochek is building the financial infrastructure to drive the penetration of auto financing across Africa, by offering an online marketplace for buying and selling vehicles, as well as insurance, warranties and aftersales, making it a one-stop-shop for all automotive needs.

Autochek Uganda’s Country Manager, Jacob Muddu said “At Autochek, we believe financing is critical to catalysing the automotive industry in Uganda. With this partnership, we will empower consumers in Uganda to get more quality options for car ownership while growing the automotive ecosystem in the country.”

Stanbic Bank Uganda’s Head

Read the rest