TRU professor argues in Supreme Court case

CAM FORTEMS / Kamloops Daily News
December 11, 2012 01:00 AM

A Kamloops university professor will argue in front of the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday in a case he said is important to judicial independence and competence.

Micah Rankin, a law professor at Thompson Rivers University, is arguing for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in an Ontario case that has national importance.

The association is an intervener in the case HMTQ vs. Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario.

Rankin acknowledged the case has political overtones because, in part, it involves a dispute between the court and government over legal-aid rates.

It results from a number of Ontario trials in which mentally unstable accused people fired their lawyers one after the other. The court intervened, appointing a lawyer as "amicus curiae," or "friend of the court" to advise the judge on behalf of the defendant.

But the rates paid to the amicus curiae were in excess of legal-aid rates in Ontario. In this province and Ontario, legal aid hourly rates haven't risen considerably in two decades.

The Ontario government disputes the higher rates paid to amicus curiae.

But Rankin said the case is about more than money: it includes principles of judicial competence because judges need assistance from lawyers. Our British legal tradition does not see judges as investigators who can seek out facts or arguments.

In important cases, and in absence of defence counsel, for example, the sitting judge needs competent assistance from amicus curiae, Rankin said.

Rankin is not being paid for his representation. He said he is grateful the university supports him in the work.

While it is Rankin's third time at Canada's highest court, it is the first time he has presented oral arguments.

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