Public proceedings of the Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors on December 5, 2014

Attendance

Board members present

John McCamus (Chair); Nancy Cooper; Michelle Haigh; John Liston; James McNee; Derry Millar; James Yakimovich; Robert W. Ward (CEO/Ex Officio)

Staff

David Field; Felice Lambermont; Jayne Mallin; Sue McCaffrey; David McKillop; Stephanie Mealing; Michelle Sguin; Nye Thomas

Guests

Jack De Klerk and Marjorie Hiley

1. Board meetings

The Board adopted the minutes of the Board meetings held October 2, 3, 17, 23, 27, and November 5, 2014.

2. Chairs report

2.1 Fall 2014 Board advisory committee meetings

The Boards advisory committee membership terms are expiring, and some members are returning while others are new. The Board approved:

  • a proposed list of new and returning advisory committee members
  • an extension of the advisory committee membership from two years to three years
  • the option for two-year appointments
  • a required amendment to the advisory committee terms of reference deleting the requirement to keep the business plan confidential.

2.2 Succession planning committee

The Chair presented, and the Board approved, the proposed terms of reference for this Board committee.

2.3 Other business

The Chair reported as follows:

  • He and the President met with some Board members and the Executive Director of the Community Legal Education of Ontario (CLEO) clinic. They clarified CLEOs proposed relationship with the Ontario Justice Education Network and discussed CLEOs expertise as well as the types of material that CLEO can prepare for the public.
  • He attended the Criminal Lawyers Association (CLA) past presidents gala dinner.
  • He joined LAOs President and the Attorney General for the enhanced financial eligibility criteria announcement.
  • He and senior MAG agency leaders attended Agency Day to discuss personnel and succession planning issues, Order In Council appointments and the existing appointment process, recruitment and training.
  • An audit of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, as mandated by the Clinic Committee of the Board, is complete, and a draft report will be presented to the Board.
  • He had expenses of $517.38, to register for the January 2015 National Criminal Justice Symposium.

3. President and CEOs Report

3.1 Financial eligibility (FE) increase

The President and CEO reported as follows:

  • The extensive positive media coverage on latest financial eligibility increase needs to be followed by speedy implementation. Staff is very pleased with this positive step for increased client service. Those in the field will be instructed to use their discretion to increase authorizations beyond six per cent in order to move to the April 1, 2015 levels. This will result in no early costs in the certificate program.
  • Duty counsel and clinics continue to provide clients with services related to non-tariff matters, and can be flexible in their eligibility criteria.

While program innovation and increased eligibility have resulted in vastly improved client service, the FE program has a very narrow scope. Staff continue to investigate initiatives that could redress gaps in coverage resulting from cuts in the early to mid-1990s. The Chair reported on a meeting with the President of the Criminal Lawyers Association (CLA), who suggested a need for more discretion in some of LAOs initiatives, e.g. urgent-need cases such as domestic violence matters.

3.2 Safe workplace initiative

LAO has created a committee to create a Safe Workplace initiative. The goal of this committee is to address any concerns or circumstances that could lead to a situation similar to that currently unfolding at the CBC. It is also developing an all-staff message. The committee will bring an update and next steps back to the Board.

3.3 LAO-MPP engagement

LAO has accomplished MPP engagement efficiently and quickly. All MPP offices have been contacted. To date, there have been 55 meetings — all extremely positive — and 30 more are booked.

3.4 Senior counsel

LAOs senior litigators are now serving more unrepresented clients and creating a mechanism for mentoring junior counsel. They represent hard-to-serve clients who cannot find private bar support, such as those with mental health issues and those ineligible for certificate services.

The Chair requested a report describing the work profile of these litigators, i.e., what they do, how much certificate work, if any, they are doing, etc.

3.5 Paralegals

Board members reported concerns about LAOs alleged expansion of paralegals scope of practice, and suggested developing an engagement strategy to inform judges and justices of the peace about LAOs programs, including the paralegal project.

The President and CEO reported that:

  • paralegal functions vary from court to court, depending on the individual courthouse culture
  • Directors General are communicating with the judiciary on the benefits of using paralegals
  • the private bar has, upon occasion, treated LAO staff paralegals poorly; this behaviour will not be tolerated.
  • LAOs research has found no instances where an LAO employee has performed a service that was not authorized.

A complete report will be presented to the Board at its next meeting and a communication strategy will be developed about the function of LAOs licenced paralegals generally, as well as about the Rexdale paralegal project.

3.6 Litigation report

The Vice-President and General Counsel presented this report. There were two cases in the Litigation against LAO section describing settlements being negotiated.

3.7 Miscellaneous

The Acting Director, Corporate Services Strategic Planning and Special Projects, updated the Board on the AFA programs uptake status, said that 12 of the 13 senior counsel positions have been filled, reported that further opportunities for duty counsel conversion have been identified and that the project is on track to fill the positions by 2015.

3.8 Draft civility policy

The Vice-President and CAO presented a draft civility policy which includes provisions for panel removal.

Board members questioned the need for an LAO civility policy when lawyers conduct is already subject to the Law Society rules. They pointed out that most civility complaints to the Law Society do not proceed, and that the term civility is too controversial; it should be called a professionalism policy or something similar.

The President and CEO reported that LAO could be liable if it does not have protections in place for its staff in the event of abusive conduct toward LAO staff lawyers. Behaviour of this sort toward LAO staff could also activate a panel removal process.

The Board approved, in principle, a professionalism policy. Staff will report back on operational details for how the policy will be implemented for Board approval.

3.9 Other matters

The President and CEO reported:

  • a staff complement report will be presented at the next Board meeting
  • the business plan financial assumptions
  • modernization has lessened LAOs liability for unfunded tariff increases dramatically; it remains unclear how the increases will be funded.
  • Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are trending upward; where possible, requested material is being uploaded to LAOs external website
  • a representative of the CLA posted a notice in the London courthouse denigrating the role of duty counsel
  • LAO is working with clinics who are part of the GTA Clinic Transformation Project; clinics that decline to participate will not experience adverse consequences.
  • the client satisfaction survey has been completed and a report will be presented to the Board in the near future
  • lawyer satisfaction is at record high levels and the management of lawyers accounts is showing improvement
  • the Attorney General has signed the new Memorandum of Understanding.
  • the Assistant Deputy Attorney General has reported positively on the ministers candid and business-like approach to stakeholder concerns, including funding limitations.
  • stakeholders have requested that the Minister organize a Roundtable with service providers to discuss allocation of the financial eligibility funding. LAO would be pleased to participate, so long as these discussions are limited to issues affecting the justice system in general.
  • the Executive Directors of the Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS) have thanked LAO for the new funding, and say it will allow them to expand their operations into the area of family law.

The Vice-President and General Counsel reported on the proposed Legal Aid Services Act reforms. A report will be brought to the Board on amendments recommended by senior management. A Board member suggested including quality assurance audits and expanding LAOs role in these audits.

4. Committee reports

4.1 Minutes of the Audit & Finance Committee Meeting

The Board adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee of the Board held on November 5, 2014.

4.2 Minutes of the clinic committee of the Board

The Board adopted the minutes of the meeting of the Clinic Committee of the Board held on October 31, 2014.

5. Board reports

5.1 Final 2015/16-2017/18 business plan

The President and CEO reported that suggestions from previous Board and Audit and Finance Committee meetings have now been incorporated into the final version of the business plan.

The Vice-President, Strategic Planning and Compliance:

  • highlighted the amendments and additions since the last presentation to the Board, including the approved financial information, an executive summary regarding increased financial eligibility and the existence of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MAG
  • reported that LAO has been asked to provide a template to the Ontario Public Service (OPS) to assist with the creation of its business plan
  • the environmental scan information (which a Board member indicated was exceptional) reflects the increasing expertise of LAOs Business Intelligence Unit; the quality of this information informs LAOs decision-making.

He also reported that going forward, LAO is engaging with other social service organizations. The Directors General are developing a networking strategy that includes non-legal stakeholders, to better understand how basic client services interconnect.

Other matters discussed:

  • the Aboriginal Justice Strategy and the future impact of the Gladue program.
  • the positive move toward expansion of the tariff in Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) cases
  • staffing projections and space requirements; a study is underway to suggest alternative methods to accommodate staff.

5.2 Financial eligibility implementation options

The Vice-President, Policy, Research and External Relations, reported that the budget announcement was a result of ten years of effort. He advised that:

  • regulations have been implemented to provide for three six per cent financial eligibility increaseson November 1, 2014, April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2016 constituting 20 per cent over 17 months.
  • there could be further enhancements in the future, to conform to the Low Income Measure (LIM)
  • LAO continues to reach out to stakeholdersfor instance, the Chair ask the heads of ten stakeholder groups for suggestions
  • newly eligible clients will be more affluent and new services will be added
  • implementation must be achieved quickly

The Director General, Policy and Strategic Research, presented a Report on LAO Financial Eligibility Implementation, Status Update, Recommendations and Next Steps, highlighting proposed implementation principles and recommendations. He noted:

  • there must be flexibility in the allocation of these resources
  • third party applications (e.g. grandparents) in CFSA matters may be added
  • the two possible models for clinic and SLASS funding distribution are historical funding allocations, and/or a model to allocate more resources into areas where the population living in poverty has grown; staff recommends a balanced approach and is seeking clinic feedback
  • ideas are under development for certificate expansion, as there are still large numbers of unrepresented accused
  • a further Financial Eligibility Implementation Report will be brought back to the Board at its next meeting for approval of:
    • a comprehensive financial eligibility expansion plan including financial estimates
    • a final clinic financial eligibility plan that includes specialty clinics
    • a certificate coverage expansion plan
    • a final discretion policy
  • accrued liability will be included in financial reporting; the new money will be considered spent once the certificate is issued
  • LAO has begun a maps and gaps analysis to identify new services that would meet LAOs access to justice goals.
  • LAO continues to consult with stakeholders.
  • there is general agreement on what additional service needs could be met with the available resources. Secondary consequences, for instance, such as loss of livelihood, are a priority for the criminal bar.

The Board further discussed:

  • the need to demonstrate that the increases are making a difference
  • the relationship of increased financial eligibility to other programs such as the Aboriginal Justice and Mental Health strategies, French Language Services, domestic violence issues, etc.
  • funding allocation to clinics
  • discretion decisions for domestic violence issues.

The Board approved the direction recommended in the LAO Financial Eligibility Implementation Status Update/Recommendations/ Next Steps report.

5.3 GTA clinic transformation

Jack De Klerk and Marjory Hiley, the co-leads of the GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project, briefed Board members on the status of this project.