David Eby said yesterday a possible shutdown of the legal services society's poverty law programs could clog up British Columbia's court system. Last week, Public Eye exclusively reported those programs - which provide legal aid for the poor's day-to-day struggles - will require additional funding to continue in fiscal 2010/11. And if that funding isn't forthcoming, the former Pivot Legal Society lawyer said the results of closing services such as LawLINE could be "devastating."
"That's one of the things that's really challenging to understand about this potential cut is that the government is actually going to end up paying more for the time of judges and sheriffs in the court, court administration workers, who have to deal with all of these people who are showing up and have no idea if they're even in the right place."
But, that being said, Mr. Eby stated such closures - if they do happen - won't likely result in the kinds of protests that surrounded legal services society cutbacks in fiscal 2004/05.
"At the time of the original cuts, there were a number of lawyers that were doing poverty law work - that were working with the low-income community that was funded by the government. These are the lawyers that led the charge on the resistance to the legal aid cuts. Those lawyers just simply don't exist anymore," he explained.
"I don't expect a huge hue and cry from the legal profession that is no longer really that interested, unfortunately, in these issues," he continued. "The trial lawyers association in B.C. has been very outspoken on these issues. But they've also been outspoken about this issue for a long time. And, after a while, it just becomes part of the background noise."
"I don't expect to see something like when Geoff Plant was censured by the law society - being the first attorney general ever to be publicly called out by the law society in a vote of non-confidence. I don't expect something like that from a new attorney general."