Supreme Court reserves decision in "friend of the court" case

Mercedes Perez, Anita Szigeti and Marie-France Major outside the Supreme Court of Canada (Photo credit: Eugene Meehan)

December 12, 2012 - Ottawa - The Supreme Court of Canada heard oral arguments today in the case of Attorney General of Ontario v. Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario. A full nine-judge panel of the court was present to hear the Attorney General of Ontario's appeal from the Ontario Court of Appeal's ruling that Superior Court trial judges have inherent jurisdiction to appoint amicus curiae or "friend of the court" and to set the terms for compensation where agreement cannot be reached with the Attorney General, which is responsible for payment.

As Mental Health Legal Committee (MHLC) chair Marshall Swadron explains, "The case is not just about court jurisdiction but how to ensure access to justice for self-represented mentally disordered accused facing serious criminal charges and a broken Legal Aid system. The same issue arises regularly in mental health treatment appeals." The MHLC, the Advocates' Society and the BC Civil Liberties Union intervened in support of the respondents in the appeal, the Criminal Lawyers Association's. Lined up in support of Ontario's position were the attorneys general of Canada and several provinces.

The Mental Health Legal Committee was represented in the Supreme Court by Anita Szigeti of Hiltz Szigeti LLP, Mercedes Perez of Swadron Associates and Marie-France Major of Supreme Advocacy in Ottawa.

To read the Court of Appeal for Ontario's decision in this case, please click here. To view the webcast of the Supreme Court hearing, please click here.