Top court sides with ousted Legal Aid lawyer

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Two years later, Harvey accepted a contract position with Legal Aid. According to Leurer’s decision, her name was removed from the list — known as the “panel” — in July or August 2018, shortly before the contract expired.

Her application to rejoin the panel was rejected.

Legal Aid was in turmoil that summer. Staff, their union, private lawyers and even a provincial court judge criticized a planned restructuring of its Saskatoon office, which would result in more files being sent to private counsel.

While they argued it would ultimately hurt Legal Aid’s clients and may have been a response to what were characterized as “personnel changes,” the agency said the restructuring was necessary to improve flexibility and keep people off remand.

According to the decision, Harvey alleged the “one reason” she was removed from the panel was because she wrote a letter to Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan criticizing Legal Aid and the planned changes.

That letter led to allegations of defamation from Legal Aid CEO Craig Goebel, Leurer wrote.

The decision goes on to state that commission chair Michelle Oullette said in an affidavit that she thought the letter showed “an animus towards, a disrespect for and a bias against both (the commission) and its CEO, both professionally and personally.”

In her evidence, Harvey denied any animus, disrespect or bias against the commission, and contended that she had been able to maintain a “working relationship” with Goebel despite their disagreements, Leurer wrote.

Leurer disagreed with a lower court judge who found that Harvey’s removal from the list at the end of her contract was an “administrative act … in accordance with the standard policy and procedure.”

He found that the policy of automatically removing lawyers from the panel after they cease to be employees is unauthorized and contrary to the statutory limitation that restricts the commission from removing lawyers for reasons other than just cause.

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