By: Dhanvir Sohal
The article deals with a vital issue in the Canadian legal system, the lack of providing legal aid to the people in need.
Who is entitled to Legal aid?
The article states that legal aid is only being provided to the very poor which is constantly resulting in large number of cases being self represented and is causing lengthier resolution times and worse outcomes for the cases. Similarly, the article discusses the case of an office administrator at a law firm, Rhonda Nordlander, making $40,000 a year and that amount being considered high for being eligible for legal aid. The applicant states that after paying high legal fees for her initial stage for divorce and custody of her children, she is insolvent by the beginning of this year. Thereby, she was forced to self-represent upon being denied legal aid by the courts.
What criteria is considered for granting Legal Aid?
Moreover, the article also explains the steps taken by the courts to deal with the issue of scarcity of financial resources available to the courts.
The courts are “triaging” the cases to distribute legal aid among the cases that needs it the most, assessing based on:
- The complexity of the case
- Ability of the applicant
- Seriousness of the case and the impact of delay on the parties involved
By considering the criteria for “triaging” the cases, the judge in the present case decided that the applicant is intelligent enough to understand the complexity of the case and by this means is being able to self represent.
What is the impact of being self-represented?
However, the applicant opposes the above view by stating that it would be beneficial for her to have a legal representative as it would result in speedier resolution times and fairer results. The studies advocate this, stating that even the most capable individual would feel overwhelmed when self representing. Aditionally, the applicant describes the results of self-representing as causing “post traumatic court disorder” to her, causing high stress and anxiety after court appearances. The studies also support this by stating that the post court appearance disorder is highly present in the self-represented cases involving personal matters, particularly the custody of the children.
Thus, the eligibility for receiving a legal aid being a subjective criteria, leads to high number of cases in need denied legal aid and being forced to self-represent. Consequently, the large number of cases being self represented results in higher resolution times, worse outcomes and causing high level of stress and anxiety to individuals.