B.C. chief justice's comments raise doubts about law society's record protecting the public interest

Section three of the Legal Profession Act couldn't be clearer. It states that the "public interest is paramount".

The act also bluntly declares that the object and the duty of the Law Society of B.C. is "to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice by preserving and protecting the rights and freedoms of all persons".

However, a recent speech by Chief Justice Lance Finch suggests that the rights and freedoms of all persons are not being upheld and protected.

That's because there are not enough lawyers. As a result of restrictions on law-school admissions, Finch indicated that the existing crop of barristers and solicitors can cream off the most lucrative work, leaving significant numbers of people unrepresented.

Finch may be speaking out about this because it's frustrating for judges to deal with unrepresented litigants, who are beginning to clog the courts.

It's a lot easier for judges to listen to the arguments of lawyers who understand the court's procedures and rules.

"The restricted supply is a systemic failure on the part of the legal profession’s governing body to ensure that legal services are available to all who need them," Finch said in his speech. "That is what the public interest demands. And I suggest that is what the profession must deliver."

One might conclude from Finch's remarks that the law society has failed to protect the public interest by not taking appropriate action—such as lobbying the B.C. government to sharply increase law-school admissions—to preserve and protect the rights and freedoms of all persons.

Finch more or less acknowledged this by saying: "It is also morally wrong that some are able to enforce or defend their civil rights while others, based solely on their inability to pay, are denied access to justice."

If the law society has failed to uphold and protect the public interest (as required in the Legal Profession Act), it could open the door for someone who has been denied justice to bring an action before the courts.

Under the Judicial Review Procedure Act, a person could file a petition in B.C. Supreme Court seeking a court order forcing the law society to act in the public interest in accordance with the Legal Profession Act.

Given what Finch has said, it's not too farfetched to suggest that an unrepresented litigant might even seek damages from the law society for allegedly not fulfilling its statutory duty to protect the rights and freedoms of all persons. Perhaps Finch's recent speech could be cited by this unrepresented litigant in his or her arguments before the court.

If the judge dismissed the petition, this person could seek leave to appeal in the B.C. Court of Appeal, which Finch oversees as chief justice.

Would Finch absent himself from assigning this appeal to any judges, given that he has already spoken publicly on the matter? Or would he assign the case to himself to send a message to the law society?

There's a reason why judges don't comment publicly on issues that could come before their courts. Finch probably thought he was acting in the public interest by highlighting the law society's failure to address the shortage of lawyers in B.C. But he has put himself in an awkward position should this matter ever be litigated.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.



Philip Slayton

Nov 28, 2010 at 12:36pm

This is bang on.

0 0Rating: 0

glen p robbins

Nov 28, 2010 at 6:44pm

The new Rules of the BC Supreme Court are designed to promote greater efficacy through the system. In an action where I included a particularly municipality as a defendant, I utilized the Rules to take apart the Statement of Defense of that defendant.

The response in the new format was to provide a Statement indicated that if a Statement of Defense wasn't good enough -- another could be provided.

I travel the roads I comment on -- and the problem is the lawyers want to dominate the court system - the lawyers don't really want in person participants - no matter the rhetoric.

Why are Small Claims courts permitting lawyers in personal injury cases where ICBC is a defendant (or represents a defendant)? Why not have ICBC agents represent ICBC?

If the recent BC Rail case has not provided us with insight as to how the legal system has been co-opted by the political system - then nothing will.

0 0Rating: 0

glen p robbins

Nov 29, 2010 at 7:31am

For me, let me bottom line this: After BC Rail - I would prefer not to hear any opinion from the courts for at least one year - save for the day to day operations and decisions. You know "it's before the courts"

0 0Rating: 0

Chris Budgell

Dec 3, 2010 at 8:43pm

I've been to court a number of times representing myself - in judicial review and in a tort action. In the tort action, the Ministry of A.G. was the principle defendant. I would likely have added other institutions run by the legal profession had the matter not been summarily dismissed - which meant I was denied discovery and the right to present any evidence.

The judge who presided in that hearing is now one of several I have named in a complaint to the CJC:


The CBA - the "Bar" Association - includes about 600 of Canada's judges as members. The extent of the conflict-of-interest is shocking. Lance Finch's speech in Scottsdale is an acknowledgement that they know their fortress is starting to crumble. They continue piling more blocks on the walls, but that is just accelerating the disintegration of the foundations.

0 0Rating: 0


Dec 5, 2010 at 11:29pm

The closed cadre has no accountability. Everybody whines about police accountability, govt accountability, well where is the accountability for the no-minds on the bench or in the legal profession? Just like doctors, they police themselves. We are not letting the cops do this anymore, why should we let these morons do it?

0 0Rating: 0


Dec 25, 2010 at 7:49pm

"However, a recent speech by Chief Justice Lance Finch suggests that the rights and freedoms of all persons are not being upheld and protected."

Only the rights of criminals are being protected by the broken justice system in BC.

Prosecutors who will not adhere to the Criminal Code as it is written when approving charges or they make plea deals with sleazy defense lawyers part way through a trial, then make pathetic sentencing recommendations to hug a thug judges.

Trudeau's Charter Rights and Freedoms is an abysmal failure.

0 0Rating: 0