A new Red Deer Criminal Defence Lawyers Association has been established – the first of its kind in the City. There are similar organizations in Edmonton and Calgary that have been around for many years.
President Jason Snider said the purpose of the Association is allow local defence lawyers to have a unified voice on various issues.
“There have been a lot of changes in the court system in the past while and there are a lot of changes in how the court dockets are run, issues with disclosure and all types of different things,” said Snider. “It just seemed to be the time that defence lawyers needed to have more of a unified voice to try and address the issues and help the court system as a whole while still respecting the rights of the people who are subject to the system whether they are defendants or witnesses alike.”
After a town hall in January, where a number of defence lawyers attended, Snider said the decision was made to go ahead and form the Red Deer Criminal Defence Lawyers Association.
“It was time – defence lawyer voices just don’t seem to be heard around the table because there wasn’t a unified voice. When the judges have been going through the new Court Case Management System over the last couple of years, they haven’t had someone to really turn to from the defence bar. They’ve been really doing it on an ad-hoc basis. With the space crunch Red Deer is also facing, there have been some procedural changes to the court system to try and address the capacity issues that the court system is having. They needed the input with the practitioners that are dealing with system from day-to-day.”
He added one of the mandates adopted by the Calgary and Edmonton Associations and what the Red Deer Association is looking at doing as well is providing feedback to the media and public on issues when they arise.
“There is from time to time for lawyers who work in the system to provide some input to the media or otherwise about what is happening in the court system. There is an educational component in that we want to help the general public understand why the system functions the way it does.”
Currently there are 22 members of the Association and Snider said he hopes the membership will continue to grow.
“The members of the Association are of course quite positive of the start (of the Association). As other lawyers in the area that practice criminal law realize the Association exists, I’ve been getting universal uptake. I haven’t had any person yet who practices criminal law who said they are not interested in joining,” said Snider. “Some of the lawyers that are a little further afield have also been joining the Association.”