Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Legal Aid Commission – Judicial review – Evidence – Prisons – Inmates – Right to counsel of their choice
Oliver v. Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission,  N.J. No. 381, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court – Court of Appeal, November 5, 2007, C.K. Wells C.J.N.L., K.J. Mercer and L.D. Barry JJ.A.
Oliver was facing murder charges and counsel of his choice, Buckingham, had offered to represent him. Oliver wanted Legal Aid to pay for Buckingham’s services, but Legal Aid refused, instead providing Oliver with two choices of Legal Aid staff counsel. Oliver’s appeal to the Legal Aid Appeal Board was unsuccessful, so he originated proceedings seeking the appointment of counsel for his application. The Appeal Board ultimately dismissed Oliver’s application and he sought a review of that decision. A judge refused to appoint state-funded counsel to represent Oliver. The judge found Oliver failed to present any evidence in support of his application, with the result that there was no evidence upon which the judge could conclude Oliver would not receive a fair trial if represented by Legal Aid counsel. Oliver appealed this decision.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court – Court of Appeal dismissed Oliver’s application. It noted that his application for counsel of his choice was based on subjective concerns about dealing with Legal Aid lawyers, rather than objective evidence of conflict. The counsel offered to Oliver by Legal Aid were sufficiently experienced and were willing to meet with him in his location. There was no basis for finding Oliver would be denied a fair trial if he was not provided with state-funded counsel of his choice.
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