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Monday, January 4, 2016

Class action approved against Neinstein and Associates LLP

Toronto-based personal injury lawyer Gary Neinstein of Neinstein & Associates LLP had a difficult end to 2015 when in mid-December the divisional court certified a class action against the firm.

The action is based on allegations unproven in court that it entered into improper fee arrangements, took unauthorized fees, failed to obtain required court approval, and improperly charged interest rates on disbursements in Hodge v. Neinstein.

Days after that ruling, the Divisional Court released its judgment on an appeal Neinstein had launched in response to a finding of professional misconduct against him by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s disciplinary tribunal after a separate personal injury matter dating back to the mid-2000s. The divisional court dismissed the appeal and ordered that if the lawyer and LSUC cannot agree on costs, they are to provide written submissions to the society by the end of January. The disciplinary tribunal had originally found he acted in a conflict of interest, that he breached two court orders, and knowingly commissioned and relied upon a false affidavit to mislead the court and levelled a six-month licence suspension.

He appealed to divisional court that the reasons for judgment were insufficient, that it failed to take into account certain vital defence evidence, that it erred in finding a conflict of interest he argued was waived in 2005, and that the penalty was too harsh in reflecting the scope of the misconduct. He also argued that any potential missteps he may have made were “isolated incidents in an otherwise exceptional career.”

The Divisional Court ruled that the penalty against Neinstein was reasonable and could have been higher, with Justice D.L. Corbett writing in the decision: “Mr. Neinstein’s overall pattern of professional misconduct in this case was a serious departure from the standards of professionalism expected of a lawyer and warranted the penalty imposed.”

Legal Aid Ontario launches new app

It’s another new year and another step forward into the evolving technological landscape for Legal Aid Ontario.

LAO has just launched a mobile to help people determine whether they are financially eligible for a legal aid certificate.

The mobile app will also give applicants real-time access to call centre wait times. John McCamus, LAO chairman, said in a press release that this is the first version of the app, and it follows the organization’s recent expansion of financial and legal eligibility criteria for legal aid services in Ontario.

“We’re proud to enhance access to legal aid services through technology in this manner,” he said.

The app is available free of charge through app stores for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices and does not collect or store any user data.

McCamus said the LAO app is an example of how the organization is not only expanding existing services but also innovating the way these services are provided to low-income individuals.

“By offering a new way for clients to self-assess, we can connect with them and determine their legal needs more quickly,” said McCamus. “We’ll also be providing a near-instantaneous response to applicants who are ineligible for certificate services, and we’ll be able to refer them to other services more quickly. We’re proud to enhance access to legal aid services through technology in this manner.”

Gattrell appointed to Ontario Court of Justice

The Ministry of the Attorney General has announced that effective Dec. 30, 2015, Robert Edward Gattrell has taken on the role of judge for the Ontario Court of Justice and has been assigned to preside in Barrie.

Called to the bar in 1989, the fully bilingual lawyer worked as an assistant Crown attorney for 15 years in Simcoe County before taking on the role of Crown Counsel in the Crown Law Office — Criminal with the MAG. He most recently held the position of deputy director and acting chief counsel in charge of the Justice Prosecutions unit for the MAG.

Poll results

The cold, harsh reality of the Paris climate conference agreement may be that the majority doesn’t seem to think it will have much impact. In last week’s poll, we asked our readers if they thought the agreement to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would be achieved. Only 27 per cent said world governments would rally around climate change to meet the objective. Almost three quarters of respondents say no, the global leaders will not be able to deliver on their promises.

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It's unknown how widely police in Ontario utilize controversial surveillance techniques that can capture private data from non-targets in criminal investigations. Do you think there should be formal requirements to release this information?
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