|For immediate release||July 10, 2002|
Law Society of B.C. adjourns court challenge
VANCOUVER – The Law Society of B.C. has adjourned its constitutional challenge of the government's decision to close several courthouses throughout the province. The decision was made after consulting with the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of B.C. The case was to begin July 15, 2002 in B.C. Supreme Court.
"The Law Society has always believed that the Attorney General cannot unilaterally close courthouses," Law Society President Richard Gibbs, Q.C. said. "Attorney General Geoff Plant, Q.C. and Chief Judge Carol Baird Ellan are currently discussing the court closures and related issues and the Law Society does not wish to interfere with those discussions by pressing ahead with court action at this time."
Mr. Gibbs noted that, in response to the Law Society's court challenge, the Chief Judge and the Attorney General have signed a protocol outlining their respective roles in decisions relating to court administration including court closures. He also noted they have also signed a memorandum of understanding relating to court closures. The protocol and memorandum of understanding form the basis for the discussions. Both documents are available on the Provincial Court's website at: www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/newsandreferences/newsreleases/index.html .
Chief Judge Baird Ellan said the protocol and memorandum of understanding clearly define a role for the judiciary in future decisions by the government concerning court facilities and budgets.
"The judiciary would much prefer to see these issues resolved without litigation," Chief Judge Baird Ellan said. "I would very much like to see a postponement of the litigation in favour of working out agreements with the Attorney General regarding the court closures."
The Law Society intends to look for ways local communities can find the resources to keep their courthouses open, Mr. Gibbs added.
The Chief Judge and Mr. Gibbs both urged the Attorney General to do his utmost to keep open those courts scheduled to close August 1, 2002.
With over 10,000 members, the Law Society of British Columbia is the governing body for the B.C. legal profession. Its chief executive officer is the Executive Director and its senior elected official is the President. The Law Society's principal responsibility is to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice and to set standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of practising lawyers in the province.
Law Society of B.C. media contact:
Brad Daisley, Public Affairs Manager
Office: 604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in B.C.