Hamilton judge skewers legal aid system in decision

March 20, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

In his latest sharply worded decision, a Hamilton judge known for his acerbic wit and creatively written judgments skewered a legal system that he says should have prevented a case from ever arriving at his courtroom door.

The facts, Justice Alex Pazaratz said, were simple.

She wanted a divorce. Her husband agreed. Neither wanted to see the other again, had agreed to it in fact.

"They have no children. No jobs. No income. No property. Nothing to divide," Pazaratz wrote in his judgment.

But as with many legal issues, the situation may not be quite as simple as Justice Pazaratz insists, according to Queens University law professor Nick Bala.

Both parties agreed on the need for a divorce, but the matter was contested because the wife also wanted a restraining order, something her husband opposed.

The wife alleges her husband assaulted her. He was charged but acquitted at trial in 2015. The wife maintains she fears for her safety.

That is where the potential complication arises, Bala said.

As a rule, legal aid prioritizes cases where domestic violence is a concern, and rightly so, Bala says.

The applicant in the case is a 32-year-old Iraqi woman who arrived in Canada five years ago and has never worked in this country. She receives monthly assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Her husband, 43 and also from Iraq, has also never worked in this country, and also receives disability support. They were married in September 2014 and separated five months later.

In his ruling Pazaratz acknowledged the grave seriousness of domestic abuse but insisted that such a case need not consume so much of the taxpayer's time and money, particularly when "every day I see people with much more serious and complex problems who have been denied any help by Legal Aid."

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