23 Feb, 2024
2 mins read

Editorial by legal aid president called ‘vile,’ prompts calls for resign

An opinion piece published in a Calgary newspaper by the president of legal aid sparked fury on Friday, spurring calls from a prominent Alberta lawyers’ group for his resignation.

The piece came as dozens of lawyers walked out of courthouses across the province to protest the lack of progress in their fight with the provincial government for increased legal aid funding.

Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) president John Panusa penned an editorial published Thursday in the Calgary Herald which attacked the organization’s “roster lawyers” — counsel who takes legal aid cases.

Panusa wrote that LAA is “OK” and has “sufficient funds” to support its services.

The piece elicited a strong reaction amongst some in the legal community. In a Tweet on Thursday, defense lawyer Chad Haggerty described Panusa’s piece as “vile, tone deaf, uninformed.”

Following Panusa’s public comments, there were calls for his resignation, a demand LAA refused to comment on.

“Albertans deserve a legal aid CEO that is going to fight for them,” said Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association president Danielle Boisvert on Friday.

“If you aren’t willing to do what is right, Mr. Panusa, if you aren’t going to fight for the most vulnerable people in this province, then what Albertans deserve is your resignation.”

Calgary’s Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (CDLA) is protesting what it describes as the “critical underfunding of access to justice.”

Dozens of Edmonton lawyers protested Friday. They say legal aid and on free or underpaid work from its roster of lawyers and many services which should be covered, are not, leaving vulnerable Albertans to face the
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