Now duty counsel are able to send email to courts and clerks which actually serve as a first appearance.
Lawyer Marino Eliopoulos says a lot of the clients served by Legal Aid are affected by poverty or are from Indigenous communities, which makes getting to court an issue for them.
“So what this allows us to do for them is speak with them, get their instructions and actually set a subsequent court date that satisfies the court so that they don’t have to attend court, both keeping them from traveling to court and helping to do our part to flatten the COVID curve and also just kind of helping them with whatever issues might be affecting them in their lives.”
Throughout the pandemic, courts were presumptively adjourning matters for 10 and then six weeks in order to keep people out of the courthouse as much as possible.
Eliopoulos says that has created a backlog of files, which the new program should help alleviate. Eventually, in-person appearances will be necessary for most clients.
Legal Aid Alberta has split the province into north and south at Red Deer and has one lawyer staffing the program each day for each zone. People Medicine Hat seeking assistance will speak with a lawyer in Calgary.
For more information on Advance Appearance Duty Counsel, visit albertacourts.ca.