Judge blasts Iqaluit lawyer for stranding clients

Client left in lurch on sex crimes charges


Justice Robert Kilpatrick blasted Iqaluit lawyer Euan MacKay this week for leaving at least three clients stranded without a lawyer at scheduled court appearances.

MacKay, however, was not in court to hear the judge’s withering lecture, having flown to Pond Inlet to represent another client at a circuit court sitting.

“It is unacceptable to have trial counsel disappearing when they know they have pre-existing trial commitments,” Kilpatrick said.

The most serious Iqaluit matter left hanging was a long-delayed trial for James Andrew Paton, on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and possession of child pornography.

Kilpatrick had been expecting to hear that trial — estimated to take about three-quarters of a day — on the morning of Sept. 23 in Iqaluit’s courthouse.

But as lawyers and court staff gathered to begin work, Paton found himself sitting alone at the defence table.

Crown prosecutor Judy Chan apologized twice to Kilpatrick for having worked out an agreement with MacKay — in a meeting outside the courtroom — to put Paton’s matter over to Oct. 6, when a new trial date would be fixed.

“Without thinking, I had agreed, sir, and we did put it over to Oct. 6. I apologize to the court because I realize that … it’s within the court’s jurisdiction to either grant or decline an adjournment request,” Chan said.

Chan told Kilpatrick that MacKay wouldn’t be in Iqaluit to represent two other accused persons. Two other Crown lawyers were to act as MacKay’s agent when those matters were spoken to, Chan said.

After hearing this explanation, Kilpatrick lit into MacKay.

“The court … does not understand how trial counsel, knowing that he has commitments already for trial in this community, would undertake to represent somebody else. That will effectively disable him from representing the interests of those people that are already committed for trial this week,” Kilpatrick said.

The judge eventually agreed — “with profound regret” — to adjourn Paton’s case until Oct. 6, to fix a new date. He tentatively reserved court time on Nov. 18 at 9:30 p.m. for Paton’s trial.

Paton said he only heard about MacKay’s change of plans last Friday.

“I heard it through my employer. He [MacKay] hasn’t been returning my phone calls and I am a little concerned that — I just don’t know what to say at this point,” Paton said.

Paton, who has been waiting since January 2002 for his case to go to trial, said he wants the charges against him dealt with as soon as possible.

“Not only would I like to see justice for me but justice for the community and I’m anxious to put this all behind and to go wherever the courts decide, but I am anxious to have this resolved and, you know, I will be talking to Euan,” Paton said in court.

After hearing that, Kilpatrick reminded Paton that his lawyer must follow his client’s instructions.

“Mr. Paton, perhaps you should try and impress upon Mr. MacKay your desire to get on with it. If that’s your position, that’s your position and he’s bound to take your instructions, sir,” Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick apologized to Paton and warned lawyers who were present that trial adjournments cannot be done outside of his court.

“Counsel should be aware that if a matter is scheduled for trial in this court, you do not appear at the front counter before a clerk to adjourn. That is not appropriate.”

As for Paton’s absent lawyer, Kilpatrick said “the court will deal with Mr. MacKay when he returns to the community.”

Kilpatrick also reminded Paton that there is a complaint process available to him.

“If you have a problem with what has happened, then there is an appropriate way of dealing with a complaint,” Kilpatrick said.

Though Kilpatrick didn’t say so explicitly, he was referring to the Law Society of Nunavut, which has the power to handle complaints from the public and to discipline lawyers in its membership.

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