In a case that could eventually have implications for whether amicus curiae can be appointed in family law matters, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that the attorney general is not obligated to negotiate payment for amicus above legal aid rates.
In Morwald-Benevides v. Benevides, the attorney general appealed the appointment of amici in a family law matter involving a “toxic” custody dispute.
Audrey Shecter, a family lawyer with Beard Winter LLP, who was not involved in the case, says family law matters often involve self-represented litigants, leading frequently to imbalances between those who are represented and those who are not.
Shecter questions whether the case could mean that amicus will be appointed for a self-represented party when amicus has also been appointed for the other spouse.
“Does that mean the court automatically appoints an amicus?” she says. “I can’t possibly see that happening, because then people would say why should I go and retain counsel? I’ll just say I don’t have a lawyer and the court will appoint one for me and the cost to the justice system will be enormous.”