Lawyers can and should be uncivil in the pursuit of justice

Canada's top court has said it will hear the case of Groia vs. The Law Society of Upper Canada - a case that focuses in on the civility of a lawyer in their defence of a client. Sean Robichaud argues its one of the most important decisions as it will define the ethical limits of zealous advocacy.
Joe Groia, lawyer for John Felderhof, walks back into court in this archive photo July 31, 2007 following the judge's decision in the trial of the former chief geologist for Bre-X minerals. (Canadian Press)

How rude and disruptive can a lawyer be when defending their client?

That, in the view of Sean Robichaud, is the question that will be decided when the Supreme Court of Canada hears the case of Groia vs. The Law Society of Upper Canada. 

Groia is Joseph Groia, a Toronto securities lawyer who was found guilty of incivility in 2012 by a discipline panel of Ontario's legal regulator for his conduct during the early days of the high profile trial of John Felderhof a former executive with Bre-X Minerals. 

Robichaud, a criminal defence lawyer, argues all Canadians should pay attention to the case because the ethical limits of zealous advocacy are at stake.

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Sean Robichaud (provided)

"If you conflate the notion of incivility with uncompromising and effective defence strategies - then you can easily invalidate and change the range of permissible advocacy. And what's the point of that?" he says. 

To Robichaud, some of the greatest accomplishments in the struggle for human rights have been marred by disruption of far greater sins than incivility.

If anything he says, civility is simply a desired, but not necessary means to achieve justice.

"Civility should not and can not usurp the very goal of the advocate to pursue what is right, what is just."


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