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Legalese - September 15, 2005

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September 15, 2005

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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

Legalese:How to obtain a LegalAidCertificate

A column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

The purpose of legal aid is to make sure that people who do not have money to pay for a lawyer can still get the help they need. Community Legal Clinics, such as ours, are only one part of the plan operated by Legal Aid Ontario.

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If you need the help of a lawyer and cannot afford one, our office is a good place to start. We can provide advice and information on most matters and can also provide legal representation before administrative tribunals and some Courts.

There are areas of law where our Clinic cannot provide representation, primarily in Criminal and Family matters, even if you are financially eligible for our assistance. In these cases, you may wish to apply for a Legal Aid Certificate to allow you to retain a lawyer of your choice.

There are two key issues involved in obtaining a Legal Aid Certificate. First of all, the type of legal problem must be covered by the plan. Many family and criminal law matters are covered. However, other matters such as the purchase and sale of real estate, libel, defamation and slander, wrongful dismissal, commercial law, and so forth are not. Each case must be examined to see if it is included in the plan.

Even if your problem is not covered for a Certificate, you may still be able to obtain some free legal assistance through other Legal Aid programs such as the Family Law Information Centre located in Kingston and Napanee, or Duty Counsel in the Family and Criminal Courts. Our office will provide you with the information needed to make the best use of these services.

Once it is determined that certificate coverage is available for your type of legal problem, the second issue becomes one of financial eligibility. In order to obtain a Legal Aid Certificate, you must be able to show that you have little or no money left after paying for basic necessities like food and housing.

When applying for a Legal Aid Certificate, you will need some form of personal identification as well as the summons or any other papers relating to your case. In addition, you will require:

A rent receipt or lease if you rent, and a mortgage statement and deed if you own your own home. House insurance information is also required.If you are working you must bring some recent payslips for both yourself and your spouse. If you are unemployed, you must bring proof of your income from sources such as Workers’ Compensation, Employment Insurance, Ontario Works, etc.An up-to-date bank book or statements for all accounts, as well as statements for any RRSPs, GICs, or other investments.Verification of all debts and the monthly amounts being paid.

Although applications for a Legal Aid Certificate can usually be made at our office, all applications are reviewed and processed by the Legal Aid Area Office for your County of residence. In Frontenac County the Area Office is located in Kingston and in Lennox & Addington at Napanee.

After making an application the Applicant may be contacted by the Area office for additional information, or may be asked to attend an interview at the Area office (usually about financial matters). Applicants, other than those on social assistance, will be required to attend at their local Area office for a financial eligibility assessment. The Director of the Legal Aid Area Office is then responsible for deciding whether or not to issue a Legal Aid Certificate. Rural Legal Services has no part in the decision-making process.

If a Certificate is issued, you may retain any lawyer who is willing to take on your case under Legal Aid Ontario’s rules. It should be remembered that Legal Aid is not always free. As a condition of being granted a Certificate, Legal Aid Ontario can require monthly payments, lump sum payments, or a lien on property.

If you object to the payment conditions or if a Certificate is refused, you may appeal the decision to the local Area Committee.

For more information on how to obtain a Legal Aid Certificate, you may contact our office, your local Area office: Kingston- 546-1179, Napanee- 1-(866)-294-0658, or Legal Aid Ontario toll free at 1-(800)-668-8258.

Susan Irwin

Lawyer / Executive Director

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