Osler lawyer’s efforts make traffic court disclosure the norm for self-represented litigants in Ontario

Mary Paterson

Dec. 17, 2014

Julius Melnitzer, Financial Post, National Post

(Recap)

The pro bono efforts of Mary Paterson, a lawyer in Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt’s Toronto office, have been instrumental in making Crown disclosure a reality for self-represented litigants in Ontario’s traffic court.

“We challenged the Crown’s approach to disclosure of evidence in Provincial Offences Act matters – and 1.6 million charges are laid under that Act each year,” Paterson said. “Now the Crown will advise self-represented defendants of their right to request disclosure before trial.”

In a recent case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, Paterson raised the issue squarely: whether and when is the Crown obliged to tell self-represented litigants in traffic court that they can request disclosure of the evidence against them?

Paterson and her colleague Michael Milne served a notice of constitutional question that, among other things, raised the disclosure issues. That brought in the Attorney General, who took no position on the merits of the appeal but confined herself to the constitutional issues.

Before Paterson’s involvement, the Crown did not advise self-represented litigants of their right to disclosure. After Paterson filed her factum, the Attorney General changed its practice to provide notice of the right to request disclosure on the Notice of Trial form that litigants receive if they decide to contest their ticket at trial. In fact, the AG subsequently changed the form twice to make it more clear.

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