In an article published in Precedent on December 5th, 2016 former Attorney General, Michael Bryant is quoted as making the following statements;
1. "I had no idea that innocent people were, every day, being treated like guilty people."
2. "I had no idea that the presumption of innocence is a joke."
Some in the legal profession may be quick to condemn the comments attributed to Mr. Bryant. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the investigators at the Law Society of Upper Canada receive these alleged comments. Readers will recall the ongoing battle between the Law Society of Upper Canada and their prosecution of the able and respected trial lawyer, Mr. Joseph Groia.
As a lawyer who routinely represents clients for whom the law does not seem to work, I have great insight into Mr. Bryant's words and can understand his critique. It is clear to me that up until his encounter with the criminal justice system Mr. Bryant, like most in the criminal justice system, enjoyed a life which was privileged and removed from the reality which working people in Ontario encounter in our courts everyday. As a Catholic lawyer I can only hope that Mr. Bryant has found inner peace and that he will use his voice to speak for those who are voiceless.
Mr. Bryant's lawyer in his encounter with the criminal justice system, Marie Henein, zeroed in on perhaps the biggest obstacle in his path for redemption. The Precedent article quotes her in the following words: "Today's digital world is an extraordinary burden", says Henein. "The mere fact of an accusation makes it extremely difficult for someone to move on. What's the first thing you do when you meet someone ? You google them. So for the rest of your life, you're explaining yourself. It's hard."
NOTE: This article is written for the sole purpose of drawing attention to an issue of public importance. The right of lawyers to speak frankly on the workings of the administration of justice is a matter of public importance. Censoring and punishing lawyers for their honest and frank criticism of the administration of justice is inconsistent with our fundamental principles. Assuming the quotes attributed to Mr. Bryan are correct they motivate and push for change and ought not to be censored and punished.