12/10/2020Canadian Court Cracks Down On Amateur Ticket Fighters
Appeal in Manitoba, Canada, throws out law student who had success in helping motorists beat photo radar tickets.
A judge in Manitoba, Canada, does not want average motorists to have a helping hand if they decide to challenge a speed camera ticket. In a ruling Monday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shane I. Perlmutter agreed with a lower court that barred Christian Sweryda from representing, at no charge, friends who received photo radar tickets.
Sweryda, a law student, has helped people beat tickets, so Keith MacCharles sought out his assistance in 2018 after two citations were issued against his vehicle. On the back of the ticket was a form allowing anyone to take up the accused's case. In Manitoba traffic court, it is common to find non-lawyers using this form to argue before the bench.
"To authorize another person to appear or act on your behalf, you must provide him/her with your written authorization to present to the court," the photo radar ticket reads. "You may authorize another person by completing the following..."
After a request from the prosecutor, however, Judicial Justice of the peace Nettie Cuthbert-Buchanan decided to put a stop to this form of representation by ruling that the ability to select a legal champion only applies when seeking emotional support from family members or from someone who can provide language assistance. Sweryda says the ruling has a different motivation.
"The prosecution started this whole thing in order to get me out of court only after I had succeeded with my first constitutional challenge," Sweryda told TheNewspaper. "Before, when I was getting reductions for one-off cases, they had no problem with my appearances."
In an appeal, Sweryda's lawyer insisted that the law preventing non-lawyers from appearing in court applies only to those charging a fee for their services, which did not apply to this case.
"The appellant submits that the issue as to whether Mr. Sweryda is practicing law or not is a red herring," Adam R. Hodge wrote. "The appellant respectfully submits that the [justice of the peace] undermined the appellant's right to choose how to proceed, including who could act as representative pursuant to the Provincial Offences Act. "
In resolving the appeal, Justice Perlmutter agreed with the lower court in deciding to shut down the freely given assistance offered by photo radar opponents.
"It is my view that the authority of a justice to bar a person from appearing as a representative under section 53 of the Provincial Offences Act is grounded in the court's jurisdiction to control its own process," the justice ruled. "This section empowers a justice to bar a person from appearing as a representative who is not authorized to practice law under the Legal Profession Act if the nature and extent of the assistance that this person purports to provide exceeds the limitations discussed above, such that the justice finds that the person is not 'able' to properly represent or advise the person for whom they appear."
A copy of the Monday's ruling is available in a 2mb PDF file at the source link below.