Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Summoned to Old City Hall

So I’m on the phone with a client late one Friday afternoon. In a worried voice, the client says she's been summoned to Old City Hall for the following Monday; her family business of over 20 years has been charged with a provincial offence and she fears a harsh penalty will be coming their way.

I speed walk to an associate's office who is familiar with the process...

My supervising lawyer quickly tells me to attend with the client. Now, sitting at my desk I realize, I have no idea what to expect when it comes to a provincial offence matter and I have never stepped foot inside Old City Hall.

Getting Direction
The morning of the court date, I speed walk to an associate's office who is familiar with the process. He informs me to locate the prosecutor prior to the hearing and discuss prospects for settlement. I wonder to myself, what type of penalty is the prosecutor looking to advance? The lack of disclosure from the Crown only adds to the suspense.

Briefing the Prosecutor
Later that afternoon, I arrive at Old City Hall and first console the client, and then look for an individual who is carrying "a boatload of files”. I walk into the courtroom and find a long line of individuals waiting to speak with the prosecutor. When it is finally my turn, I brief the prosecutor and indicate that my client would like to resolve the matter same day. She looks up quizzically and asks me to wait at the end of the line, as an officer of the City has not yet added the matter to the court list.

courtesy of wiki file https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_City_Hall_Toronto_(8029598479).jpgNegotiating a Deal
I wait nervously at the end of the line. Just as I begin to discuss prospects of settlement with the prosecutor, the Justice of the Peace walks into the room. I think to myself, oh no I was never instructed to obtain an adjournment, what now? The prosecutor proceeds to call up all matters but my client’s. Just as I think the hearing is coming to an end, the prosecutor requests a recess. I breathe a sigh of relief and hurry to negotiate a deal for my client. Speaking to the  prosecutor, I emphasize that it is a family business, the client has a clean track record and I also suggest a way for my client to avoid any future non-compliance. Success! The prosecutor agrees to a lower fine by 25%. At the end of the day the client is happy to pay the lowered fine, as it means escaping the damaging alternative of shutting down the business for a day.

Taking a Breath
Remember, there’s always a first for everything. Take it one step at a time and remind yourself that in hindsight most things are not as daunting as they appear.

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