Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Retaining senior Crowns a struggle

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Nearly half of Manitoba's criminal prosecutors have fewer than 10 years of legal experience, a Free Press analysis shows.

Information from a public Manitoba Law Society database shows 73 lawyers (48 per cent) filling the 152 public prosecutions positions were called to the bar in the province since 2005.

And roughly two-thirds, or 67 per cent (102 positions), have less than 15 years experience.

Retaining senior Crown attorneys and educating and mentoring junior ones continues to be a serious issue, the president of the Manitoba Association of Crown Attorneys says.

"We have a problem with retention," said Lisa Carson, a supervising, Winnipeg-based prosecutor called to the bar in 1999. "It's an issue that's been a live one."

A loss of seniority in the Crown's office and a lack of cash for education and mentoring will be issues at the bargaining table at the end of March when MACA's current contract with the province expires.

"In this fiscal climate, there's not a whole lot of will to provide funding for education and training," Carson said.

Carson also pointed to the loss of a number of senior Crowns in recent years to the judiciary as a sign of retention problems.

Since May 2010, a number of senior lawyers have been appointed to the provincial court bench, including Dale Harvey, Dale Schille, Don Slough and Cynthia Devine. As well, Rick Saull was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench in early 2010 after spending nearly 20 years as a prosecutor. The department also took a significant hit when Zane Tessler, who was widely recognized for his mentoring ability, left in March 2013 to lead the province's Independent Investigation Unit.

While the department still has a number of senior lawyers -- one with experience dating back to 1967 -- loss of seniority takes its toll, Carson suggested.

"You lose that ability to use your senior counsel to mentor younger lawyers," Carson said, adding it's "a considerable loss of institutional knowledge."

The issue is more pronounced in centres outside Winnipeg, she said.

The most senior Crown outside city limits is Thompson-based David Gray, who was called to the bar in 1981, followed closely by Brandon's Garry Rainnie, called to the bar in 1983.

According to the data, the Thompson office, which sees high volumes of violent crime, has six Crowns and an articling student aside from Gray. Three of those prosecutors were called to the bar since 2012.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 A6

History

Updated on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 10:24 AM CST: Corrects total of Crown attourneys in Thompson

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