A solitary confinement cell is shown in a handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. leading civil liberties group says a judge has denied a request to delay a lawsuit that challenges the use of indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Office of the Correctional Investigator MANDATORY CREDIT

Ottawa ordered to pay $1.12M in legal fees for prison segregation class action

Administrative segregation is the isolation of inmates for safety reasons where it’s believed there is no reasonable alternative

The federal government has been ordered to pay $1.12 million in legal fees for a segregation class action in a judgment critical of Ottawa’s arguments for paying less.

In awarding the costs to representative plaintiff Jullian Reddock, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell rejected the government’s contention that the requested fees were unreasonable or excessive.

“If anything, it is the pot calling the kettle black for the federal government to submit that class counsel over-lawyered the case,” Perell said.

The fee award comes in a class action involving the placement of inmates in administrative solitary confinement. Lawyers from McCarthy Tetrault and Koskie Minsky were involved.

Reddock launched the action in March 2017. He said he had sometimes spent days without leaving his cell and that he binged on an anti-anxiety drug.

In August, Perell awarded the thousands of class members $20 million in damages, with the right of individual complainants to push for higher amounts depending on their circumstances.

“The Correctional Service operated administrative segregation in a way that unnecessarily caused harm to the inmates,” Perell said.

ALSO READ: ‘Violated and humiliated’: Inmate claims privacy breach in jail

Reddock requested $1.24 million to cover the legal costs of his successful fight. The government, however, claimed the fees were “disproportionate and excessive.”

In its submissions, Ottawa argued a substantial cut was warranted because the Reddock lawyers from McCarthy Tetrault were also involved in a separate segregation class action against the government. That lawsuit, with Christopher Brazeau as one of the representative plaintiffs, involved mentally ill inmates placed in administrative segregation.

The lawyers’ decision to separate the lawsuits was “duplicative” and the litigation approach “unreasonable,” the government maintained.

Perell, however, rejected the arguments, noting among other things that the government did not say what costs would have been reasonable or how much it spent on its own lawyers.

“When an unsuccessful party does not file a bill of costs but alleges over-lawyering, courts are very skeptical about the allegations,” Perell said.

It would appear, the judge said, that Ottawa spent at least as much, if not more, on lawyers than did the plaintiff.

The two class actions, Perell said, were substantively different and Ottawa’s claim to the contrary was unjustified. Nor could it be said that pressing them as a single suit would have been more efficient, he said.

“The federal government was quite happy to take ironical and inconsistent approaches in advancing its defences and playing one case off against the other,” Perell said. “It takes irony and hypocrisy for the federal government to say there were efficiencies to be achieved.”

Perell did reduce Reddock’s requested fees by $113,000 for a sliver of counsel overlap he found in the two cases.

Administrative segregation involves isolating inmates for safety reasons where authorities believe there is no reasonable alternative. Prisoners spend almost their entire day in small cells without meaningful human contact or programming.

Critics argue the practice can cause severe psychological harm and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, facts that Perell — and other courts — have accepted. Ottawa has said legislation that takes effect Nov. 30 will alleviate the problem.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

Southeast Division Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli asked IH to expand the program

Cranbrook receives $4M in federal infrastructure funding

Cranbrook is receiving $4.1 million from the federal government through an infrastructure… Continue reading

Fort Steele reopening with reduced capacity, services

Heritage town reopening to visitors after closing doors due to COVID-19 concerns

Work set to begin on passing lane near Jaffray

The province says work will soon begin on a westbound passing lane… Continue reading

Cranbrook Public Library to reopen with limited capacity, restrictions

The Cranbrook Public Library is reopening to the public, following a closure… Continue reading

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

Nelson cyclist run over by truck

Driver ticketed for failing to yield right of way on left turn

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Most Read