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

Just Posted

Cowichan Valley food banks reopen on a limited basis

CMS handing out hampers, Basket Society doing hampers and sandwiches

Province restricts open burning in Cowichan Valley until April 15

Measure meant to assist fight against COVID-19

What you said: Shingles vaccine worthy of consideration

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash

Kevin Timothy to plead guilty to animal cruelty charge

He will appear at the Duncan courthouse on March 24

Minister and Halalt First Nation chief consult on effects of recent flooding

Community heavily impacted with many damaged and uninhabitable homes

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read