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

Supporting a friend with mental health issues

AHS: Do you have a friend who just doesn’t seem to be their usual self?

PHOTOS: Ponoka Curling Club hosts Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event

The Ponoka Curling Club hosted its first-ever Alberta Junior Curling Tour Event… Continue reading

Jeffery Kraft of Ponoka remembered for being loving, well-liked

Kraft passed away on Dec. 15, 2019, in Lacombe at 20 years old

Deserving Ponoka student appointed to National Youth Council

Yael Witvoet will now be able to advocate for causes on a national scale

Province investigating death of Samson Cree Nation youth in care

16-year-old found deceased outside in Rocky Mountain House

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

UPDATE Human remains found in Manny’s Motel ruins

UPDATE RCMP Major Crimes Unit Investigate Fatal Fire in Wetaskiwin

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Most Read