Federal lawyer may have broken conduct rules: MP

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James Cudmore, CBC News – April 21, 2010

The federal government's lead counsel at hearings into the handling of Afghan detainees is alleged to have broken the rules that govern lawyers in Ontario.

Alain Prefontaine should be investigated by Ontario's law society for an apparent conflict of interest, says lawyer and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.

Prefontaine, the senior counsel and director general in the Department of Justice, cross-examined diplomat Richard Colvin last week as Colvin testified at the Military Police Complaints Commission. Their exchanges were sometimes rough and acrimonious.

Last October, before the same commission, Prefontaine told the commission he represented Colvin. He argued that as a government employee, Colvin was his "putative client" and that he represented him, and that they were engaged in a solicitor-client relationship.

Colvin disagreed but Prefontaine said that didn't matter.

According to the rules that govern Ontario lawyers, a lawyer who has acted for a client is not supposed to act against the same person in the same case.

"Well that's something for you to take up with the law society," Prefontaine said about the issue.

The Law Society of Upper Canada wouldn't talk about this case specifically.

But James Morton, former president of the Ontario Bar Association, said: "You cannot take a position adversarial to your client in the same matter that you represented your client."

Dosanjh said that includes a tough cross-examination.

"It is a terrible conflict of interest, for any lawyer but more particularly for a lawyer of the Attorney General of Canada."

Original article on CBC website