Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Queen’s Prison Law Clinic’s Supreme Court appearance a ‘return to roots’

[Paul Quick, QPLC]
 Paul Quick (Law’09), is a staff lawyer at the Queen's Prison Law Clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. (University Communications)

A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (QPLC) leave to intervene in two appeals this fall is being hailed as an important step forward for the clinic in its efforts to advance prisoner rights.

In many ways, it’s “a return to the QPLC’s roots,” says Paul Quick (Law’09), a staff lawyer at the clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. “The clinic has been representing prisoners and advancing prisoners’ rights in the courts and before tribunals for over 40 years, and that gives us an important perspective and particular expertise in these issues.”

The clinic has sharpened its focus on applications for judicial review to Federal Court since Quick joined the QPLC staff in 2016. He says doing so was a “natural starting point” for building the QPLC’s litigation capacity and expertise.

Having thus far achieved exemplary success in these efforts, the clinic is ramping up its activities, taking on a wider variety of prisoners’ rights issues and placing greater emphasis on human rights and constitutional issues and remedies, as well as appellate-level interventions. It was with those goals in mind that Quick and faculty advisor Lisa Kerr reached out to top-notch external counsel who agreed to assist the clinic pro bono in seeking leave to intervene at the Supreme Court in Chinna v Canada and in the hearing of three related cases, known as “the standard-of-review trilogy.” 

Both matters deal with fundamental questions that promise to have long-term effects on Canadian law. The former – to be heard on Nov. 14 – involves the scope of the constitutional right of access to habeas corpus, while standard-of-review trilogy – to be heard over three days in early December – concerns the framework for the substantive review of administrative decisions by the courts. 

Pro-bono counsel will represent the QPLC at the hearings. 

Nader Hasan of Stockwoods LLP will be lead counsel representing QPLC with Quick in the Chinna matter, while Brendan Van Niejenhuis, also of Stockwoods LLP, will represent QPLC in the standard-of-review trilogy. Quick notes that the clinic is “very grateful for their excellent work in both cases.”

The QPLC is instructing counsel on the arguments to be made, and students have conducted extensive research to support the development of those instructions and the proposed legal arguments.

“This exciting SCC litigation is being assisted by QPLC’s Advanced Prison Law pilot course,” says QPLC Director Kathryn Ferreira( Law’01). “In Law 419, four upper-year students with a required clinical background gain intensive experience assisting with court litigation matters and in helping to develop the legal strategy and evidentiary records for potential test cases.”

The Advanced Prison Law pilot course is unique in Canada. “It’s the QPLC’s hope that it will become a regular offering,” Quick says.

The inaugural class includes four students. David Reznikov (Law’19), who’s one of them, lauds the small class size. 

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work closely with a staff lawyer who serves as a mentor while you’re gaining hands-on legal experience, appearing before panels and tribunals, and interacting with inmate clients, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise receive legal counsel,” says Reznikov. “I chose Queen’s Law because of its strong clinical programs, and I haven’t been disappointed. There’s no question that being involved with QPLC has been the highlight of my Queen’s Law experience. And these two Supreme Court appeals are excellent examples of the meaningful impact the clinic is having.”

*This article was first published on the Faculty of Law website