I am a criminal defense lawyer (Certified Specialist) in Ottawa, called to the Bar in 1989 and about to enter my 23rd year in practice. We have plenty of excellent Bencher candidates in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, but I am usually stuck on whom to vote for in Toronto. Not this year. One candidate truly stands out, and I will enthusiastically be voting for Anita Szigeti.
I have come to know Anita over the past year through our membership in the Criminal Lawyers’ Association’s listserve, where members routinely post questions, make observations, and offer advice. Anita, while not a criminal lawyer, joined the Association because of her commitment to a strong Legal Aid Plan and her desire to join a larger movement focused on improving the Plan. Her emphasis has been not only on seeking fair pay for lawyers, but also on the broader issue of ensuring access to justice – including to experienced counsel – on the part of indigent clients.
These two problems, inadequate lawyer compensation and diminished access to justice, are woven together, which Anita acutely recognizes: if senior lawyers cannot be remunerated properly on Legal Aid cases, and if on top of that they have to go through bureaucratic hoops in order to remain retained and ultimately get paid, they will continue to abandon Legal Aid work as they have been doing for years.
Anita walks the walk. She does not just bemoan the state of Legal Aid. She has taken the issue to Court, and has supported other counsel who have done the same.
Aside from her focus on Legal Aid, Anita has been a constant source of moral support and guidance for me and other criminal lawyers who frequently draw on her expertise in mental health law. Anita shares her experience and wisdom with enthusiasm, passion, humour and eloquence.
These qualities – enthusiasm, passion, humour, eloquence and wisdom – are the qualities that Anita will bring with her to Convocation. She will combine these qualities with fearlessness, discretion and respect. She will get things done, at least as much as one person can. She will always strive to strike a fair balance between the rights and needs of lawyers and the interests of the general public, including our clients.
We are fortunate that Anita has offered herself up as a candidate. Anita Szigeti will be an extraordinary bencher.
Endorsement For Anita Szigeti by Mark Handelman
Anita Szigeti is a tireless advocate. She has given the dignity of effective, persistent and thorough representation to the most marginalized members of our society in a way that brings credit to our profession. Anita is a friend, colleague and mentor to all lawyers and I am proud to support her candidacy for Bencher.