Thursday, October 06, 2005

Worth The Paper It's Written On

The Liberals have been insisting that the law requires them to pay hush money severance to David Dingwall even though he quit of his own accord.

The only problem is that the lawyers wouldn't commit it to writing:

The government doesn't have a written legal opinion suggesting it make a severance payment to David Dingwall, only verbal advice, Revenue Minister John McCallum said yesterday as other Liberals expressed anger that the former president of the Royal Canadian Mint is getting anything.

Mr. McCallum told the Commons he put great stock in the advice from lawyers in the Privy Council Office that the government might have to make a severance payment to Mr. Dingwall to avoid an expensive and lengthy lawsuit.

The Opposition Conservatives challenged Mr. McCallum to table the legal advice in the House, saying the fact the government won't disclose how much is being offered makes it sound like the Liberals are paying "hush money."

Mr. McCallum did not respond directly when asked to produce the legal opinion, but instead reiterated previous claims that a combination of labour law, policy and precedent are behind the government's decision to pay severance to Mr. Dingwall, a former Liberal minister.

Only when questioned later by reporters did Mr. McCallum disclose that he could not table the legal opinion. "I received the advice verbally, so there is nothing to table."

Either the PCO lawyers have forgotten the first rule of practicing law--paper everything--or McCallum is lying through his teeth.

And lawyers who want to remain lawyers don't forget the first rule, no matter where they practice. Even if you're not billing every phone call on six-minute increments in government, you paper what you've done on the file so the client or the Law Society can't come back and say you were negligent.

They wouldn't have dared give this sort of advice to the minister without having had the research done, not in government, where research is their stock in trade.

So let's ask the minister again: why didn't the lawyers put their opinion in writing?

Source: Globe and Mail

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