Can Lawyers Swear Affidavits In Support of Their Clients Interlocutory Applications?


In British Columbia the short answer is yes.  Useful reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this topic at length.
In last week’s case (The Los Angeles Salad Company Inc. v. Canadian Food Inspection Agency) the Plaintiff’s lawyer filed an affidavit in support of two applications of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant objected to this arguing that it was an improper practice and breached the principles set out in the Canadian Bar Association’s Code of Professional Conduct and the BC Professional Conduct Handbook.  Mr. Justice Harris disagreed and provided the following helpful reasons:

[15] No authority was cited to me in that establishes a binding general rule that solicitors cannot not swear affidavits in interlocutory proceedings in which they or their firm are counsel. To the contrary, even the professional guidelines support such a practice within limits. The case law also indicates that counsel is legally competent to swear an affidavit, even in relation to matters in dispute, although that practice is to be discouraged: see, National Financial Services Corporation v. Wolverton Securities Ltd. (1998), 52 B.C.L.R. 302 (S.C.) at para. 7.

[16] The Canadian Bar Association Code of Professional Conduct qualifies its statement of principle about lawyers swearing affidavits by referring to local rules or practice authorizing lawyers to do so. In British Columbia it is the practice for counsel to swear affidavits, on occasion, particularly in respect to uncontroverted matters or matters relevant to the interlocutory issue before court. The practice obviously carries risks, not least that a solicitor may be cross-examined on the affidavit, waive privilege or may succeed inadvertently in putting his or her credibility in issue. There are many good reasons for counsel to take great care in swearing affidavits in cases in which they are counsel.

[17] Nonetheless, there are occasions when the use of counsel affidavits is justified as a matter of practice. Sometimes, at least in respect of interlocutory matters, the evidence of counsel may be the best evidence available. It may often be economical and timely to have counsel swear an affidavit in support of interlocutory application. Introducing a legal rule that upset this practice would defeat the object of the Supreme Court Civil Rules to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every proceeding on its merits including conducting the proceeding in ways proportionate to the amount involved in the proceeding, the importance of the issues in dispute and the complexity of the proceeding.

[18] Equally, the fact that the affidavit contains some evidence on information and belief provided to the affiant by Mr. Sanderson who then commissioned the affidavit and argued the matter in court does not in itself compel the conclusion that the affidavit is inadmissible. I was not taken to any particular examples of information provided by Mr. Sanderson that gave rise to a concern that counsel were merely attempting to circumvent the professional guideline that counsel should not speak to their own affidavits, particularly if the subject matter is contentious.

[19] In my view, it would be a mistake to recognize or create a special rule requiring the rejection of affidavits sworn by counsel if those affidavits contain both admissible and inadmissible evidence. Insofar as admissibility is concerned, solicitors’ affidavits are governed by the same rules as any other affidavit. Inadmissible content may be ignored or formally struck, but the affidavit as a whole need not be rejected.

Affidavits, bc injury law, Mr. Justice Harris, Rule 22, Rule 22-2, The Los Angeles Salad Company Inc. v. Canadian Food Ins

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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