A solitary confinement cell is shown in a handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. leading civil liberties group says a judge has denied a request to delay a lawsuit that challenges the use of indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Office of the Correctional Investigator MANDATORY CREDIT

Ottawa ordered to pay $1.12M in legal fees for prison segregation class action

Administrative segregation is the isolation of inmates for safety reasons where it’s believed there is no reasonable alternative

The federal government has been ordered to pay $1.12 million in legal fees for a segregation class action in a judgment critical of Ottawa’s arguments for paying less.

In awarding the costs to representative plaintiff Jullian Reddock, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell rejected the government’s contention that the requested fees were unreasonable or excessive.

“If anything, it is the pot calling the kettle black for the federal government to submit that class counsel over-lawyered the case,” Perell said.

The fee award comes in a class action involving the placement of inmates in administrative solitary confinement. Lawyers from McCarthy Tetrault and Koskie Minsky were involved.

Reddock launched the action in March 2017. He said he had sometimes spent days without leaving his cell and that he binged on an anti-anxiety drug.

In August, Perell awarded the thousands of class members $20 million in damages, with the right of individual complainants to push for higher amounts depending on their circumstances.

“The Correctional Service operated administrative segregation in a way that unnecessarily caused harm to the inmates,” Perell said.

ALSO READ: ‘Violated and humiliated’: Inmate claims privacy breach in jail

Reddock requested $1.24 million to cover the legal costs of his successful fight. The government, however, claimed the fees were “disproportionate and excessive.”

In its submissions, Ottawa argued a substantial cut was warranted because the Reddock lawyers from McCarthy Tetrault were also involved in a separate segregation class action against the government. That lawsuit, with Christopher Brazeau as one of the representative plaintiffs, involved mentally ill inmates placed in administrative segregation.

The lawyers’ decision to separate the lawsuits was “duplicative” and the litigation approach “unreasonable,” the government maintained.

Perell, however, rejected the arguments, noting among other things that the government did not say what costs would have been reasonable or how much it spent on its own lawyers.

“When an unsuccessful party does not file a bill of costs but alleges over-lawyering, courts are very skeptical about the allegations,” Perell said.

It would appear, the judge said, that Ottawa spent at least as much, if not more, on lawyers than did the plaintiff.

The two class actions, Perell said, were substantively different and Ottawa’s claim to the contrary was unjustified. Nor could it be said that pressing them as a single suit would have been more efficient, he said.

“The federal government was quite happy to take ironical and inconsistent approaches in advancing its defences and playing one case off against the other,” Perell said. “It takes irony and hypocrisy for the federal government to say there were efficiencies to be achieved.”

Perell did reduce Reddock’s requested fees by $113,000 for a sliver of counsel overlap he found in the two cases.

Administrative segregation involves isolating inmates for safety reasons where authorities believe there is no reasonable alternative. Prisoners spend almost their entire day in small cells without meaningful human contact or programming.

Critics argue the practice can cause severe psychological harm and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, facts that Perell — and other courts — have accepted. Ottawa has said legislation that takes effect Nov. 30 will alleviate the problem.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon keeper eager to start college soccer career

Kevin Morgan, 18, graduate of Thompson Okanagan Football Academy, signs on with UBCO Heat

Square footage may be revisited for Vernon cultural centre

Greater Vernon Cultural Centre could see size shrink up to 20 per cent as cost-savings measure

Vernon paddleboarders raise more than $40K for People Place

Third annual Stand Up For charity paddleboard event exceeds $25,000 goal

Historic Vernon land parcel for sale

The O’Keefe Range Land off Bella Vista Road is available; owners asking for almost $29 million

Brain safety top of mind for Lake Country kids

Bylaw officers noticing a number of youth out riding bikes, scooters, skateboards without helmets

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

COVID-19 outbreak at South Okanagan farm declared over

There continues to be other community exposure events in the Interior Health region

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

VIDEO: Revelstoke rallies to save snared eagle

Local climber scales tree to save the raptor

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Most Read