N.S. man fighting for autonomy can't direct lawyer on own: judge
Michael Tutton, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Monday, April 25, 2016 7:33AM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 26, 2016 7:31AM ADT
HALIFAX -- A Nova Scotia man fighting to overcome limits on his rights as a person with intellectual disabilities won't be allowed to advise his lawyer on his own, a judge ruled on Monday.
Judge James Chipman of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said the rules of civil procedure in Nova Scotia require 25-year-old Landon Webb to have a litigation guardian.
"I will be open to a reasonable litigation guardian that hopefully the parties can agree to, but if they don't, I'll make the call," the judge said, before setting the date of June 28 to begin the hearing on Webb's rights.
Webb's lawyer, Susanne Litke, said in an interview outside court the decision means Webb will no longer be able to directly instruct her -- as he did when he told her to oppose the appointment of the guardian at Monday's hearing.
"If I'm representing a litigation guardian for Landon, I'm taking instruction from them, not from Landon directly. That's the difference," she said.
Webb has been trying to overturn his "mentally incompetent" status, and says the province's Incompetent Persons Act infringes on his rights and freedoms.
His case made headlines last October after he left the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in the Annapolis Valley for several weeks.
His parents, Brenda and Darrell Webb, went public with concerns about their son, who they said functions at the level of a 10 or 12-year-old. They said he had been diagnosed with autism, has developmental disabilities and can have severe anxiety and mood swings.
Webb was found safe in Edmonton last November and returned to Nova Scotia, where he has since appeared in local media saying he is not incompetent and wants to be free to live a normal life.
The provincial government has said it won't oppose the constitutional challenge of the Incompetent Persons Act that Webb has launched.
However, Litke says she is still seeking a legal remedy because changes to the law won't be made for another year.
Jeanne Desveaux, the lawyer for Webb's mother and father, argued in court Monday that there's evidence from the King's centre and from a portion of a medical assessment being done on Webb that suggests a litigation guardian would be wise.
Outside court, she said her client was pleased by Chipman's procedural decision.
"That legislation remains on the books and while it's on the books we're going to be respectful of that. And one of those elements is the appointment of a litigation guardian," she said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge urged both lawyers to work out a choice of a litigation guardian.
"I don't mind ironing out some things here and now but you two, you should be talking. Talk," he said.
"Try to reduce the animosity and it may be best for all concerned."
Outside court, Litke said she has worked well with Desveaux in the past on the latest medical assessment of Webb and that she expected they could work out a suitable choice for a litigation guardian.
"We do work together. We have to. We'd never get to the point where we're at today without having congenial discussions on how we're going to proceed," she said.
The judge said he was hopeful Litke would present amended legal documents to the court by the end of May, including the name of the litigation guardian.
Webb didn't appear in Nova Scotia Supreme Court for the hearing.