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Malicious Prosecutor

So You Want To Be A Crown (criminal)

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I wanted to get some input as to what makes a person a good lawyer and what happens when you're not a good lawyer (I started a whole thread on it and apparently it turned into some sort of pile on).

 

What makes one an effective crown?

How or by what metrics is your performance evaluated and reviewed?

How does your personal view of work differ or coincide with the way you are evaluated?

What happens if a person is not an effective crown?

 

Thanks!

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From a defence perspective -

 

1. effective Crown take their role as a quasi-judicial professional seriously. They take the view that an acquittal does not mean they "lost" and a conviction does not mean they "won". This mindset colours everything they do with the file, from disclosure obligations to plea negotiations to objections to cross examination. There is an attitude of fairness and letting the evidence speak for itself that marks a truly professional, reputable Crown. Judges know and respect them, defence knows and respects them, and due to this reputation they are able to effectively manage trials and pleas with the confidence of both opposing counsel and the bench.

 

2. Dunno.

3. Dunno.

 

4. They get a terrible reputation and in extreme cases they get named in a Court of Appeal judgment because they just caused yet another mistrial for the same stupid reason.

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I wanted to get some input as to what makes a person a good lawyer and what happens when you're not a good lawyer (I started a whole thread on it and apparently it turned into some sort of pile on).

 

What makes one an effective crown?

How or by what metrics is your performance evaluated and reviewed?

How does your personal view of work differ or coincide with the way you are evaluated?

What happens if a person is not an effective crown?

 

Thanks!

 

What makes an effective Crown?  There's probably dozens of different ways you can answer that.  

 

An effective Crown is efficient - you can quickly review a file, or respond to correspondence.  The file load in most offices doesn't leave enough time for dilly-dallying

 

An effective Crown closes files.  Again this is a file load issue - it's better to take a slightly stink deal and close a file rather than take up a lot of court time.

 

An effective Crown is a just Crown, much as Hegdis puts it.

 

An effective Crown knows the criminal law.

 

 

How is our work evaluated?  I think every Crown feels frustrated by this.  There's almost no supervision.  No manager is looking over my shoulder in court, or reviewing my files in their spare time.  So we get annual performance reviews.  Mine have always been quite positive, but I never felt all that more clear what they're looking for after each one.  Sometimes this can result in a very complaint-driven evaluation: if nobody's complaining about you you must be doing a good job, but better managers know not to do that.

 

What happens to bad Crowns?  Some just stick around for year after year.  But also, in Alberta at least, some get fired.  Of the Crowns I know that were fired almost all of them were not surprising.

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What makes an effective Crown?  There's probably dozens of different ways you can answer that.  

 

An effective Crown is efficient - you can quickly review a file, or respond to correspondence.  The file load in most offices doesn't leave enough time for dilly-dallying

 

An effective Crown closes files.  Again this is a file load issue - it's better to take a slightly stink deal and close a file rather than take up a lot of court time.

 

An effective Crown is a just Crown, much as Hegdis puts it.

 

An effective Crown knows the criminal law.

 

 

How is our work evaluated?  I think every Crown feels frustrated by this.  There's almost no supervision.  No manager is looking over my shoulder in court, or reviewing my files in their spare time.  So we get annual performance reviews.  Mine have always been quite positive, but I never felt all that more clear what they're looking for after each one.  Sometimes this can result in a very complaint-driven evaluation: if nobody's complaining about you you must be doing a good job, but better managers know not to do that.

 

What happens to bad Crowns?  Some just stick around for year after year.  But also, in Alberta at least, some get fired.  Of the Crowns I know that were fired almost all of them were not surprising.

 

Are Crowns in Alberta unionized? I don't believe it is a simple matter to fire a government employee.

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Are Crowns in Alberta unionized? I don't believe it is a simple matter to fire a government employee.

Alberta Crowns are NOT unionized. As long as they pay in lieu of notice, it is a simple matter to fire an Alberta Crown.

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Alberta Crowns are NOT unionized. As long as they pay in lieu of notice, it is a simple matter to fire an Alberta Crown.

 

Ah, Ontario crowns are unionized. Things are much better in Ontario in that regard.

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Ah, Ontario crowns are unionized. Things are much better in Ontario in that regard.

I respectfully disagree that being harder to fire makes one "better", specially after some of what I've heard about the working conditions with MAG...

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Well, it definitely makes it better if you're one of the ones who should probably be fired.

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I respectfully disagree that being harder to fire makes one "better", specially after some of what I've heard about the working conditions with MAG...

 

I don't know why someone would, all things being equal, accept the lower pay of a government position compared with private practice if job security doesn't also come with it. Given the current economic condition in Alberta, I'd be worried about layoffs.

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I don't know why someone would, all things being equal, accept the lower pay of a government position compared with private practice if job security doesn't also come with it. Given the current economic condition in Alberta, I'd be worried about layoffs.

A few different comments:

 

-I don't think "lower pay of government positions" is necessarily true. I make a very nice wage. I won't disclose it, but you can look up what some of my colleagues make on the Alberta government sunshine list.

 

-job security is still much better (IMHO) than in private practice. I remember the national firm I was with - it could be fairly brutal. The handful of people I've seen be let go is nothing in comparison. And mostly (but not always!) it was very predictable.

 

-Alberta's current economy. That worries me a lot. But I don't think a union would save me from that. Correct me if I'm wrong any labour lawyers out there, but the government could still start laying unionized employees off - collective agreements just state how it should be done (i.e. in order of seniority).

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Yeah, labour laws and collective agreements protect incompetent employees when there's lots of work/budget, but afford little protection to competent employees when there's little work/budget.

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Questions for Malicious Prosecutor: 

-please correct me if I made any errors about the facts I stated. 

 

So from what I know(very limited) in Alberta they have contract crown prosecutors, regular crown prosecutors, and special prosecution (organized crime). So, once you get your foot in the door and are working as a crown prosecutor how long does it take to become a "special prosecutor"? 

 

Also, does the case distribution really depend on seniority, do certain individuals specialize in certain cases or is that only really in the special prosecution category?

 

Lastly, after how many years roughly does it take to break he 100k mark? 

 

Thanks. 

Edited by westerner18

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Questions for Malicious Prosecutor: 

-please correct me if I made any errors about the facts I stated. 

 

So from what I know(very limited) in Alberta they have contract crown prosecutors, regular crown prosecutors, and special prosecution (organized crime). So, once you get your foot in the door and are working as a crown prosecutor how long does it take to become a "special prosecutor"? 

 

Also, does the case distribution really depend on seniority, do certain individuals specialize in certain cases or is that only really in the special prosecution category?

 

Lastly, after how many years roughly does it take to break he 100k mark? 

 

Thanks. 

 

Lets see what I can do...

 

-contract Crown prosecutors.  Alberta does this a lot less than other places, but yeah in some offices you might only be hired for a one year term.  Once you're hired though there's no distinction made between contract and full-time Crowns.  Crowns on contract are still "regular Crown Prosecutors"

 

-Yes, in both Edmonton and Calgary there are offices called Specialized Crown Prosecutors.  They handle cases that require, well, specialized knowledge.  Off the top of my head there are units doing Organized Crime, Internet and Technology crime, regulatory / OHSA offences.  There are probably one or two more.  They're not necessarily doing more serious or more important cases - homicides are still handled by General Prosecutions.  They're still on the same pay scale as General Prosecutors.  The Crowns in specialized prosecutions are mostly, but not all, fairly senior.  You can apply for those positions at any time - you just need to demonstrate that you have some specialized experience.

 

-by the way, the other big branch would be our Appeals branch.  They handle all matters at the Court of Appeal level.

 

-how are cases distributed?  That's always been a contentious issue in every Crown office, ever.  It definitely does depend in part on seniority.  You don't handle the most serious files to junior Crowns.  Typically one way or another people do develop certain expertise.  If I have a drunk driving question, or a firearms question, or a sex assault question, I go to three separate people for each.  In some offices it is more formal, with specialized units for different categories of offences.  In other offices it's more informal - any day you can be expected to run any kind of file, but when it comes to the more complex they tend to go to specific people.

 

-I don't have the pay grid in front of me, but IIRC it's around the 5-8 year mark.

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What kind of learning curve exists for junior crowns with little prior criminal experience? I have been working primarily in civil litigation (not personal injury).

 

Are there any books or other resources you might recommend for the basics? I can appreciate nothing is better than being in court, but assume the ability to do that is limited.

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What kind of learning curve exists for junior crowns with little prior criminal experience? I have been working primarily in civil litigation (not personal injury).

 

Are there any books or other resources you might recommend for the basics? I can appreciate nothing is better than being in court, but assume the ability to do that is limited.

 

Not a Crown (yet) but did a lot of criminal defence clinic work over the last 2 years. I suggest you look at Lee Stuesser's "An Advocacy Primer" for a good overview of the trial process for new lawyers or those who only do occasional trials. It covers everything from developing a theory of your case to preparing for an appeal, and most of the stuff in between. This book isn't about substantive law; it's about how to conduct court proceedings. The thing I found most disconcerting (and still do) is when I don't know the proper procedure to handle a situation that comes up; this book gives you a heads-up on most things, as well as practical tips on how to prepare. I would suggest picking up either the 3rd or 4th edition, though; apparently there was a big (positive) change between 2 and 3.

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What kind of learning curve exists for junior crowns with little prior criminal experience? I have been working primarily in civil litigation (not personal injury).

 

Are there any books or other resources you might recommend for the basics? I can appreciate nothing is better than being in court, but assume the ability to do that is limited.

 

http://novascotia.ca/pps/crown_manual.asp

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What's the best way to prep for a Crown interview for articling?

 

I've had a couple interviews already, however it feels like I'm approaching it the wrong way. The strategy in the past I've employed is to review my 1L criminal law notes, review my evidence notes, read through the Crown manual, memorize important Charter sections, prep a recent SCC criminal law case, and look at previous questions asked by the Crown by my school's CDO.

 

My issue that everytime I go into an interview, I get asked questions that I either: a) didn't study (such as specific questions about the HTA), b) hypothetical questions that catch me off guard, or c) situational questions about being a crown (i.e. questions about a self rep accused wanting disclosure).

 

It's overwhelming the amount of information and breadth of questions in a Crown interview, mixed with the nervousness of (basically) an oral exam.

 

Any pointers or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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I'd appreciate any tips for Crown articling interviews too. I'm rather expecting mine to be slapstick comedy, but we'll see what happens.

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Lets see what I can do...

Read through the discussion. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions. This may seem somewhat odd of a question, but have you ever felt that your safety/security was at risk? Can't help but think there'd be some anxiety over putting so many people away.   

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