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So You Want To Be A Crown (criminal)


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#26 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 02 February 2015 - 03:58 PM

Sorry, no offense meant... I had a looming sense that joke might fall a bit flat after I hit "post"! 

 

I suppose there's always Goose Bay.  :)

 

Nah man, it's all good.  YOu certainly make Ontario sound like a crappy place to work though.  And a 5% cut will be nothing compared to what lots of other people are starting to go through - layoffs.  Hell a family member just took a demotion and a 20% pay cut.  Things are bad and getting worse out here.

 

But I've been in government long enough to know that this, too, shall pass.



#27 Chrysander

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Posted 02 February 2015 - 05:20 PM

Step aside, boys and girls.  MalPro works in the land of black gold.  I'm gonna give you insight into the poverty-stricken world of the Ontario Crown system. 

 

How do you get in?

Article there.  Honestly, that's the best way to get in - virtually all the Crowns I know got in this way. 

Second way - per diem (what Hegdis calls ad hoc).  You get on a per diem contract, you work when they need you, up to 30 days per quarter.  The pay is shitty but you might get a short contract if you impress people. 

Third - make friends with judges, Crown Attorneys, or Deputy Crowns, or have a relative that works there and can secure you a contract. 

Fourth - work for a Federal Crown Agency in a smaller community.  They're firms, so they don't generally have the same financial constraints. 

 

How much litigation?

The Ontario Crown Attorneys Association limits us to 4 days out of 5 (with the occasional weekend bail court).  Realistically, you probably do court 4-5 days per week when you start out.  You'll be kept out of court more if you're assigned to a Superior Court case or something big like that. 

 

Do I feel good about it...?

Even the rapists and people who kill other people I don't exactly feel "good" about it when they go to jail.  Do I often think I'm doing the work of the righteous?  Yes, but that doesn't mean that I feel good about it.  When you see a convicted person's wife weeping in the courtroom, or you see a letter written to the judge by their young child asking that their daddy not go away, it doesn't exactly feel awesome. 

The vast majority of our cases are minor offences committed by accuseds with mental health concerns or addictions.  But you can't just allow a crack user to run into Zehrs and stuff his pants full of havarti bricks and run away unpunished (a real guilty plea of mine); you can't let a decent person with no record go free when he's blown 160 and driven his car into a fence.  So no, you're not going to mostly prosecute the really bad guys.  You - as MalPro said - are going to prosecute people who make mistakes, and you're probably going to feel a lot of sympathy and compassion for them. 

 

Hours

A lot more than I'm supposed to.  But I like to read caselaw and I like doing written submissions, so I'm a bit of a weirdo that way. 

 

Benefits

What are those?  I'm a contract Crown, so none. 

 

Prestige

I don't know.  It's a tough, grinding job - I've described it as the McDonalds of lawyering, because it's generally about quick turnaround with little paperwork and prep (mostly).  There's a real culture of being tough, and a huge problem with alcoholism and depression (at least, according to some stats I saw from the Ministry's health insurer).  It can also be an awfully sexist workplace (take a look at how many female Crowns or Directors are in Ontario, then compare those stats to the non-criminal lawyers in government).  But if you love the work, it's worth it, IMHO. 

 

Advancement

You advance by becoming a manager or a judge.  That's about it. 

 

I know many Crowns in Toronto who worked in private practice, even in commercial litigation at Bay Street firms, before moving to the Crown.


Edited by Chrysander, 02 February 2015 - 05:21 PM.

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#28 crownattorney

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Posted 02 February 2015 - 06:49 PM

Recently?  I'm really surprised.  I know quite a few Bay Streeters who got hired in downtown and Etobicoke... it was pretty common until a few years into the 2000's, but I was told that they generally don't do it anymore unless you have an in, or if you're a well-known litigator.  I was told there were too many people already in the system and too many complaints and grievances by the contract workers.  I know there was a big influx of them when they dropped the retirement "factor 90" and needed to fill up all those vacancies. 

 

Though you've made me think... the legal services branches and 720 offices are ALWAYS looking for Bay Streeters to become Crown Counsel.  So that's also a way in that I didn't think about earlier. 


Edited by crownattorney, 02 February 2015 - 06:52 PM.

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#29 KidCabernet

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Posted 28 March 2015 - 06:07 AM

Resuscitating this thread... 

 

Although there is not much formal advancement as a Crown, do you eventually get to develop a kind of a niche if you want to and demonstrate competency in that area? Take organized or white-collar crime for example, two areas that really interest me.

 

The PPSC website says that "Cases prosecuted by the PPSC include those involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime..."

 

Do provincial prosecutors see a lot of these kinds of cases as well?



#30 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 09:52 AM

Resuscitating this thread... 

 

Although there is not much formal advancement as a Crown, do you eventually get to develop a kind of a niche if you want to and demonstrate competency in that area? Take organized or white-collar crime for example, two areas that really interest me.

 

The PPSC website says that "Cases prosecuted by the PPSC include those involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime..."

 

Do provincial prosecutors see a lot of these kinds of cases as well?

 

Just saw this post:

 

You've asked two separate questions here.  First, yes Crowns absolutely develop niche specializations as you go along.  I know in my own office I have one colleague go to with warrant questions, another with homicide questions, a third with motor vehicle questions, and so on.

 

Second, PPSC only has limited jurisdiction to prosecute under federal statues other than the Criminal Code.  Their big areas are obviously drugs and tax, but they also do fisheries, national parks, immigration, and other federal statutes.  But obviously criminals don't limit their actions to just drug offences - you routinely see CDSA and criminal charges mixed together.

 

To make a long story short, PPSC and the various provincial prosecuting agencies have lengthy written agreements spelling out who will get a mixed file in which circumstances.  The basic rule is whatever the most serious charge is determines who gets the file.

 

So, while organized crime and proceeds of crime are not in and of themselves under federal jurisdiction, if they are tied to other CDSA charges they can be prosecuted by PPSC.


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#31 MirandaHobbes

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Posted 31 March 2015 - 03:17 PM

I'm hoping to secure a 2016 articling position with the Crown's office. Those who I've known who have articled there started out as summer students in their office. I tried and failed to secure a summer position. Will I be at a disadvantage having not summered with the Crown? Is there anything I can do to make myself a more attractive candidate for articling applications?



#32 pzabbythesecond

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 02:09 PM

Would clerking during your studies and/or for a year after your studies help in securing a position at a crown's office? Is it even somewhat realistic to get a job at the crown's office in a larger city rather than starting out in a smaller/more rural location then moving your way into the bigger city?



#33 Chrysander

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 06:11 PM

It is extremely challenging finding a Crown job in this day and age anywhere much less in a big city. Your best bet by far is to article with MAG or clerk for an Ontario court so that you can be on the redeployment list as most postings are only for government employees.


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#34 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 09:56 PM

Would clerking during your studies and/or for a year after your studies help in securing a position at a crown's office? Is it even somewhat realistic to get a job at the crown's office in a larger city rather than starting out in a smaller/more rural location then moving your way into the bigger city?


IMHO, clerking doesn't really help much. Not that it is bad experience, but it's neutral. But note - I never clerked anywhere.

Is it realistic to get a job in a larger city? Sure it is. Plenty of my colleagues did so. Personally I started out in the Crown's office of a smaller centre for several years before joining the big city - it is an excellent back door to the Crown's office, but hardly the only way to enter.
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#35 TracerBullet

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 03:52 PM

This might be tough to answer, particularly if you have not had many discussions with those in PPSC, but I would enjoy a compare and contrast to the best of your ability between a Provincial Crown and Federal Crown, pros and cons of each, etc.  Beyond the type of files being prosecuted, are there any notable differences?  This is pretty much open to anything, be it funding, work environment, benefits, support staff, etc.



#36 Hegdis

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 03:56 PM

MP will have his own take, but the federal Crown I know complain of enjoying far less discretion in how they conduct their trials than the provincial Crown I know who are of the same Call.



#37 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 07:47 PM

This might be tough to answer, particularly if you have not had many discussions with those in PPSC, but I would enjoy a compare and contrast to the best of your ability between a Provincial Crown and Federal Crown, pros and cons of each, etc.  Beyond the type of files being prosecuted, are there any notable differences?  This is pretty much open to anything, be it funding, work environment, benefits, support staff, etc.


I have worked for both the province, and for PPSC (though I'm old enough that when I was with the Feds I started out being with DOJ - the creation of PPSC came later).

The differences are much more determined on the individual office you work for, and the manager you have. One office may be fantastic, whereas another may be not good. It's doubly complicated because there are 10 different provincial Crowns, all of which have very different experiences. My experience as an Alberta Crown is very different from an Ontario Crown.

The huge difference is the types of cases you see - with PPSC you are going to be doing drug files. Pretty much nothing but drug files. It's good work - lots of Charter and search issues, you're often dealing with organized crime, but it's somewhat narrow. In the province you're going to get a much wider variety.

Oh, there is one big difference (at least in Alberta) - parental leave. PPSC has it. Alberta at least does not. When my first kid was born I took 3 months off for parental leave. My manager didn't even blink, because he was glad I wasn't taking a year off like the father before me.

When my second kid was born I was with the province. I took two weeks off. My managers would not be flexible in those days. So when the kid was late, he was born on a Friday and I was back to work on Monday.

Other than that - the pay is roughly the same (and it fluctuates over time - at some times the province may pay more, then a few years later the feds pay more). Pension is roughly equivalent (indeed you can transfer your pension back and forth in most jurisdictions). Flexibility and discretion really depends more on your local managers than anything from head office.
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#38 Bure10

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 06:19 AM

This might be tough to answer, particularly if you have not had many discussions with those in PPSC, but I would enjoy a compare and contrast to the best of your ability between a Provincial Crown and Federal Crown, pros and cons of each, etc.  Beyond the type of files being prosecuted, are there any notable differences?  This is pretty much open to anything, be it funding, work environment, benefits, support staff, etc.

 

PPSC you work for a private firm so you still have all the responsibilities and expectations that come with private practice.  For instance you presumably still have billable hours and billing targets; depending on the firm you could also have private clients and work in other areas of law.  You get full benefits and a pension working for the Provincial Crown which you might not get in private practice.  As far as salary goes I think that the floor is higher for Provincial Crown but the ceiling is higher if you are a Federal Crown given the fact that you can still be a partner, you possibly have private clients and so forth so you have a chance to make more money in the long run.

The work environment and support staff is largely a product of your office so its hard to tell there.

 

The work is different - as one posted wrote it is all drug files so you will see the same stuff every day - traffic stops leading to searches, drugs found incident to arrest, CIs and search warrants.

 

For instance someone gets caught drinking and driving and searched incident to arrest he has 2 grams of cocaine, well the drug charge would simply be a tag along charge and usually Defense and Provincial Crown will work a resolution and yours just gets tagged along at the end (Adding a couple of hundred dollars to the fine).  Another example is that someone is caught with drugs while on probation, well then the breach usually is delegated to the Federal Crown and they work it.



#39 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 09:42 AM

PPSC you work for a private firm so you still have all the responsibilities and expectations that come with private practice.  For instance you presumably still have billable hours and billing targets; depending on the firm you could also have private clients and work in other areas of law.  You get full benefits and a pension working for the Provincial Crown which you might not get in private practice.  As far as salary goes I think that the floor is higher for Provincial Crown but the ceiling is higher if you are a Federal Crown given the fact that you can still be a partner, you possibly have private clients and so forth so you have a chance to make more money in the long run.

The work environment and support staff is largely a product of your office so its hard to tell there.

 

The work is different - as one posted wrote it is all drug files so you will see the same stuff every day - traffic stops leading to searches, drugs found incident to arrest, CIs and search warrants.

 

For instance someone gets caught drinking and driving and searched incident to arrest he has 2 grams of cocaine, well the drug charge would simply be a tag along charge and usually Defense and Provincial Crown will work a resolution and yours just gets tagged along at the end (Adding a couple of hundred dollars to the fine).  Another example is that someone is caught with drugs while on probation, well then the breach usually is delegated to the Federal Crown and they work it.

 

Umm, you're confusing being a federal standing agent, with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

 

Federal prosecutions are weirdly bifurcated.  In the major cities those prosecutions are handled by PPSC - Crown Prosecutors employed by an independent agency that reports to Parliament.  These people are federal civil servants, with all the joys and tears that come along with that status.

 

In smaller cities however prosecutions are handled by standing agents.  These are private lawfirms that have a standing retainer to act on behalf of the federal government.  These lawyers are private lawyers, with all the perks and headaches that come with that.  Now depending on the size of the community they may just see a small handful of files, or it may be a major source of work.

 

But pretty much by definition, if you are in PPSC you are not in a private firm.


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#40 Bure10

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 10:12 AM

Umm, you're confusing being a federal standing agent, with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

 

Federal prosecutions are weirdly bifurcated.  In the major cities those prosecutions are handled by PPSC - Crown Prosecutors employed by an independent agency that reports to Parliament.  These people are federal civil servants, with all the joys and tears that come along with that status.

 

In smaller cities however prosecutions are handled by standing agents.  These are private lawfirms that have a standing retainer to act on behalf of the federal government.  These lawyers are private lawyers, with all the perks and headaches that come with that.  Now depending on the size of the community they may just see a small handful of files, or it may be a major source of work.

 

But pretty much by definition, if you are in PPSC you are not in a private firm.

 

Whoops.  Yes this is perspective from a Federal Agent not actual PPSC Lawyer



#41 celli660

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 08:20 AM

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!



#42 Hegdis

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 10:16 AM

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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#43 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 12:08 PM

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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#44 Chrysander

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 05:28 PM

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.



#45 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 07:48 PM

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.

#46 Chrysander

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Posted 29 April 2016 - 09:38 PM

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.



#47 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 08:57 PM

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...

#48 Jaggers

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 09:15 PM

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



#49 Chrysander

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 05:56 PM

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.



#50 Malicious Prosecutor

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 09:11 PM

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).