The ‘Truth’ statue graces the entrance of the judicial precinct in Ottawa, as the Peace Tower is seen in the background. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) A federal court judge has decided he has no jurisdiction to alter the legal fees set out in the Sixties Scoop settlement agreement approved earlier this year by another federal court judge.
Federal Court Judge Michel Shore approved the settlement agreement in May.
The $875 million settlement agreement set aside $750 million for all status First Nations and Inuit children placed into foster care or adopted by a non-Indigenous parent between 1951 and 1991.
The agreement puts $50 million toward a Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation and the remaining $75 million was earmarked for lawyers’ fees. Because the settlement stemmed from an Ontario class action lawsuit, lawyers who acted in Federal Court would collect half the fee total — $37.5 million — while the other half would go to the lawyers who had acted in Ontario Superior Court. The settlement agreement also had to be approved both in Federal and Ontario court.
In June, an Ontario Superior Court judge approved the bulk of the settlement but rejected the legal fees as excessive. He proposed reducing the overall amount by half and significantly reducing the amount earmarked for federal class counsel.
The legal fees were de-linked from the rest of the settlement, allowing them to be dealt with separately.
Lawyers in the Federal Court action then went back to Federal Court for one more judicial sign-off on the fees.
In his decision released Monday, Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan ruled that Shore’s order was final and since no formal appeal had been filed, Phelan had no jurisdiction to deal further with federal class counsel fees.
"Justice Shore enjoyed a unique perspective from which to assess the pertinent facts….," wrote Phelan.
"He was intimately involved in the mediation process and in the creation of the settlement. He had an opportunity to appreciate the role of counsel and he was cognizant of federal class counsel’s ongoing role in the implementation of the settlement…."
Critics have questioned Shore’s involvement in both the mediation of and approval of the agreement, and the way he handled the final hearings in Saskatoon in May.
The Ontario Superior Court ruling on the Ontario portion of the fees was expected to come after the Federal Court decision.
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