‘Ottawa’ Mike Duffy Considers Bid to Have Legal Costs Reimbursed by Senate Fund
Mike Duffy is considering a bid to have his legal costs reimbursed by a Senate fund that at least six other senators have used to quietly help pay their lawyers.
Donald Bayne, Duffy’s lawyer, said he is looking into whether the senator can access the Senate Legal Assistance and Indemnification policy, used by other senators including Colin Kenny and Patrick Brazeau.
“It’s highly pertinent,” said Bayne.
When it was suggested that Duffy appeared to qualify for the fund, Bayne replied: “It certainly does.”
He said he had only learned of the policy Wednesday, but it appears to provide funds without a specified limit for use in legal defence of a senator.
Bayne would not reveal how much Duffy spent on legal fees during the course of his trial but said it was a “significant monetary burden,” particularly given the senator was suspended at the time and not earning a salary.
To access the fund applicants need to apply in writing to the Senate steering committee, which is made up of three senators: Conservatives Leo Housakos and David Wells, and Liberal Jane Cordy. The committee makes financial and administrative decisions related to the Senate’s internal management.
According to the Senate’s law clerk, Michel Patrice, there’s nothing to preclude Duffy from seeking reimbursement of his legal fees.
The steering committee “would have the authority to make a decision on the matter,” he said, though there is no precedent for the Senate covering legal fees related to criminal proceedings.
Five senators recently made requests for reimbursements of legal fees related to the dispute resolution process undertaken by special arbitrator Ian Binnie, Senate spokesperson Jacqui Delaney confirmed Wednesday.
The five are Colin Kenny, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Sandra Lovelace-Nicholas, Terry Mercer and Joseph Day.
Binnie, a former Supreme Court Justice, released a report March 21 ruling how much some senators would have to repay following an Auditor General’s report last June that flagged questionable expenses.
In 10 of the 14 cases he reviewed, Binnie reduced the amounts senators would have to pay.
Senators are only eligible to get their legal fees reimbursed from the fund in cases where the decision was “favourable to the senator, in whole or in part,” said Delaney. In this case of the Binnie process, they could claim up to $25,000 each, she said.
But that appears to be a special case. Generally, there is no fixed amount designated for legal fee reimbursement, said Delaney.
Requests to access the fund need to make the case that the matter requiring legal services relates to “the carrying out of the senator’s parliamentary functions,” she said.
Funds come from the law clerk’s operational budget.
Suspended senator Patrick Brazeau was provided legal assistance in relation to the review of his housing expenditures in July 2013.
But the Senate made Brazeau pay that money back when the decision at the end of the process was found to be “unfavourable to him,” Delaney said.
Bayne said the senators who accessed legal funds in the dispute resolution process had “accorded themselves a process never accorded to Mr. Duffy.”
“There are many issues at play about the fundamental principles of fairness and decency,” he said.