Criminal Law

Rodeo cowboy Dunn brings country sensibility to criminal defence

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Calgary criminal lawyer Greg Dunn doesn’t concern himself with what the public thinks about his clients' guilt or innocence.

Whether they’ve done what they’re accused of or not, Dunn, principal of Dunn & Associates Criminal Defence Lawyers, says he and his colleagues are there to defend the accused and play a critical part in the justice system.

“Our role is to both defend the innocent and to act as a check on the state’s immense power,” Dunn tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I believe in personal responsibility, and while some people may be factually guilty, that’s not really the issue. The point is to maintain the integrity of our justice system and protect the civil liberties we all share as members of society.

“If that means a few 'bad guys' go free, then it’s the price we pay for living in a liberal and free democracy,” he adds.

Dunn’s fascination with criminal law began at an early age while flicking through some of the files his father worked on as a member of the RCMP.

“There was a biker war going on at the time in Alberta, and seeing some of the characters in his intelligence files really sparked my interest,” he says.

Following graduation from the University of Alberta’s faculty of law, Dunn took a brief detour into insolvency litigation at Milner Fenerty, a predecessor firm to the international corporate law giant Dentons Canada LLP.

He left after deciding he needed to find a better culture fit and setting his sights firmly on a future in criminal law, though Dunn admits his family weren’t entirely comfortable with his career shift, given his father’s occupation.

“My father had some reservations about moving from corporate to criminal but then some corporate businessmen can be pretty unsavoury too,” he says.

Still, the family connection helped land Dunn a position with the firm of criminal defence lawyer Patrick Fagan, a former RCMP officer himself.

“In my opinion, he’s one of the finest jury trial lawyers in the country,” Dunn says, adding that Fagan and another of his mentors, Alberta Criminal Court Judge John Bascom, heavily influenced his own style of practice.

“Pat is very much a litigator while John cut great deals,” he says. “I try to take the middle road. You can’t practise criminal law from your knees. You need to negotiate from a position of strength, you need to be able to litigate in order to loosen up the other side.

“I try to maintain a balanced skill set so that I’m able to litigate when it’s needed, but I’m not so myopic that I don’t know when it’s a good time to cut a deal,” Dunn adds.

In court, Dunn lets his Alberta roots show.

“I suppose I’m a little folksy and cowboy-like in court,” he says.

Dunn’s family history in Canada can be traced back more than 200 years to his great, great, great grandfather’s homestead, and he embraces everything the west has to offer — from riding bulls professionally in his youth, to his ranch south of Calgary where he breeds quarter horses, and even marrying a Calgary Stampede Queen.

"Even today, I participate in the annual Calgary Police Rodeo with old rodeo buddies, many of whom happen to be police officers," he says.

“I come from a farming and ranching background, which is something I share with a lot of police officers,” Dunn says. “I’ve ended up being friends with some of them, and it’s good to develop some trust, even though we’re on opposite sides of the battle lines, so to speak.”

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