Empowering clients improves access to justice: Mandin
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Toronto civil litigator Stephany Mandin believes if the public were better informed of their legal rights and obligations, it could have a significant impact on backlogs in Canadian courts.
“My philosophy is you don’t have to become a lawyer to have a working knowledge and understanding of the law so you can govern yourself accordingly,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Access to legal advice is expensive for the general public and arming people with better information before they see their lawyers would make for a more efficient system for everyone, Mandin says. She wants to use her education and expertise to empower others and says there’s a need for better public education on legal obligations in everyday situations, even seemingly innocuous situations such as teenagers having a party in their parents' basement where alcohol is served.
“The parents have a legal responsibility, known as social host liability, so if a minor has a party and someone gets drunk or there’s another kind of problem, they could be legally liable. Nobody anticipates these things, but ignorance of the law is no excuse,” she says.
Improving access to information could also go a long way to relieving some of the strain on the courts, Mandin stresses.
“We have a budgetary crisis and
judicial resources are scarce, meanwhile there’s a backlog in the courts. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to educate people with a working knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities. Maybe a better working legal knowledge on the ground would weed out some of the unmeritorious cases or better manage the expectations of litigants,” she says, noting a construction lien case she started working on in 2012 only made it to trial at the end of 2015.
From an early age, Mandan says she showed a natural aptitude for debating and examining issues from all angles, and decided the law married both her intellectual skills with her desire to make a difference in the world.
“As a lawyer, I really believe I’m a civil servant. When people come to me with something that is in turmoil in their lives, I want to support them and make those trying times as easy as possible,” she says.
Mandin, founder of Mandin Law, joined the firm as an associate in 2009, and has worked on a variety of civil litigation and administrative law matters including employment law, expropriation, commercial litigation, human rights issues, estate litigation, municipal law and construction lien matters, among others.
She’s represented businesses and residents in expropriation cases in government projects — such as upgrading streetcar tracks or expanding road lanes — that can have a destabilizing impact on a neighbourhood.
“Along Bayview Avenue in Toronto there’s so much development going on — replacing single-family homes with townhouses and condos — and there’s a real pushback from residents because it’s changing the character of the street,” she says.
When municipal infrastructure projects such as water main replacements, lane expansions or streetcar track upgrades result in negative fallout for local businesses, they may be entitled to compensation, Mandin explains.
“In downtown Toronto they're closing busy streets such a Richmond or Queen to do construction, and all of those businesses might have noise and other pollution, along with a drop in sales — disturbances that may be compensable pursuant to expropriation law,” she says.
In addition to undergrad and law degrees, Mandin also has a masters degree in socio-legal studies, and has successfully advocated for clients before a wide range of courts and tribunals, including the Ontario Securities Commission, Commercial Court, Estates Court, Ontario Municipal Board, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court and the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Mandin has written numerous articles for peer-reviewed academic journals and other publications on a wide range of topics including social housing reform, Charter challenges and alternative dispute resolution.
She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), the Ontario Bar Association (OBA), the Toronto Lawyers Association, the Advocates’ Society, and chair of the board of directors of Madison Community Services, a non-profit organization that provides housing and other essential services to people with mental health and/or addiction challenges.