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A newly released audit into the Department of Justice found that the government's lawyers have cost taxpayers a whopping $222 million, even though they lost nearly a third of all lawsuits.
"Stakeholders believe Justice Canada could engage in forms of dispute resolution more often," reads an Evaluation of Litigation Services. Sixteen percent of federal lawyers interviewed said the department "never or does not often use these methods and that substantial improvements in this area are needed."
Another 27 percent of lawyers said "at least some improvement is needed," according to Blacklock's Reporter.
The audits analysed "tens of thousands" of lawsuits between 2015 and 2019, with the $222 million bill not including the expenses that came with settlements and court awards.
Last year, the government paid out $405 million, meaning the grand total between those five years likely comfortably lies above $627 million.
Roughly 58,045 cases never saw the light of day in trial. "There may be room for improvement in the case of certain dispute resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration and neutral evaluation which can be used to avoid lengthy court trials," the report reads. "About half of files are settled" after federal lawyers had billed thousands of hours in costs, "which means that substantial resources have been devoted to the file."
"Justice Canada is spending more hours on files with higher risk and complexity," the report continues. "Overall the expectation is that demand will continue to increase for litigation services based on a number of factors including an increase in class action litigation consistent with trends seen across our society."
The Canada Revenue Agency, Department of Immigration, and the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations, are the three federal departments that are most likely to get sued.
"Counsel across Justice Canada are required to assess legal risk and complexity on their files," auditors concluded.
"These assessments are an important method for the department to communicate with clients about the work it is undertaking for them in a consistent and coherent way so that clients have a clear understanding of the legal risk and complexity of their litigation files."