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45 Ottawa L. Rev. 495 (2013-2014)
Whack No More: Infusing Equality into the Ethics of Defence Lawyering in Sexual Assault Cases

handle is hein.journals/ottlr45 and id is 519 raw text is: 495

Whack No More: Infusing Equality into the Ethics
of Defence Lawyering in Sexual Assault Cases
DAVID M TANOVICH*

Fifteen years ago, defence lawyers in Ottawa were
instructed to 'whack the complainant in sexual assault
cases. These were their marching orders:
'[W]hack the complainant hard at the prelimi-
nary inquiry... 'Generally, if you destroy the
complainant in a prosecution ...you destroy
the head. You cut off the head of the Crown's
case and the case is dead ... [A]nd you've got
to attack the complainant with all you've got so
that he or she will say [']I'm not coming back in
front of 12 good citizens to repeat this bullshit
story that I've just told the judge. ['
The 'whacking continues. This defence culture
explains, in part, why defence lawyers have no hesi-
tation in leaving their ethics at the courtroom door
so as to exploit and perpetuate stereotypes about
women and sexual assault in defence of their clients.
With the recent focus on civility by the legal profes-
sion, and concerns raised about the failure of law
reform initiatives to improve reporting and the fair
prosecution of sexual assault cases, it is time to
address the discriminatory lawyering and denial of
access to justice that is taking place in these cases.
The article begins by exploring how sexual assault
is different from other offences in terms of how it
is processed, conceived of, and defended by lawyers.
It is argued that this difference requires a rethinking
of ethical lawyering in this context. The next part
attempts to set out a normative framework that is
largely grounded in legal and ethical norms including
equality values, the lawyer's duty to not discriminate,
as well as an advocate's obligation to act in 'good
faith and not mislead the court. The article turns to
applying this framework by setting out what defence
tactics should be ethically barred, particularly when
you know your client is guilty The critical question of

I1 y a une quinzaine d'ann6es, on incitait les avocats
de la defense exeryant a Ottawa a << assommer   les
plaignants dans des causes d'agression sexuelle. Voici
le type d'instructions qui etaient alors donnees sur les
6tapes a suivre :
[TRADUCTION] << '[T]achez d'assommer le
plaignant' des 1'audience preliminaire ... En
general, pour demolir le plaignant dans une
poursuite, il faut d'abord couper la tete ... c'est-
a-dire que si vous aneantissez la cause de la Cou-
ronne des le depart, alors il n'y a plus de cause
du tout ... [E]t vous vous arrangez pour attaquer
le (ou la) plaignant(e) avec tout ce que vous avez
sous la main, ainsi il ou elle finira par se dire 'Pas
question que je retourne en cour devant 12 bons
citoyens pour r6eter cette histoire pourrie que
j'ai racont~e au juge'  .
Et ce type de pression continue de nos jours. Cette
culture de la defense explique, en partie, pourquoi
les avocats n'hesitent pas a laisser leurs principes
deontologiques a la porte du tribunal pour pouvoir
exploiter et perpetuer les stereotypes au sujet des
femmes et des agressions sexuelles afin de defendre
leurs clients. Toutefois, si 1Yon considere les preoc-
cupations recemment exprimees par la profession
juridique au sujet de la civilite et de 1'echec des pro-
jets de reforme visant a am6liorer les signalements et
1'efficacite des poursuites judiciaires dans les affaires
de viol et d'abus sexuels, le temps semble venu de
remedier a cette pratique discriminatoire commune
aux avocats et au deni d'acces a lajustice en la matiere.
L'article commence par explorer la maniere dont
1'infraction d'agression sexuelle se distingue des autres
dans la maniere dont elle est trait~e, conyue et d6fen-
due par les avocats. On soutient que cette difference
exige que 1Yon repense 1'exercice du droit de fayon

Professor of Law, University of Windsor. An earlier version of this article was presented at the
International Legal Ethics Conference V, MergingWorlds, Emerging Discourses (Banff, 2012). Funding to
present at this conference was made possible by a travel grant from the University ofWindsor. I wish
to thank Melissa Crowley (Windsor Law 2013) for her research assistance. I also wish to thank the
many readers who offered their time and suggestions on earlier drafts. Funding for a research assistant
was made possible by a grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

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