She won’t be called to the bar for more than a year but Jodi Koffman has already left her mark on one of Manitoba’s most controversial legal issues.
The University of Manitoba law school student — she’s due to graduate this spring — recently convinced judicial justice of the peace Norman Sundstrom to toss out nine photo-radar tickets that were taken in construction zones where no workers were present.
The issue has been called a cash grab by opponents while the City of Winnipeg claims it only has the public’s safety at heart.
Koffman became involved after taking on a client through the U of M’s University Law Centre. Legal aid lawyers and law professors oversee and advise the budding lawyers in cases where there is no risk of jail to the client.
She says she was as surprised as everybody else when Sundstrom used her written submissions as the basis of his ruling, which was subsequently appealed by the Crown. She says she finds the whole process “exciting” and a bit “overwhelming.”
“It’s good to know that the judiciary will take matters seriously regardless if you’re the most senior defence lawyer or not,” she says. “I knew if the judge agreed with us and my client was acquitted that there would be consequences. I didn’t think there would be such public attention early on.”
Michael Walker, supervising attorney with the Legal Aid Criminal Law Office, says what law students don’t have in experience they make up for in hard work, enthusiasm, and preparation.
“The law clinic allows the students the chance to learn and develop skills that one needs to be a lawyer, especially if they want to practise criminal law. All the things the students have to do to represent the clients are the same things a lawyer has to do on a more serious charge,” he says.
Koffman is quick to note her place in legal history isn’t cemented yet.
“I don’t want the public getting so riled up. There’s still an appeal for the Crown to do and there’s still a lot of work to do before this goes anywhere,” she says.