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Koffman causes a ruckus (in a good way)

|Written By Geoff Kirbyson

After causing a potentially $15-million headache for the Manitoba government, Jodi Koffman isn’t expecting to win any popularity contests with Premier Gary Doer.

The just-graduated law student from the University of Manitoba set off a firestorm of controversy in February after her argument to justice of the peace Norman Sundstrom convinced him to throw out nine photo-radar tickets that were snapped in construction zones where no workers were present.

The Crown immediately appealed the ruling but dropped it in May, simultaneously killing 857 ticket cases still pending in the court process.

Attorney General Dave Chomiak initially said motorists who had been given a ticket in the same circumstances, but paid it, would not be eligible for a refund. The resulting outcry forced him to reconsider his actions. A final decision on the matter is expected shortly.

Refunding the approximately 60,000 tickets would cost the province and the City of Winnipeg between $10  and $15 million.

Koffman says she never dreamed taking on this case on behalf of a legal aid client would cause such a ruckus. “I think the reason it’s so big is because most people have a vested interest in it. It has spoken to a lot of people because they’ve personally had a [photo radar] ticket or know somebody who has had one,” she says. “I definitely think I’m off the NDP’s Christmas card list.”

Koffman, now articling in Legal Aid Manitoba’s criminal division, says the whole process didn’t amount to a baptism by fire as she didn’t do anything at the trial that she hadn’t done before, but it did teach her to explore cases fully and how to handle the media.

“You’ve got to be careful what you say to the media. You never want to offend anybody or have your words come out the wrong way,” she says. “But this isn’t a typical situation. Most of my cases won’t be that high profile.”

— Geoff Kirbyson