'I wish you good luck,' judge says in sentencing Indigenous lawyer who assaulted officer

Laura Phypers says she's been sober since she was arrested a year ago. Phypers, described as an 'outstanding individual' by her lawyer, pleaded guilty to assault on Friday. (Advocate Law - image credit)

An Alberta judge offered words of support to an Indigenous lawyer who was sentenced Tuesday for assaulting a police officer.

Laura Phypers, 38, pleaded guilty last week. Court heard Friday that her life — informed by a childhood of trauma, "utter poverty" and alcoholism — had gotten "out of control" the night of the assault.

Phypers has been sober since the incident and reconnected with her Indigenous community, according to her lawyer.

"We need more lawyers of your life experiences advocating for those citizens of Alberta who are less advantaged," Justice John Maher said Tuesday.

"So I wish you good luck."

Maher agreed with prosecutor Bob Morrison and defence lawyer Cristian Manucci that Phypers should be granted a conditional discharge — meaning a conviction will not be registered — after serving a year under probation conditions.

Those conditions include 40 hours of community service plus counselling.

Open alcohol

Last Friday, during her guilty plea, court heard that Phypers was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over near Innisfail by RCMP on June 3, 2023.

The officer who pulled over the vehicle made observations that led him to suspect impaired driving, so he conducted a traffic stop. The officer found open liquor cans in the car and noted both the driver and Phypers were "argumentative."

Phypers got out of the vehicle and attacked the officer, trying to hit him, repeatedly throwing punches, court heard in an agreed statement of facts.

Law society concerns

In the days after her arrest, Phypers criticized the force used by the RCMP, but during the plea last week, Manucci said his client takes full responsibility and acknowledges the officer "acted in his lawful duties" the night of the arrest.

A binder of 25 letters of support, many from members of the Red Deer legal profession, was filed with the court. It painted what the judge described as a "remarkable portrait of [a] fine person marred only by what appears to be a one-off, but significant occurrence."

Although her dealings with criminal court are now concluded, the judge noted Phypers will almost certainly face a conduct review by the Law Society of Alberta.

"I think the citizens of Alberta would benefit from you continuing to practise law, notwithstanding this incident," said the judge.