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Archive for ‘Columns’

An Ethical Jury? Reflections on the Acquittal of Gerald Stanley for the Murder/Manslaughter of Colten Boushie

We understand the ethical duties of lawyers and judges in a criminal trial – what they ought to do, what their office requires of them. Sure, we argue about the details (e.g., me on prosecutors), but in general we know what defence lawyers, prosecutors and judges ought to do. Yet as shown by Gerald Stanley’s acquittal by a jury on charges of murder and manslaughter after his admitted killing of Colten Boushie, lawyers and judges are not the only people relevant to the functioning of a criminal trial. Juries also hear evidence and decide outcomes.

So what of jurors? . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Canada-EU – Old Ties, New Trade Partners

For Canadian business, the threat of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA is the biggest and most immediate challenge. Without progress that satisfies the U.S. Administration, the current NAFTA negotiations may end with the U.S. issuing a Notice of Withdrawal that starts the six month clock on formal U.S. withdrawal from the Agreement and the market uncertainty that will likely follow.

Canada can and will survive the U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA. Canada and the U.S. have deep economic ties and market integration that will result in trade between the countries continuing, but on different terms. To address the problem of dependence on . . . [more]

Posted in: Administrative Law

Should Law Firms Advertise?

In my column about content marketing, I described it as: “relevant, useful information consistently provided to a specific audience” and likened it to the opposite of advertising. Does that mean that advertising is irrelevant and useless?

Done poorly, yes. Done properly and targeted to the right people, no.

In the average law firm, if there’s a firm marketing budget, it’s lean and includes everything from event tickets to holiday cards. Lawyers may or may not have individual business development budgets, which they guard jealously for pet projects that they’ve always done—without tracking results. The firm might still be running . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Upholding the Law of the Land

When it comes to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, lawyers have unique responsibilities; Calls to Action 27, 28, 29 and 50 are particularly instructive. Today, my colleague Maxine Hayman Matilpi and I reflect on what this means for us as legally trained individuals, our public interest law organization and legal pluralism in Canada.

Trish Monture asserts in Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks:

Every oppression that has been foisted upon Aboriginal people in the history of Canada has been implemented through [colonial law] . . . This includes child welfare apprehension, residential schools,

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Towards Cyberjustice Retrospective Part 1: Who Controls Court Data?

In our October 17th column, we announced that we would start posting a series of blogs highlighting different papers, studies, and pilot projects conducted under the auspices of the “Towards Cyberjustice” project. As a reminder, this project, which was financed by a Major Collaborative Research Grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, spanned over the last seven years and has made significant contributions in the domain of what many call eJustice (what we refer to as cyberjustice). As stated on the Cyberjustice Laboratory’s Website, the purpose of the project was (although we’re . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Valuing Legal Information

The problem with trying to value legal information is that we mostly just talk about its price instead of its value. The value of anything is subjective, and correct legal information at the perfect time is worth a great deal, general legal information that isn’t needed at a particular moment is worth much less. This is important because the people who make decisions about how to fund legal information are often not the people who use it regularly and are generally not faced with urgent legal matters at the moment of making decisions about how much to pay for it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Legal Aid Effect on Health Outcomes

A study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) showed that every dollar spent on social programs is associated with a 0.1% decrease in potentially avoidable mortality and a 0.1% increase in life expectancy. Both results were statistically significant. This analysis of social and health care spending in 9 provinces from 1981 to 2002 concludes that population health outcomes would be improved if government spending were reallocated from health to social spending (“Effect of provincial spending on social services and health care on health outcomes in Canada: an observational longitudinal study”, Daniel J. Dutton et al, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Electrical Infrastructure Standards Updated to Meet Cyber Security Threat

A quote famously attributed to then FBI Director, Robert Mueller, in March 2012 advised that: “There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that will be”.

With the rapid increase in the current plague of cyber attacks, a key issue for regulators continues to be the protection of critical infrastructure. In recent years, various US regulatory agencies have established (and periodically update) standards to improve the ability to detect, mitigate and respond to the increasing cyber security threats to critical infrastructure. Canadian regulatory agencies and industry participants, particularly in sectors where there are cross . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property

Presenting the Bills: Who Calls the Tune?

Who gets to participate in making the rules that affect them, and to what degree? This is a fundamental question in Canada (Governor General in Council) v. Mikisew Cree First Nation, 2016 FCA 311 (“MCFN”), an appeal of a judicial review proceeding. In MCFN, the core question is whether indigenous groups in Canada entitled to a role in drafting legislation that affects their treaty rights.

This case is unique in Canadian jurisprudence. Until now, cases regarding the duty to consult have been about the obligation to consult indigenous peoples in the course of making a regulatory decision. MCFN is . . . [more]

Posted in: Administrative Law

Falling Short on Legal Ethics

I was speaking with someone the other day about whether and to what extent there were any ethical implications of lawyers’ use of artificial intelligence.

Those implications could theoretically range from minimum application (in what situations is it effectively malpractice not to use AI) to maximum application (where does a lawyer’s use of AI cross the line by substituting algorithmic outcomes for human judgment). It was all very interesting, and I plan to touch on some of these topics when I join a panel on March 2 in Toronto at the Canadian Bar Association-Federation of Law Societies of Canada Ethics . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Morality of #Metoo

The forced resignation of Patrick Brown as leader of the Ontario Conservatives raises concerns of fairness and due process – for him and for the women accusing him. Christie Blatchford has castigated the party and other public officials for abandoning the “presumption of innocence”, and has highlighted the wrong of ruining a man’s reputation based on anonymous allegations. Others agree. Conversely, the Prime Minister reportedly said that women who made allegations of misconduct “must be believed” and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said “I believe victims when they come forward”.

Both those responses strike me as fundamentally deficient. Deficient . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Third Party Arbitration Funding

Third party litigation funding is growing in Canada and starting to appear in commercial arbitration as well. This raises some interesting questions about an arbitration tribunal’s authority to allow (or refuse to allow) third party funding and, if it is permitted, the degree to which the tribunal should control the funder’s involvement in the arbitration.

To date, in Canada, most court decisions regarding third party funding have involved class actions. This is partly because the cost of large class actions has grown beyond the capacity of plaintiffs’ counsel to self-fund them and partly because the courts have an inherent jurisdiction . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution