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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

Is the Debate on a Secular State Useless and Fruitless?

Here we go again. Quebec Justice Minister recently tabled Bill 62, An Act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality and, in particular, to provide a framework for religious accommodation requests in certain bodies fostering respect for religious neutrality of the state and aimed in particular to frame requests for religious accommodations in certain organizations. This is this sitting government’s attempt to draft a charter of secularism.

This is the fourth time that the Quebec government (under different leadership) has tried to pass a bill to clarify the religious neutrality of the state and set guidelines for the granting of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous, Substantive Law, Substantive Law: Legislation

Is Delivering Access to Justice Perceived as Women’s Work?

I noticed it first this past summer when I attended the joint International Journal of Clinical Legal Education – Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education conference in Toronto. It was my first time attending and I had no idea what to expect.

What I found was a group of very smart, dedicated and focused academics and lawyers engaged in the field of clinical legal education. What I noticed was that the gender balance among conference attendees was weighted heavily in favour of women.

Upon returning to the office after the conference, I looked around at our summer students – 5 . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: Law Schools, Justice Issues

Ethics: A Case Every Civil Litigator Should Know

In May 2016, Justice Bondy of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice quietly released an important decision. A decision that every civil litigator should know because the principles enunciated in this case seem to elude many lawyers. Maybe greed blinds them, maybe wishful thinking envelopes them, or maybe it never occurs to them that they are in a conflict of interest. Either way, this pervasive behaviour is bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

Far too often, plaintiff lawyers represent an injured child and his/her parents, who are also defendants by counterclaim. This is a conflict of interest. And in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Early Neutral Evaluation Programs in Family Law Disputes

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released a new research report, An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and Their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta, which includes a literature review of early neutral evaluation programs in Manitoba, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States, and makes recommendations about the implementation of such a program in Alberta. The findings from the literature review are very positive and are likely applicable throughout Canada.

Generally speaking, early neutral evaluation programs are court-based programs that require the parties to a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

Akwesasne Legal System as a Form of Self-Governance

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has done something historic. They have created the first indigenous legal system in Canada outside of governmental control, since the subjugation of First Nations by the current government and its predecessors.

The system is comprised of justices and prosecutors who do not have to have law degrees. The prosecutors are required to have some advocacy experience, but the Akwesasne justices will only receive a 10-week training from a law firm once passing the good character and reputation requirements.

The Akwesasne legal system will enforce 32 civil laws, ranging from the regulation of tobacco, wildlife conservation, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Regulate This

Most people today are employees who drive cars and get married. Most people today deal with law only when they are fired, ticketed, or divorced. (It’s nice that the vast majority of people never interact with the criminal justice system.) So most access-to-justice issues have to do with employment, personal injury/traffic, and family law. This is because these are the main three areas of social complexity and government regulation in most people’s lives. When there is no complexity or regulation, there are few access-to-justice issues because there is no need for lawyers.

Tomorrow, most people will be freelancers (the gig . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Technology

Pipeline to a Diverse Bench

Women lawyers, between 2006 and 2015, applied for superior court judicial appointments in Canada at roughly half the rate of men in the same time period, reports Cristin Schmitz in the September 16, 2016 issue of The Lawyers Weekly. In her article, Women Not Applying for Federal Benches, Schmitz reports the following previously unpublished statistics on who is seeking federal judicial appointments in Canada:

  • 1,531 women and 3,244 men applied between January 23, 2006 and October 19, 2015
  • 188 women and 396 men were appointed to federal courts during this same decade
  • Judicial advisory committees recommended 1,236 of the 3,003
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law: Future of Practice

Non-Expert Redesign of Justice

We often assume that reforms to the legal system should come from lawyers. After all, who knows and understands the system better than those who have studied and worked within it.

This past week I observed a process which fundamentally challenged that narrative. I served as a “Design Team Mentor” to the Winkler Institute’s Annual Justice Design Project. The program brought together a multidisciplinary team of undergraduate students who received a short primer on problems in the justice system.

The first day they heard about access to justice issues and how design thinking can be used to support . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Rise of the Polyamorous Family: New Research Has Implications for Family Law in Canada

On 20 June 2016, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family began a study on Canadian perceptions of polyamory, advertised with the assistance of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, gathering preliminary data with a public survey. The information gathered thus far, from the 547 people who answered our survey, paints a fascinating picture of polyamorous individuals and their family arrangements, and has important implications for the future of family law in Canada.

The polyamorous families we are looking at are those created by three or more freely consenting adults, in distinction to faith-based, and usually patriarchal, forms . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law: Future of Practice

Of Taylor Swift, Referent Power, Jury Duty and Psychological Theories of Social Influence

I don’t know much about Taylor Swift (or TayTay/Swifty/Tayter Tot/T-Swizzle depending on fan-preference), but I take pride that most of what I do know comes from a delightfully small number of sources:

  • My six-year old daughter (more “stream of consciousness fan fiction” than literal news)
  • The Dover Police Department—this YouTube video in particular
  • The ingenious OpenDataTaylorSwift Twitter account (@ts_institute) — light on Taylor Swift data (Tay-lore?), true, but a truly great dig into the Open Data world… see!
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous

Mediation Works: Should Mandatory Mediation Be Expanded?

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family had the opportunity to survey the participants of the 2014 National Family Law Program in Whistler, BC, a popular and well-attended legal education program that attracts hundreds of judges and lawyers from across the country. Among other things, we asked lawyers how their files typically resolved and the results were astonishing.

Probably the most important conclusion to be drawn from the 176 responses to our survey was that less than a tenth of lawyers’ files are resolved at trial (9.3%). The lion’s share of our files are resolved through negotiation (40.7%) . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Show Me the Pleading: Show Me the Evidence 


Currently finding pleadings, motion records, or factums filed with the courts online is nearly impossible. It is not only an issue of access to justice, it is an issue of accuracy.
Reading decisions without the filed materials is like being a detective with only half of a magnifying glass. You have the ultimate decision, but you don’t have the underlying pleading, motion record, or argument that the decision is based on. This is problematic. Judges and lawyers need to have access to the material filed to truly appreciate the case law before them. Most decisions turn on the facts, . . . [more]
Posted in: Case Comment, Justice Issues, Technology