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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

Burning the Provisions, Not the Witches

Codification can be a wonderful thing. It helps consolidate all of the myriad of rules and exceptions that exist in the common law, and lays it out in one place for everyone to find.

But codification also has its drawbacks. Once enshrined in statute, there can be a tendency towards complacency.

The best example of this of course would be the Criminal Code of Canada. First enacted in 1892, it was modeled after a proposed a codification in Britain written by James Fitzjames Stephen, which never made it past Second Reading there. The reason for its codification was that John . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

The Need for a Broader Public Safety Exception: Ethical Duties to Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

The ethical duty of defence counsel to evaluate information under the public safety exception to solicitor-client privilege should be broadened to require disclosure when an offender is being released back into an environment where intimate partner violence will likely reoccur.

Consider a situation of domestic violence.[1] A woman calls the police to report an assault by her husband. It was not the first time he assaulted her, but she did not previously report the abuse. Charges are laid. A psychological assessment is conducted, an expert stating that the defendant has violent tendencies and is likely to reoffend. The defendant . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week

The Limits of Codes of Professional Conduct and the Value of a Lawyer Following Their Own Conscience: Lessons From Atticus Finch

“Is it or is it not an ethical dilemma?” “Does such a behaviour violate the ethical rules in the Rules of Professional Conduct?” These are questions that we students were asked each day in our Professional Responsibility class. However, day after day, we were often unable to reach a conclusive answer to a myriad of ethical dilemmas. I found myself often pondering why it was often so difficult to reach a conclusive answer to an ethical issue.

As law students, we are trained to unfailingly following rules, such as the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Rules of Professional Conduct, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week

David Versus Goliath – Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility & Self-Represented Litigants

The story of “David and Goliath” is a part of our cultural consciousness. Generally, the biblical tale is told as follows: a young shepherd battles a giant warrior and, using only a slingshot, comes out victorious. Today, the phrase “David and Goliath” represents a more secular meaning as a metaphor for improbable victories by a weaker party, better known as the “underdog”. A quick glimpse at popular culture illustrates that this “underdog phenomenon” has generated mass appeal – but why? Some scholars have said it is because the underdog story gives us hope for a fair and just world. However, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week

Sometimes Legal Aid Is the Problem, Not the Solution

Introduction

Legal aid is intended to assist the most vulnerable in our society, and ensure that they obtain justice irrespective of their financial situations. Often it accomplishes this lofty objective. Far too frequently it does not.

What is more concerning is how references to legal aid are frequently invoked as an obstacle to legal reforms.

One such example would be for the proposal by the Bonkalo Report for paralegals to practice family law. Not unexpectedly, there are family lawyers and judges who have already come out against it. The most recent are several lawyer organizations and some judges of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

EFF Publishes New Guide to Mitigating Digital Privacy Risks at US Border

If you care about solicitor-client privilege, travel to the US and use computing technology, then read this:

By its own admission, US border protection conducted five-times as many electronic media searches in a single year—4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016.

Yup. That’s 500% more cause for anyone travelling to the US to be concerned. Should Canadian lawyers be cautious too? Yes.

America’s digital rights sentinel, Electronic Frontier Foundation, just released its 2017 reboot to its guide for mitigating risks to digital privacy when travelling to the US. The newly minted guide (last revised in 2011) is titled “Digital . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Foreign Law, Technology: Office Technology

Including Paralegals in Family Law – the Bonkalo Report

Few things are as contentious in the bar in Ontario as the scope of paralegals. Created in 2007, paralegals have been practicing under a limited scope which has explicitly excluded the provision of family services.

Last week, Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo released the Family Legal Services Review report, which was part of the Expanding Legal Services Options for Families review being conducted by the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Although the report also focuses on more unbundled services and coaching by lawyers, and use of law students to provide family law, it recognizes,

The most controversial recommendations, however, will be

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

Lawyers Earning Our Respect Amongst the Public

The perception of lawyers among the general public is a concern that often emerges among those in leadership positions in the profession.

Granted, some of that negative reputation may be warranted, and there are lawyers who put their own self-interests before their clients, or who behave aggressively and inappropriately with other parties. But these lawyers are still the exception, even in an era of controversy over civility.

Those of us in the field usually know and appreciate that lawyers are the fabric of civilized society, and we ensure that fairness and justice permeate every aspect of society where we are . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Dismantling the Roadblocks to Judicial Diversity

Over a century ago, without his knowing it, legendary jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes spawned the case for judicial diversity in ten words: “the life of the law is not logic, but experience.” Bursting from these words is a truth we have known all along. Legal issues often pose uneasy choices. In choosing whose stories to believe and which principles to prioritize, a judge draws on not only legal precedents, but also personal experiences, values and beliefs.

However they might try, judges cannot shed their experiences and values at the courtroom door. Justice Bernd Zabel brought the point home when he . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Travelling Supremes

The law may be principled, but it is ultimately pragmatic. Laws seek to address societal problems (the mischief rule), but also make sense (the golden rule). In fact, I’d argue that it has always been this way.

The presence of the principles of equity in the common law, infused with the coming of the Judicature Acts  of the 19th c., sought to reconcile the literalism of rule-based decisions and the goal of fairness that previously existed in two independent court systems.

We can go back even further to find hints of this in the common law. The search for pragmatism . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

No Access to Remote Justice in L’Orignal, Ontario?

Recently we took on two Small Claims Court actions for good clients. In both cases we acted for the plaintiff.

Anyone who has commenced a Small Claims Court proceeding knows that the Small Claims Court Rules provide that the plaintiff is generally required to commence the action in the jurisdiction where the defendant lives or carries on business. In both cases our client operated from Toronto. In both cases, we had to commence the action in L’Orignal, Ontario as a result of that being where the defendant carried on business.

For those of you who don’t know, L’Orignal is about . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law, Technology

Someday We’ll Find It, the Rainbow Connection

The quotation below contains the first paragraph and part of the conclusion of an article with the title of this post. You will find that article on the University of Alberta Faculty of Law Blog, here.

One might assume that LGBT rights in Canada were worse the further one delves back into our history. This would be incorrect. While LGBT rights in 1867 were nowhere near what they are today, it’s important to note that things actually got a lot worse before they got better.

To those of our readers in law school, legal professions, politics, and others

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues