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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

What if…2.0

Nearly a year and a half ago, I got a little frustrated with a lack of progress toward increased access to justice and started this What if… list. I looked at the list again today, because lately I’ve been feeling just that way again.

I have been thinking about what is needed to effect the kind of change that is needed. Does A2J need a knight on a white horse riding in from a neighbouring kingdom to set things aright? Though that could make a great movie (I think a younger Al Pacino might play the knight?) it seems an . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Making a Canadian Murderer

Last night Dean Strang & Jerry Buting, two American attorneys, stopped by in Toronto to give a talk. The lawyers are known from the Netflix original crime documentary, Making A Murderer, which might be Netflix’s most successful show to date.

Strang and Buting were defence lawyers for Steven Avery, a man from Manitowoc County, WI who was exonerated through DNA testing after serving 18 years of a 32 year sentence for rape and attempted murder. The controversy over the documentary though deals with Avery’s second charge, over the murder of another woman after his release. The purpose of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

How Many Wake-Up Calls Do Our Legal Profession and Court System Need?

Last week, the Toronto Star ran a widely publicized story about a criminal proceeding, in which the accused was charged with drug offences. He earned $16,000 in 2015, which was too much for legal aid but not enough for a lawyer. Therefore, Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court stayed the proceedings until the government paid for counsel.

Sadly, stories like this are too common. The legal system, too convoluted to navigate without a law degree, means that the most vulnerable are left in the lurch. Compelled to interact with the judicial system yet unable to afford counsel and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Technology

More Abuse of Our Justice System by Residential Tenants

I’ve written a number of posts lately about tenants who abuse the system and the calls from the judiciary to have our tenancy laws reformed. A decision released two weeks ago is another all-to-familiar another example of how residential tenants can game the system to their advantage.

 

The tenant entered into a one year lease agreement with the landlord on July 15, 2015. He took possession of the unit on July 20, 2015. He paid his first and last month’s rent but did not make any of the other rental payments (which were to be $1,400 per month).

  . . . [more]

Posted in: Case Comment, Justice Issues

Of Cybernetic Shysters, Artificial Intelligence and Guardians of the Rule of Law

“Here I make an intelligent being out of a bunch of old wires, switches and grids, and instead of some honest advice I get technicalities! You cheap cybernetic shyster, I’ll teach you to trifle with me!”
And he turned the pot over, shook everything out onto the table, and pulled it apart before the lawyer had a chance to appeal the proceedings.

– The Cyberiad

Happy Monday! Like F. Tim Knight, I am getting back on the “blogwagon” this morning with an overdue post… also about AI following the session I was a panelist on at the recent Canadian . . . [more]

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

Increasing Funding for Legal Aid Is Not Enough

Lawyers pushing for greater access to justice constantly fall back on the refrain that Legal Aid needs more funding. That might be true, but the real problem with access is the eligibility criteria for Legal Aid certificates.

This was illustrated recently in a recent criminal case in Toronto, R. v Moodie, where Justice Nordheimer reviewed a Rowbothom application. The Ontario Court of Appeal created a process R. v. Rowbotham whereby the right to fair trial can demand public funds be used for representation

[170] …where the trial judge finds that representation of an accused by counsel is essential to

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

Smoky Ethical Waters Around Marijuana Dispensaries

If you take a stroll pretty much anywhere in downtown Toronto these days, you’re likely to walk into one of the dozens of marijuana dispensaries that have popped up everywhere in the city. But just as quickly as they arrived, they are being shut down too.

On Thursday Toronto Police conducted a sting dubbed “Project Claudia,” with search warrants executed for 43 different locations, seizing 270 kg of products. That’s fine, these dispensaries are still illegal, and are not part of the process for distributing medically required marijuana use.

Project Claudia wasn’t just about shutting these dispensaries down. The police . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Evidence of Economic Benefits of Refugees From the EU

I remember in law school, my professor started our course in immigration law with a sound question, “apart from the CRA, which is the most profitable department in the Federal Government?” Apparently, the answer at the time was the department of immigration. The right of permanent residence fee (RPLF) was a whopping $975 per person, the initial fee for a humanitarian application was $1,100 and there were additional fees. Refugees coming to Canada were particularly burdened by these fees. Public pressure and litigation led to a review of onerous fees and many were reduced by 50%. It was clear then, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Media and the Law: Where Are the Law Journalists?

Where are the specialized law journalists in Canada? Can you name one? The media has left a gaping hole, leaving lawyers to fill the vacuum, to editorialize on the new cases, and to defend the legal system.

We can’t complain. This is our duty. However, in a time, where most people can name all Kardashians but can’t name the nine Supreme Court of Canada judges, we have a problem.

Paul Wells writes in In Search of the Ethical Lawyer: Stories from the Canadian Legal Profession, edited by Adam Dodek and Alice Woolley, that it’s not wickedness that has brought an . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Independence and Diversity of Appointments

This past Friday, I heard Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe speak in Ottawa to the 18th Biennial National Conference: New Developments in Communications Law and Policy on “Canada’s Policy Challenges and the Trudeau Government.”

Simpson noted that this was the most talented government he has ever seen, but also the most ambitious. Too much ambition on too many things, Simpson warned, may note bode well in accomplishing anything.

If there’s anything this new government does accomplish, it should be a good hard look at the appointments process.

Andrew Griffith, former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and author of several . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Learnings From the Demographic Data on Litigants Without Counsel

The demographic information on litigants without counsel available to date reveals a number of interesting patterns: most litigants appear to be 40 years old and older, and people in that age range are involved in litigation at rates far higher than those in younger age groups; although most litigants have lower incomes, a significant number have incomes around or exceeding the average income; and, litigants’ often high incomes match their educational achievements, which often exceed the average. All of this information strikes me as potentially useful when designing services and reforming processes for litigants without counsel.

In her 2013 report  . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Need for a Code of Conduct for Family Law Disputes

The Codes of Conduct of Canada’s various law societies set the standards of conduct expected of members of the profession. They are enforced through the law societies’ enabling legislation, which uniformly empower the societies to punish breaches with sanctions ranging from reprimand to disbarment.

The Codes of Conduct require us to find a balance between our obligations as advocates and the general duty to uphold the rule of law and practice with honour and integrity. It seems to me, however, that bar admission courses, intending to simultaneously instill a healthy respect for practice standards and a dread fear of complaints, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues