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The Obstructionist Self-Represented Accused: the Challenge of Control

Of the many challenges facing trial judges, one of the greatest is conducting proceedings with a self-represented accused. Invariably the self-represented accused comes to court with only a rudimentary knowledge of the trial process, often influenced by misleading depictions from television shows and the movies. He or she is unfamiliar with the substantive law, is confused by procedural requirements, and has difficulty grasping concepts such as relevance.

The burgeoning number of self-represented accused in the criminal courts may be explained by cut-backs to legal aid funding across the country, the cost of legal services, mental health problems that make it . . . [more]

Posted in: Firm Guest Blogger, Legal Information, Practice of Law, Substantive Law, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

Nancy Byerly Jones Re-Post: Celebrating Great Holiday Moments … Ignoring the Not-So-Good!

Cross-posted on the Lawyer Success Tips blog

Although we have never met, over the years I have avidly read and learned a lot from Nancy Byerly Jones. She has written some great articles and created some awesome resources on risk management and claims prevention. My good friend and fellow PMA (practice management advisor) Jim Calloway pointed out a great post Nancy made on her blog yesterday.

Nancy gives us all solid practical advice for making the most with family and friends on this US Thanksgiving (we actually did Thanksgiving in Canada about a month ago), and indeed on . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Digitization of Older Canadian Parliamentary Publications

At lunch, I attended a round table organized by the National Capital Association of Law Libraries that took place at the University of Ottawa.

One of the more interesting announcements concerned the ongoing digitization of older publications relating to the activities of the Parliament of Canada.

According to the person from Library and Archives Canada who was present, the following material is now digitized:

  • Journals of the House of Commons and Senate for 1901-1954
  • Committee proceedings and evidence for 1901-1934
  • Public Accounts and Estimates for 1867-1993

The material is available on the site of the Internet Archive.

Debates for . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Substantive Law

Project Management as a Key Litigator Competency


Lawyers will always be free to decide how they chose to practice law; the market will, however, decide who the winners and the losers are. Winning in e-discovery increasingly means adopting lean, efficient business practices. These practices include (but are not limited to) using project management and appropriate measures of quality to reduce cost and to mitigate risk.

This powerful statement is from the Sedona Conference’s Commentary on Achieving Quality in the E-Discovery Process. The drafters of the Commentary argue for the application of formal project management methodologies by lawyers. This is a short endorsement of this argument, with . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: CLE/PD, Practice of Law

Linking to a Section in the Criminal Code

So try this: create a link to section 650 of a freely available online version of the Criminal Code. Basic law, basic task in this digital age, right?

Unless I’ve missed something obvious, which is the best sort of thing to miss, it ain’t so easy nowadays. There are two online sources of the Code: CanLII’s and the Department of Justice’s, which are actually just one version because CanLII publishes what the DOJ provides.

But let’s start with the CanLII version. There’s the whole statute with no table of contents. And that’s it. A search within for “650,” . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Legal Information: Publishing, Substantive Law, Technology

Lawyers, Courts, and Technology

Many lawyers assume that the Court process is unable or unwilling to take advantage of available electronic technology. Sometimes they are correct.

The problem is often one of communication. In many Ontario centres the lawyers are unaware until the last moment of who will be presiding over their case; and most often judges are unaware of the cases they will be asigned until the day before the hearing or trial. Many judges (myself included) will ask during a pre-trial or management session just what preparation has been made by the parties to reduce the use of paper. Too often that . . . [more]

Posted in: Firm Guest Blogger, Practice of Law, Substantive Law, Technology

Three Strikes Proposal Not a Palatable Solution

There has been a lot of controversy lately over the concept of the “three strikes law”, where if a rights holder advises an ISP that a customer has downloaded copyrighted material, the ISP must send a notice. If that happens 3 times, then the ISP must cut off that person’s internet access. Its proposal in Britain is not being well received, and rightly so. See, for example, openrightsgroup.org.

My take on the subject is in my weekly newspaper article, which I can’t publish here (ironically) because of my agreement with the newspaper but you can read it on my . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Should Law Offices Go Paperless

At issue in the GasTOPS trial was the development and sale of a software program for the computerized maintain of jet engines and aircraft. The benefits of a Computerized Maintenance Management System are that it reduces maintenance mistakes while at the same time reducing labour costs.

When I fly on an airplane or ride on a train I am encouraged to buy my ticket online. I recently was at my family doctors office and instead of a thick file of handwritten notes covering 35 years of attendances, test results and prescriptions, she brought up my file on a monitor in . . . [more]

Posted in: Firm Guest Blogger, Legal Information: Information Management, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Substantive Law

A New Discovery…

♫ And gazing down from yonder,
On a world of blue and green,
He’ll say with eyes of wonder,
I have seen, i have seen,
My eyes have seen…♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by Chris de Burgh.

A lawyer friend of mine told me about his recent use of his new Sony Reader in Court. No, this wasn’t to read books while waiting to speak in Chambers! He is using it in direct and cross-examination in court and I thought it would be of interest to the readers on Slaw. So with no further ado, here it is in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Information Management, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Substantive Law, Technology

Law Reform & Technology

I am taking advantage of the judicial posts to invite, on behalf of the Law Commission of Ontario, project proposals dealing with technology and the law.

Both Justices Turnball’s and Granger’s posts illustrate the advantages of using advanced technology in the courtroom. I am aware about how effectively technology has been used for all judges in the Court of Appeal in Calgary, as another example. I note John Gregory’s comment about the need for a more integrated electronic system as part of my inquiry.

I raise the following questions purely for consideration and by no means to suggest they exhaust . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law, Technology

Diagnostic Imaging in Sentencing and Trials

Wired magazine is reporting what is probably the first instance of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) used in a courtroom. The brain scan of a Chicago man accused of raping and killing a 10-year-old girl was used to demonstrate that he was a psychopath and should not be given the death penalty.

Although we don’t have the death penalty in Canada, some would also argue relevance because we barely have MRIs here as well. As Forbes Magazine was fond of stating last year,

Pittsburgh has more MRI machines than Canada.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) points out that . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Substantive Law