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Archive for September, 2009

Death of an Innocent Man

If ever you should need an argument against the death penalty, you could scarcely do better than the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man executed in Texas in 2004 for deaths by arson — for which he was not responsible. His story is told in “Trial By Fire” by David Grann in the current New Yorker. Willingham’s case has come to prominence again because his was one of the first investigated by a Texas government commission set up to examine errors and misconduct by forensic scientists — something that Canada has recent experience with.

Craig Beyler, an . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law

Social Media and Background Checks

As Simon mentioned in welcoming me aboard, I have been writing an employment law blog for nearly 7 years now, which is hard for me to believe. At that time, there were only a few active legal blogs in Canada and over these past 7 years I have watched this space develop into a vibrant hub of information sharing, discussion and debate. So for my first Slaw post, I’ll start with a discussion of social networking sites in employment.

But first a digression. I suppose it was only a matter of time, but the ABA Journal reports that the “Florida . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law

Business Processes and KM

I have been wearing my knowledge management hat a lot lately. I am working with our internal departments and groups to identify process pain points and find ways to tweak our existing systems to enable more intuitive information sharing. This process make me think about … processes.

Like many organizations, we sometimes fall down on laying out our processes for things. This often means that one group thinks another group is responsible for a task that they are really responsible for. Beyond obvious internal communication issues, I interpret my KM roll as “facilitator of good processes”.

I went looking for . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Information Management

U.S. Law Librarians’ Changing Scene

There’s an interesting article today on about what impact the recession is having on the situation of law librarians in the United States. “Law Librarians: ‘No More Sacred Cows’” by Alan Cohen is based on the 2009 American Lawyer survey of law librarians. To see the actual findings of the full survey you’ll have to be a subscriber, but Cohen hits the high spots for you.

    Library budgets have shrunk in 46% of cases, compared to 9% in 2008 / The expectation from the firms is that every resource must show a decent ROI. / New software

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Marketing, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Technology

New Point-in-Time Legislative Databases From CanLII

The free legal information portal CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) announced today that it has added point-in-time legislation databases for Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

“Users of these provinces’ consolidated Acts and regulations now have access to versions as they came into force since 2004 or so, as well as to current versions updated weekly from governments’ websites.”

CanLII now offers point-in-time legislation databases for the federal and all provincial governments and plans to add similar collections for the legislation of Canada’s three Northern territories soon.

The databases make it possible to search a legislative text as . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Information: Libraries & Research, Legal Information: Publishing

CHRT Rejects S. 13 Penalty of the CHRA in Warman v. Lemire

All the recent talk here about free speech online is proving extremely relevant.

In the high profile case between Marc Lemire and Richard Warman, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has refused to apply s. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which stated that hate messages also affected,

…a matter that is communicated by means of a computer or a group of interconnected or related computers, including the Internet…

Tribunal chair Athanasios Hadjis said,

Since a formal declaration of invalidity [of Section 13(1)] is not a remedy available to the Tribunal, I will simply refuse to apply these

. . . [more]
Posted in: Substantive Law

Reclaiming Contract Law – Cell Phone Association’s New Code of Conduct

Hallelujah! Can it be true? I have been arguing for years that all of these standard form contracts that are being forced upon us in the 21st century – are about as far from being “offer + acceptance + consideration” as one can get! First, they force the whole contract on you – then there’s a provision in it that they can change the terms at any time without notice to you! Well apparently the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association has come up with a new Code of Conduct which encourages its members to provide contract language which allows users to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Substantive Law

CanCon Music on XM Radio May Have to Wait

Canadian Press has reported that a group representing Canadian songwriters and music publishers is suing the company that operates XM Radio in Federal Court. The group, CSI, is a joint venture between CMRRA and SODRAC. CSI seeks an injunction preventing XM Radio from broadcasting songs by Canadian artists represented by CSI, until XM’s operating company, Canadian Satellite Radio Inc., pays royalties that CSI alleges were due on July 31.

Some previous reports on the Copyright Board tariff have suggested that the tariff was something of a win for satellite radio. The tariff was set at 6.2% of revenues for . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law

Michael Fitzgibbon Joins Slaw

I’m pleased indeed to tell you that Michael Fitzgibbon has joined Slaw as a regular contributor. You will doubtless know him because of his own blog, Thoughts from a Management Lawyer and because of his recent post on Slaw as part of the firm guest blogging by Borden Ladner Gervais, where Michael is a partner in the Toronto Office.

As the name of his blog suggests, Michael has experience advising employers in labour relations and other employment matters. He teaches labour and employment law at the University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College and has co-authored two books: Understanding Ontario’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Administration of Slaw

Set Your Sights on a Fulfilling Legal Career

Have you ever had a moment in your career where you wanted to run screaming from the building? When you entered the office on a Monday took a look at the work piled on the table and shuddered? I know that all of us at times do work that at best we can tolerate and at worst we despise. While many of us have experienced these moments in our careers, when they become a daily occurrence it is crucial to recognise what they represent: Flashing red lights indicating that action is required to shift your professional practice into more satisfying . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Border Crossings and Laptops – I Don’t Get It

Simon posted US Homeland Security’s new rules on laptop searches for those crossing the border into the US. While there are some guidelines, they basically have the unfettered discretion to look at everything that is on one’s laptop.

Frankly, I don’t get it. It strikes me as a total waste of time and effort on their part. It inconveniences and intrudes on normal people crossing the border – with little chance of finding any terrorist or criminal information. And how are issues like trade-mark and copyright infringement relevant to crossing the border?

This strikes me as more security theatre.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

The Case for Short Legal Communications

This is a reminder that we should be brief in making our point.

We know this, but often can’t resist saying more than we should. Our tendency to ramble is partly a function of ego. We’re smart, we know things and we want others to know we know things whether helpful or not. It’s also a function of fear. When we don’t trust our argument we layer on lesser alternatives that can harm more than help. Finally, it can be because we’re lazy or time pressed. Long and rambling is easy while focused is hard.

The “case for short” is . . . [more]

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