From Occupational Hazards and Tips

Hal 9000

A Self-Harming of Judicial Independence: The Legacy of the Inquiry into Lori Douglas

The Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry Committee regarding the Honourable Lori Douglas is now over.  The embattled Manitoba judge, whose late husband allegedly posted nude photos of her online and encouraged his former client to sleep with her, decided to settle for early retirement after the committee’s November 4, 2014, Ruling on Preliminary Motions, in which the tribunal insisted on viewing…

OBA AGM

Lawyers’ Technological Literacy, or Lawyers’ Literacy and Technology

In her September 30 column in Slaw.ca, Tackling Technology, Prof. Amy Salyzyn argues lawyers’ ability to use and manage information technology is now an element of professional competence. Technology is now a driver of client service, effective lawyering and access to justice.  The flip side of this argument is that screen-based technology is an inhibitor…

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The Role of a Judiciary in a Coalescing Democracy

Il n’y a, en général, que les conceptions simples qui s’emparent de l’esprit du peuple. Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu’une idée vraie, mais complexe.  ~  Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique De Tocqueville was likely not the first to say it, but his…

Is belief in law logical?

Many years ago, I agreed to act for an elder of the Celestial Church of Christ, a religious order based in Nigeria.  A member of his congregation had asked him to be a “character reference” on a bank loan.  It turned out to be a guarantee on a sub-prime mortgage.  To make a long story short, my client ended up on the hook for an amount equivalent to twice his annual gross family income, and he had an aggressive creditor after the mortgage company sold the debt on.  By the time he arrived in my office, the congregant had defaulted,…

A Very Canadian “Mexican Standoff” of an American Contest between Executive and Judicial Power

Marbury v. Madison is the considered the seminal decision in judicial review of executive and legislative action.  At least, that is what the U.S. courts have subsequently repeated.  In fact, the 1803 decision of a fledgling American high court represented a Mexican standoff between executive and judicial power in which the limits of the U.S. Supreme Court were sharply defined.  Was Marbury a boundary wall it built to assert its jurisdiction, or one behind which it retreated? One criticism that can be leveled against the Marbury court was that it institutionalized a mechanical, semi-democratic vision of judicial action.  American governments now operate within a constitution…

Judicial Ethics in Real Time: Commentary D.9 to Principle D.3 of Ethical Principles for Judges

This morning, the Chief Justice of Canada responded to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office that, last summer, she initiated a call to the Minister of Justice regarding the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon.  Media reports have suggested the eruption of a very public battle of statements.  As lawyers, we respect and honour our Chief Justice, and take her at her word.  As I read her office’s release, I wondered: What could have possessed her? The press release issued by the Chief Justice’s office described the July 31, 2013, interaction with the Minister thus: On July 31, 2013, the Chief Justice’s office called…

A lawyer’s civility is Jim Flaherty’s legacy

A quarter century ago, I sat in an official examiner’s chambers across Jim Flaherty (still a senior motor vehicle litigation lawyer) as he questioned my client, the surviving mother of an accident victim who had perished at the hands of a drunk driver.  He hadn’t exactly over-prepared for the encounter.  There were none of the usual probing questions.  He entered the room, offered my client his condolences, asked some standard discovery questions, and left.  In retrospect, he knew what I had advised my client he should know: that it did not serve his insurer client’s interests to be on the wrong…

“Micro-ethical” issues key to teaching professionalism

In a much-anticipated research paper on training lawyers to be ethical professionals, Shelley M. Kierstead of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto’s Erika Abner have published groundbreaking work in “Learning Professionalism in Practice.”  How and where do lawyers learn to be professional?  What are the modes of learning?  Is professional ethics the responsibility of law society regulators, the legal academy, or the profession?  Can ethical lawyers bring “swimmers” onto their lifeboat? The paper, funded by a fellowship grant from the Chief Justice of Ontario’s Advisory Committee on Professionalism (now the OBA Foundation Chief Justice of Ontario Fellowships in Legal Ethics and Professionalism),…

2013 : The year of ethical lapses among high-performing professionals

If there has been a mystery from the events of 2013, it is the emergence in Canadian public life of respected professionals as instigators of questionable deals and conflicts of interest.  The intrigue surrounding Senator Mike Duffy captured national attention, but we were also mindful of the fact that, in Québec, it was getting hard to find anyone with a clean past to step into the glare of municipal politics.  In law, we ended the year with the disappearance and death of Javed Heydary, and the trail of missing millions from his trust account. What is common to the cast…

Aucune substitution pour la lecture ~ Read what it says, not what you think it says

Last week, was speaking to a lawyer about a document, when I sensed he hadn’t even read it. It was in French.  ‘How’s your French,’ I asked.  ‘Awful,’ he replied.  ‘I guess you haven’t read it,’ I continued.  ‘I expect it says what you say it says,’ he explained.  Alas. In the final article in the Accidental Mentor, I share my memory of the late George Miller, an extraordinary lawyer.  He taught me never to interpret a document without reading it first.  Simple enough?  How many times have you broken that rule?  Scan or click on the QR Code above-right, to…