From Bar Leadership Skills

Resolving R. v. Jordan linguistically: Why the dissent was right

It was the most significant Supreme Court of Canada decision of 2016, and it continues to dog the justice system.  Last July, R. v. Jordan set 18 months as the presumptive ceiling for criminal cases in the provincial courts, and 30 months in superior courts (or cases in provincial courts after a preliminary inquiry).  Canadian courts do not have the power to legislate, and these time limits do not exist in the Criminal Code.  Rather, the 5-4 majority in Jordan arrived at these ceilings by interpreting s. 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (English / French), which prescribes the right of a person accused of…

The Trial of Hillary Clinton, the Lawyer and Woman

“The episode is one of … America’s most notorious cases of mass hysteria. It has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, and lapses in due process.” No, this is not a future historian’s description of yesterday’s election of the 45th President of the United States, or of his tenure in office, or of America’s choice of an unfit man over a qualified woman as its chief executive.  It is the Wikipedia commentary on the Salem Witch Trials. As mob chants of “lock her up!” resonated through…

Canada deserves better: Functional bilingualism for SCC appointments is not enough

In recent days, there has been much talk about the requirement that Canadian Supreme Court justices be functionally bilingual.  Coverage of the appointment of Malcolm Rowe from Atlantic Canada has fuelled criticism of this requirement.  Much of the criticism is well-considered, but ultimately none of it addresses the basic fact that the laws of Confederation exist in two separate and equal languages. Quite frankly, functional bilingualism a bar set too low.  I say this as one who advocated the Western Canadian position and helped to broker passage of the CBA’s 2010 compromise resolution on bilingual SCC judges.  Since then, I have…

Originalism as misnamed judicial legacy of the Scalia years – 1986-2016

Yesterday, in The Supreme Battle, Canadian constitutional scholar Adam Dodek described a side of the late Antonin Scalia, that few even in the legal community hardly ever saw: a U.S. Supreme Court justice willing to subject himself to honest intellectual debate among peers, even once with Canada’s former Supreme Court justice and champion of legal pragmatism, Ian Binnie. Dodek nevertheless attributed the lack of success of Canadian legal conservatives to too much inspiration from Scalia, whose strident ideology has found little favour here.  Despite the recent appointment to Canadian courts of jurists reportedly following Scalia’s brand of constitutional fundamentalism, it will take more than that…

How two wrongs made for feckless governance of the B.C. legal profession

In my September 26, 2014, post, B.C. Law Society abdicates self-governance in favour of non-governance, I argued the Law Society of British Columbia irresponsibly fettered its independent decision-making authority to an ultra vires plebiscite of rank-and-file lawyers on the issue of accreditation of a Christian law school that openly discriminates against LGBT candidates. The LSBC went on to hold the referendum and, on October 31, 2014, voted that it was bound by the result, reversed its earlier decision of April 11, 2014 to grant accreditation. Last Thursday, in its judicial review, the Supreme Court of British Columbia agreed that the Law Society had abdicated its…

Why did the Federal Court issue a media statement regarding Justice Robin Camp?

In a media statement released on November 9, the Federal Court of Canada commented on the decision of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) to review the conduct of Justice Robin Camp while sitting as an Alberta Provincial Court Judge.  As widely reported, Judge Camp conducted the trial following a widely discredited understanding of sexual assault which flew in the face of Canadian law.  His comments, moreover, revealed a dismissive bias against complainants which most Canadians would find offensive.  The judgment of the Court of Appeal of Alberta, in ordering a new trial, was terse in its disapproval of every aspect of…

Jaggers and the Law Society rule governing trust accounts

Fans of Charles Dickens’ novels will know that his lawyers are practitioners of an obscure art.  In that regard, they are plot devices, agents of change in the course of principal characters’ lives.  None is more iconic than Jaggers, or Mr. Jaggers, in Great Expectations.  The trustee of a sum of money left by an anonymous benefactor to the orphaned working-class boy Pip, Jaggers is instructed to disburse funds necessary to make Pip a gentleman.  The secret identity of the benefactor, not revealed until nearly the story’s end, is the source of a significant malentendu that drives Pip’s actions and character development. No one…

Early Lesson from the Duffy Trial: The Bar needs to focus, not wince at a “bright line” rule

Amid the media frenzy over the morality play unfolding in an Ottawa courtroom, the bar has a lesson to glean from the argument over the interaction between the Canadian Senate’s expense rules and the Criminal Code.  (“Blame the rules, not Mike Duffy, defence says“; “Mike Duffy trial: Defence to continue attack on vagueness of Senate rules.”) Mr. Duffy’s defence lawyer contends the Senate’s self-imposed rules permitted practices such as claiming housing expenses for property in the province of a senator’s appointment, even though the senator resided in another province most of the time.  The Crown argues strict observance of this expense rule, to satisfy a questionable…

Post-Mortem, CBA Futures Debate on ABS

On February 21, I participated in the panel debate on Alternative Business Structures (ABS) at the plenary CBA meetings in Ottawa, for which I had provided my preliminary speaking notes on this blog.  I left the debate feeling there is no business plan for allowing non-lawyers and corporations to share in the delivery of legal services: in…

How origins of ABS in U.K. and Australian Law differ from Canada

“Everything you want to know about ABS but are afraid to ask.”  That is the name of the panel discussion at the Mid-Winter Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) on February 21, in which CBA has asked me to represent a skeptic’s perspective on the Alternative Business Structures (ABS) recommendations of the CBA Futures Committee.…