From Bar Leadership Skills

‘The Morning After’ Politics and a Hamilton Ontario Courtroom

The day after the election of the 45th president of the United States, Bernd Zabel, a trial judge in Hamilton, Ontario, entered his courtroom wearing a baseball cap bearing the logo “Make America Great Again.” Hamilton, a city whose declining steel industry has seen its economy transformed by a leading Canadian university and a vibrant wine region on its doorstep, has an increasingly diverse demographic including 30,000 muslims from South Asia and migrant workers from Mexico.  These proud groups also have concerns about their treatment as participants in Canadian society. Instead of laughing it off, the judge kept the hat on display beside…

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…

Panama Papers and Breaking Bad: Why attack lawyers who help offenders avoid charges, and praise those who help the guilty go free?

As worldwide governmental agencies pore over the financial and corporate information leaked from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, conversations have turned from the tax-dodges of the rich and famous to the ethics of lawyer participation in unlawful behaviour of all kinds.  Previously, in the popular TV series, Breaking Bad, attorney Saul Goodman provided both comic relief and lessons in abuse of professional privilege by using his storefront office to launder drug money and counsel assassinations.  Legal ethics has become the surprisingly sexy topic of dinner conversation. As with any field unexpectedly caught in the public spotlight, the legal profession has…

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…

On end-of-year MCLE credits, mixing law and religion, and lunch

Yesterday, the Cardinal Newman Society website reported that a decision by the State Bar of Texas to decline mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) accreditation to faith-based programming for lawyers drew the ire of the State Governor’s office.  The state bar had, on a one-time basis, granted accreditation to such a programme, but refused to accredit any further events of a similar nature. My last post of 2015 is not about law and religion, but something far more suited to this festive season: the role of self-interest in lawyers’ attendance at CLE programmes (known in Canada as CPD).  After all, for…

From Law Office to lawPod : The Apple-ization of McCarthys

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail reported, in ‘McCarthy Tétrault’s Tracie Crook leading firm’s radical transformation,’ that the day of the partner’s corner office may one day be relegated to history.  By inverting the traditional office, partners will now occupy fish tanks in the middle of the office, surrounded by exchangeable stations in an open concept work space for support staff, junior lawyers and students.  In adopting this model, the firm evidently made a conscious decision to reinvent the law practice as a creative endeavour, rather than a technical one.  The extent to which lawyers are applied philosophers or glorified clerks, or a combination of the…

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…