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…

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Getting to know your inner ejusdem generis

With increasing frequency, one reads arguments by lawyers arguing their clients have a “strong” case or defence based on an interpretation of a contractual or statutory provision is so wrong, it is enough to make one weep.  Beyond the common complaint about the literacy of lawyers in their everyday correspondence or speech, the inexcusable lack of legal…

Pleading the Blues in Franglais, before Ontario Courts

It took a week, but the court finally accepted their own prescribed form. Last week, I launched a motion on behalf of a francophone client. The bilingual registrar at the court house refused to accept the Notice of Motion because it did not employ a literal translation of the English text of the rule and court form. When my court clerk relayed my advice that the Notice employed the French version of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the corresponding court form, the registrar still rejected it. Only after arming the clerk with the form from the Attorney General’s own website,…

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…

What if … counsel had adduced better evidence? Deguise v. Montminy showed us the ‘What if’

Last July, in Deguise v. Montminy, 2014 QCCS 2672 the Québec Superior Court had occasion to revisit these issues from in Alie v. Bertrand & Frere Construction Co. Ltd., 2002 CanLII 31835, applying the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in that 2002 case to civil law concepts relating to allocation of responsibility among insurers in complex construction and property damage cases.  Many of the rulings in the decision were specific to Québec civil law. In one aspect, however, the case provided an opportunity to test the writer’s hypothesis that the Alie court called on parties and counsel to present expert…

ABCD’s of Litigation Prevention

No one, apart from litigation lawyers and patent trolls, likes litigation.  Or derives much happiness from it.  Then why do we offer ourselves to the public as litigation lawyers?  It is escape from litigation that our clients want, and these days we offer the escape only after costly proceedings and discovery.  What, then, if we started…

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.…

Judges judging judges: The Douglas Inquiry exposed its flawed process

My recent post on the conclusion of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) Inquiry into the Douglas Inquiry urged for a better and clearer articulation of the reasons for removal of federally-appointed judges from office.   After realizing late that a procedure in the hands of her judicial colleagues was in fact a runaway train, the former Associate Chief Justice of…

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 the nude photographs of her.  Douglas did obtain a temporary stay of the ruling from the Federal Court, but this step effectively bought her time to bring a halt to the proceedings. Despite the stay and the settlement of the complaint, the CJC’s ruling has damaged…

Let’s be honest about the SCC’s new ‘fair opportunity’ doctrine in contract law

On November 13, the Supreme Court in Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71 (CanLII) changed the law of contract in Canada by imposing duties of good faith and honesty on all contractual relations.  Until now, the duties have been applied to agreements in situations of power imbalance, notably insurance, employment and franchises. The plaintiff, Mr. Bhasin, was a dealer in education savings plans, a type of consumer investment, offered by the corporate defendant. At the end of the three-year contract, the corporate defendant decided to invoke a notice provision blocking the automatic renewal of the contract.  The reason for its…