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Author Archive: Mark Hanson

Trump’s Appointment Of Kushner Violates Anti-Nepotism Law

The announcement that Donald Trump was appointing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to the position of senior advisor on Monday left us all with a few questions. Firstly, who the hell is this guy? Secondly, is he going to step down from his position as executive of the Kushner Companies real estate empire? Or are conflicts of interest just the name of the game in this administration? Finally, is this move even legal?

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson passed the anti-nepotism statute. It stated that no federal official could hire someone in their family to work under them. This stands in stark contrast to the capitalist world that Trump hails from, where nepotism has always been de rigeur. So naturally, he’s trying to get around this pesky rule. Since Kushner is apparently so talented that he could, according to Trump, “do peace in the Middle East”, he’s clearly essential to the new administration.

To combat this, Trump is trotting out a court opinion from 1993 and a separate provision of federal law from 1978 stating that the president could appoint White House staff “without any regard to any other provision of law”. He’s claiming that this means that the anti-nepotism law was never meant to apply to the White House but only for other elected government officials.

Henceforth, many legal experts are skeptical of this claim. Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of them. “Congress didn’t in this law carve out an exception for the White House,” she said. “It’s quite broad in scope. It applies to the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the D.C. government.”

Kushner has been meeting with lawyers about the issue and plans to forgo a salary if needed to keep the position. Granted, he doesn’t need a salary as he already makes tons of money from his global real estate empire. Although this brings up the whole ethics issue.

What do you think of this move? Sound off in the comments below!

Source: Salon

Image source: Salon

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Yorkdale’s Fashion Santa Takes Legal Action After Being Replaced

Fashion Santa

In the classic Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street, a department store Santa Claus has to go to court to prove that he is in fact the real Jolly Old Saint Nick. Now, in a real life contemporary twist on this story, Yorkdale Mall’s original Fashion Santa, model Paul Mason, is going to court to prove that he is the one and only, after being replaced ahead of this year’s holiday season.

You may remember Fashion Santa after he exploded on social media throughout the last two years. Starting in December 2014, Yorkdale, located in North Toronto, introduced a new hip Santa Claus for the season’s ad campaigns and to appear around the mall. With a thin figure and sporting a nicely groomed white beard and a stylish wardrobe, shoppers took photos with him en masse, proliferating his image throughout the web.

This year, Yorkdale is keeping the Fashion Santa brand but now has a new model, Adam Martin, to play the part. Needless to say, Mason is none too happy about this. He claims that Fashion Santa was his idea and that it’s technically his brand, meaning Yorkdale can’t use it without him. While he was approached by Yorkdale to reprise the role this year, Mason alleges that the mall wanted to put “conditions” on his employment so he turned them down. Now that they’ve gone ahead anyway with Martin, Mason aims to take them to court.

According to records from Industry Canada’s intellectual property office, Mason actually does hold a copyright for Fashion Santa. But the term has not been officially trademarked yet, and Yorkdale’s application to do so was submitted before Mason’s.

Legal experts, including University of Toronto professor Richard Powers who consulted on the Yorkdale campaign, believes that the mall will come out on top despite Mason’s copyright.

“If he’s copyrighting the name, I’m surprised you can obtain a copyright for that because the terms are generic,” Powers said. “Nobody owns the rights to Santa.”

Meanwhile, John Simpson, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property (unconnected to this case), said, “A character is more than a name. And if it’s just a name then it (should be) a trademark.”

For Yorkdale’s part, they claim that they had already been planning on launching a similar idea to use a bearded older model when Mason approached them with Fashion Santa. So the final result was a merging of the two ideas.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned legal battle to mark the holidays.

Source: Toronto Star

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Canadian Police Push For Greater Personal Internet Access

Ever since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s controversial surveillance tactics, the topic of privacy rights on the Internet has been a hot button issue. While much of the conversation has been focused on the policies of the US, it is something that affects the whole world and now Canada is dealing with it firsthand.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling for the legal ability to unlock digital evidence, as there is no Canadian law stating that a person needs to provide a password for their device to the police during an investigation. This partly stems from the case last year down south of the border where the FBI went to court to get the right to crack a suspect’s phone password who was involved in the San Bernardino mass shooting.

It’s no surprise that a wealth of a criminal activity takes place online and is heavily protected by encryption and other tactics. The police also want to be able to obtain basic information about suspects through their telecommunications companies. Right now, police need to have court approval to get access to this information, which takes time and usually ends up in the relevant incriminating evidence being deleted. “The victims in the digital space are real,” stated Joe Oliver, the RCMP Assistant Commissioner. “Canada’s law and policing capabilities must keep pace with the evolution of technology.”

While the reasons for police intruding into people’s personal online environments obviously come from a place of public protection, there is certainly a big push-back from citizens as well. David Christopher is a spokesperson for a group called OpenMedia, which advocates for keeping the Internet free of surveillance. “On the face of it, this seems like it’s clearly unconstitutional,” he said.

The federal government is now beginning a consultation on cybersecurity that runs until October 15, 2016 at which point a resolution will most certainly be addressed. This topic will undoubtedly continue to get thornier in the coming months.

Source: CBC

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Creep Catcher Attracts Legal Controversy For Going After Online Child Predators

We all remember “To Catch a Predator”, the Dateline NBC program where host Chris Hansen would confront pedophiles after they were lured to a house to potentially have sex with an underage teen that they had assumed they were chatting with online. As Hansen smugly faced down hundreds of child predators over the course of several investigations, the legality of the show became increasingly hazier as what the producers were doing was considered entrapment by critics. And yet so many of us were hooked – the thrill of catching predators too enticing to pass up. Now, a similar movement in Canada is gaining steam, as well as courting the same kind of legal quandaries.

Creep Catcher is a growing network of civilians that aim to expose child predators in much the same way as Dateline NBC did all those years ago. All throughout the country, the 15 different chapters of the organization pose as underage kids online and bait predators into meeting them at a certain location. Once there, they ambush the suspect with a camera and put the resulting video up on YouTube so that the public shaming can begin. Some of the targets end up running away immediately, but often, just as on “To Catch a Predator”, they stay to try and explain themselves or to apologize. And just like the previous show, Creep Catcher has grown quite an enthusiastic following.

Police are not as happy about this, of course, denouncing the movement as vigilantism that could get its members in a dangerous spot if an altercation breaks out, as has happened on a few occasions. Also, the groups could leave themselves open to civil suits if there is not enough clear evidence to back up their allegations. Additionally, creating fake profiles online, no matter the purpose, comes a little too close to fraud activities and there’s always the chance of harassment charges if members push too hard during a confrontation and the predator isn’t willing to play along. Lastly, police are concerned with these actions interfering with their own investigations into child predators.

None of these concerns will stop Creep Catcher, however, and many of the leaders say that the police actually encourage them behind closed doors. There will also apparently be more of an effort going forward to help the predator, instead of just yelling and screaming in their faces for the sake of online hits. Because while we all love to watch somebody get reamed out for wrongdoings, it would probably take away a bit of the ickiness factor that lingers afterwards.

Source: National Post

Image source: Vice

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Judge In Stanford Swimmer Rape Case Faces Criticism

By this point, everybody is aware of the vile saga of University of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. On January 18, 2015, the 20-year old one-time Olympic hopeful was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman after a frat party. But after being arrested and then convicted in court of assault with intent to commit rape, in addition to two more charges of digitally penetrating an unconscious and intoxicated victim, he was recently only sentenced to six months in county jail, far more lenient than the standard punishments for these types of crimes.

Now, the Santa Clara County judge who handed down that sentence, Aaron Persky, is drawing a ton of criticism for his decision. While Persky stated that his conclusion was reached by looking at Turner’s level of intoxication, letters of support, remorsefulness, clean criminal record, and the insane notion of how the conviction would affect his future, Danielle De Smeth, a criminal attorney based in California saw things differently. “The judge’s decision does not seem to be driven by the facts of the case,” she said, “but instead carried by a deep-rooted misogyny which we are only beginning to address.” De Smeth certainly isn’t the only legal expert heaping scorn on Persky these days. Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber is even launching a campaign to get Persky removed from the bench for his decision in the Stanford swimmer case.

In the end, nothing will probably happen to Persky. His big sticking point was that Turner had no prior record and had many supporters, so he could legally deviate from the minimum two-year sentence because of these circumstances. Unfortunately, this sentencing sends a pretty dangerous message.

“The light sentencing in the Brock Turner case is problematic for several reasons,” stated De Smeth, “but at least in part because it emboldens those of privilege or an athletic background.”

This decision by Persky is troubling to say the least and appropriately so, will not be the last we hear of this case. Issuing such a light sentence for such a disturbing and vile act sends a terrible message and precedent to future offends and to society as a whole that these types of crimes are not taken seriously. This is completely wrong. The justice system failed and specifically, judge Persky failed in his ability to take a harsh stand on a serious issue in today’s society.

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Ban On Legal Highs Finally Comes Into Effect In The UK

Things change pretty quickly and if you’re in the legal profession, it’s important to stay up to date with any changes to the law, no matter where in the world it happens. Take for example this recent story out of Great Britain.

‘Legal highs’ have been a substantial problem in the UK for the last several years. These substances, which mimic the effects of drugs, but are able to be sold legally in convenience stores because they alter the chemical properties slightly, have been a hot seller, especially for underage kids and university students looking to party. They’ve become so rampant that a series of videos taken from city surveillance cameras showing people under the influence of legal highs became a recent viral hit. But now the British government may finally have the upper hand as a new law that will place a blanket ban on all of these substances will apparently come into effect within England and Wales in the next few weeks.

It will be officially known as the Psychoactive Substances Act and will ban “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect”. This covers the production, supply and movement of legal highs and the punishments are pretty severe. Anybody found dealing faces up to seven years in prison and even if you’re just caught possessing, you could face up to two years in prison. Accordingly, police are going to have much more power to be able to search, seize and destroy any legal highs.

Not everyone thinks this new law is such a great idea. Critics say that the ban will be unenforceable and that the government should be focusing instead on education. And while it’s estimated that legal highs were linked to the deaths of at least 140 people in 2014, it was also found that in 60% of those instances, the user had also ingested other substances.

Alternatively, the ban may just push users back to illegal drugs. But since, believe it or not, legal highs have often been shown to be more harmful than conventional illegal drugs, this may actually be a small step in the right direction.

As a legal professional in Canada, no matter how this eventually plays out, you’ll want to stay on top of it for any implications it may have on your clients, both locally and internationally. That’s why lawyers all over the globe need to use a proper legal research tool in order to stay on top of the latest laws and rulings. Online legal research tools enable you to access an entire law library’s worth of legal and court information, so you can be as knowledge as possible about any given case. You never know when information like this will come in handy.

 

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Pastafarianism Slowly Becoming A Newly Recognized Religion

Pastafarian Religion

Ever since Scientology bullied their way into an official status as a religion and, more importantly, the privilege to not have to pay taxes, the question about what constitutes a “religion” has been in constant debate. I mean, if a psychotic science fiction author can have his belief system in aliens legitimized by the legal system, then what should prevent anybody else from doing the same?

One such new “religion”, known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is making a few successful inroads into legal acknowledgement. Yes, you read that right – the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is starting to become an actual religion. The movement, also known as “Pastafarianism”, began in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as a response to the push in America to teach intelligent design in public school science classes. Henderson posited that if some sort of intelligent force created everything, then why couldn’t it be a flying spaghetti monster?

After garnering a huge cult following online, Pastafarianism is now officially recognized as a religion in New Zealand, Poland and the Netherlands. Some of its rituals and followings include a holiday every Friday and an adherence to pirate wardrobe and speech for its religious ceremonies. They also advocate for members to be able to wear a colander on their head for identification photos.

Just this past weekend saw the very first official Pastafarian wedding that took place in New Zealand, where authorities decided that the religion could now officiate weddings. On the other hand, last week saw a U.S. federal district court reject a Nebraska State Penitentiary prisoner’s claim to receive religious accommodations based on his Pastafarian beliefs. In America, I guess if you do not have big money like Scientology, then the legal system does not look too favourably upon you.

In any case, the idea that a number of government bodies do legally acknowledge “His Noodly Appendage” is enough to inspire hope in the world for even the most ridiculous causes.

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Legal Battle Between Federal Government And Mothers Denied Sick Benefits Continues

Now that the Liberal Party has taken office in our country, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about the future of Canada. But there are still some remnants from the dark ages of Stephen Harper left hanging that need to be dealt with right away. Case in point – the fact that there is still an ongoing legal battle between the federal government and a group of mothers who were denied their sickness benefits while on maternity leave.

Jennifer McCrea (shown above) is a mother from Calgary who was diagnosed with breast cancer while on maternity leave with her eight-month-old son. She underwent a double mastectomy but then found out that she wasn’t going to get the benefits she was legally entitled to. After realizing that scores of other people had been denied these same benefits (a whopping 3,177 according to the claim), McCrea filed a class-action lawsuit against the government.

Now instead of just admitting wrong and paying out the benefits, the federal government decided to fight it, resulting in a legal battle that has gone on for four years now and seems to have no end in sight. When Trudeau came into office last year, it seemed to be a boon for McCrea and the others, especially since the Liberals stated that they would “immediately end” the legal shenanigans once they came into power. Yet five months in and it is still ongoing.

The saddest thing about all of this is that new figures were just released that showed the government has so far spent over $2.2 million in legal fees on this case, money that could have easily gone to all of the people who were denied it in the first place.

“I would tell you what the good reason is to pursue this kind of fight vigorously,” said Stephen Moreau, McCrea’s lawyer, “but I actually can’t for the life of me understand it.”

Me neither.

Source: CTV

Image source: Toronto Star

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Texture helps you stay up to date on your favourite magazines

Just because everything has moved online these days doesn’t mean that people don’t like reading magazines anymore. The issue is (pun intended) that readers don’t want to have to carry around all of their favourite print magazines when you can get so much reading material on your tablet or smartphone. That’s why Texture is taking the country by storm right now – you can get your favourite magazines directly on your mobile device. And it’s not a web version of the magazine either. It’s exactly how you would see any magazine, just on a digital screen.

These aren’t just some rinky-dink no-name magazines, either. Texture offers the best of the best no matter what kind of topic you like to read. If you’re a lawyer or law enthusiast, for example, chances are you want to stay current with what’s happening in world culture and politics and Texture features all the top North American magazines that cover this terrain. For a Canadian perspective on the world, you can’t miss out on Maclean’s, arguably the most respected periodical in the country. Otherwise, you can choose between TIME magazine or National Review or the New Yorker or Mother Jones or so many more. You’re never really going to be out of options, which is why this is such an amazing opportunity.

With the Internet becoming the new frontier of journalism, you may wonder how much you’ll actually end up using Texture. Well, you can see for yourself. There’s a free 30-day trial period so you can test out all it has to offer. Plus, for a very reasonable monthly fee, you get unlimited access to all of Texture’s titles making it a very affordable and somewhat discount magazine. If you had gotten away from your favourite magazines in recent years, this could very easily convert you back.

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Globe And Mail Polls The Canadian Population On Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana legalization has obviously been a hot topic throughout Canada and we here at Legalite have remained diligent in covering it, particularly in recent weeks. The issue was a cornerstone of Justin Trudeau’s campaign for Prime Minister and basically secured him the youth vote, so he kind of has to follow through if he wants to have any credibility. To his credit, the wheels seem to be very much in motion at the moment and, while it still may take a while to iron out all the details, weed should be a-ok legally within the next few years.

So what does the general population think about all this right now? A new poll from the Globe and Mail and Nanos Research aimed to find out, with the results being fairly typical of how liberal Canadians have become in response to the Harper era. Here were some of the findings:

  • 68% of the population support or somewhat support marijuana legalization.
  • 30% of the population oppose or somewhat oppose marijuana legalization.
  • British Columbia had the highest degree of support with 75% while the Prairies had the lowest with 55%.
  • 51% are concerned that legalization will lead to increased drug use by people under 21; 45% do not think this.
  • 57% don’t believe that marijuana is a gateway drug, while 40% think it is.
  • 44% want marijuana to be sold at dedicated dispensaries for the drug, while pharmacies were at 43% and liquor stores were at 36% (more than one answer were allowed for this)
  • 49% want legalized marijuana to be homegrown while 48% do not.

So while there was always going to be some naysayers, it’s pretty apparent that a majority of the population is now in favour of legalization. Although it’s bizarre how many people think that it will lead to increased drug use among minors, as if the way things are now is stopping kids from getting high. And if I were a parent, I would be more concerned about my kid getting drunk while underage anyway.

Source: Globe and Mail

Image source: CBC

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