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Author Archive: Lynn Hachette

Osgoode Hall Law Journal Has Its First Black Managing Editor

Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Law school journals are prestigious publications, and becoming the managing editor of one is a big deal. And for Michael Thorburn, Osgoode Hall Law Journal’s current managing editor, it’s an even bigger deal. Thorburn is the first black managing editor in the journal’s almost 60 years.

On Monday, Thorburn was formally recognized during Osgoode Hall Law School’s Black History Month ceremony. Thorburn, who is a third year law student, was given a plaque to commemorate his historical position.

What makes this even more interesting is the fact that it took the Law Journal’s executive editor, Joe McDonald, some time to realize that Thorburn was the first black managing editor. McDonald assumed that, because it’s 2017, it was unlikely that this was a first for the Law Journal. Particularly considering its been almost 30 years since Barack Obama was named the first black managing editor at the Harvard International Law Journal.

And to add yet another layer, there have been other persons of colour in leadership roles at Osgoode Hall Law Journal. However, Thorburn is the first to be officially recognized. He told Canadian Lawyer Magazine that he thinks this is because black students face more challenges at Osgoode. He also said he’s looking forward to the normalization of black students in roles like his.

Thorburn is happy to be a part of this step in the right direction in regards to diversity. However, he acknowledged that the work isn’t finished yet. Particularly considering the fact that the Law Journal doesn’t have a policy in terms of maintaining diversity when roles are filled. That said, the Law Journal does maintain that they seek out diverse candidates who can approach subjects from different vantage points.

Supporting diversity in law school is important, because lawyers who have different perspectives can better serve a more diverse set of clients. And the law community as a whole improves as law students become more diverse and they are able to find more success.

Article sources:
canadianlawyermag.com
digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca

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You Could Soon E-File Divorce Papers

divorce papers

According to Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, the province’s justice system needs to become more tech-friendly. During an event last week at the Law Society of Upper Canada, he stated that the province is seriously considering the possibility of e-filing divorce papers.

Naqvi said that a lot of services will soon be available online, and e-filing is a very important first step. It began with an interest in seeing what could be done with family law. The feedback was that people should be able to file divorce papers online.

The province of Ontario has recently introduced a lot more digitization in their systems, particularly in Small Claims Court. A lot of lawyers are happy about these changes, as this kind of progression could make their work a lot more streamlined. Anything that cuts back on paperwork and increases efficiency is seen as a step in the right direction.

However, there are two possible problems with the plan to digitize the filing of divorce papers. According to the Family Law Act, the equalization of net family property could be impeded. A person has up to six years from the date of separation, or two years following a divorce to seek that equalization.

Someone involved in a divorce might not realize that e-filing for a divorce or receiving e-filed divorce papers means that the process to move towards the equalization of net family property has begun. A lot of insurance companies also won’t extend health care benefits to a person who is no longer the spouse of a beneficiary. E-filing for divorce, or receiving e-filed divorce papers could mean you or your spouse will get automatically cut off from extended health care benefits.

Even so, it seems that the possibility of e-filing divorce papers, or any digitization of processes, is a welcome change within the legal community. It will make everything more efficient and ultimately result in cost savings for the people going through these processes.

Adopting technologically-advanced processes will help Ontario adopt the fastest, cheapest and most modern way of communicating, which is the cornerstone of any lawyer-client relationship.

Article source: canadianlawyermag.com

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An Outcry In Court After Ontario Judge Wears Pro-Trump Cap

Following president-elect Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, Ontario judge Bernd Zabel arrived at the John Sopinka courthouse in Hamilton wearing a cap in support of Trump.

Following the incident, legal observers have stated that Justice Zabel’s politically-fueled act goes against the judicial impartiality that the public should be able to rely upon. What is most troubling are Trump’s remarks regarding women and minorities.

When he entered the courtroom, in the usual garb that includes a black robe, red sash and white tie, his extra accessory stood out. Witnesses have said that he explained the addition of the hat as a way to mark the “historic occasion” that was Trump’s victory. He then took the hat off and left it sitting on the bench for everyone in the courtroom to see.

Kim Stanton, who is the legal director at the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, also took issue with Zabel’s hat. She found it problematic because of  Trump’s derogatory comments about women, his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, deporting immigrants and building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. For her, the idea that a Canadian judge would do what Zabel did could make women and minorities feel that they will not have a fair trial. Shahzad Siddiqui, a Muslim lawyer in Toronto, also feels that people in his community would feel uncomfortable, particularly women wearing the veil.

The dean at Osgoode Hall Law, Lorne Sossin, stated that he did not deem the incident worthy of misconduct, but that a warning should definitely be issued to avoid anything similar in the future. Section 1.1 of the Ontario Judicial Council’s principles of judicial office state that judges should maintain objectivity and should not show favour, bias or prejudice towards any party or interest.

William Trudell, who is the chair of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, has recommended that the incident should be dealt with internally. He called it an unusual situation and said that Zabel is a fine judge. He chalks it up to Wednesday being an unusual day in general, and went on to say that this misstep shows a human error and not a judicial error.

Article source: theglobeandmail.com

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Ryerson University To Open New Law School

Ryerson University in downtown Toronto has started the process of opening its own law school after a year and a half of internal debate. Earlier this month, following a community consultation, the university’s law school originating committee released their letter of intent.

Faculty members across all disciplines at the university are a part of the committee, and crafting that letter of intent is the first step towards developing a Juris Doctor program. To better outline what the program will look like, the university released a statement on their website that says “the proposed program focuses on innovation in legal education for the benefit of graduates, their communities, and the broader society.”

Chris Bentley, who is the executive director of the Legal Innovation Zone and Law Practice Program at Ryerson, sees a value in the proposed law school because of its differences relative to what the country already offers. He sees ways to make Ryerson’s law grads more adaptive and prepared for the changing market.

Ryerson is hoping to prepare their law students for the legal climate, and give them the tools to be creative and strategic with financial literacy, tech skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is something the university feels current Canadian law schools aren’t achieving.

The proposed new program also has a mandate to incorporate elements of the Legal Innovation Zone and Law Practice Program, which is currently under review by the Law Society of Upper Canada. It was recommended that the Law Practice Program be discontinued because it wasn’t a sustainable choice compared to articling.

Ryerson’s plan to start a law school is nothing new, and just like all of their programs, they want to offer something that is more practical and hands-on. After learning of these proposed plans, the Law Society of Upper Canada is interested, but states that it is still very early to definitively state whether or not the university will be successful.

Ryerson continues to collect community feedback, and there will be a town hall on October 27. The first town hall, which collected the opinions of students, faculty and staff, was earlier this month.

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What Should You Include In a Legal Billing Invoice?

It’s hard to find the right amount of detail when you have to put together a legal billing invoice for a client. Too much detail, and things can get confusing. Too little, and your client might not understand what they’re paying for.

Take the time to understand the point of your invoice, and consulting the right resources. This will help your invoice function as you need it to. Here are three things to do before you start:

  1. Keep track of all the tasks you’ve completed for the client in sufficient detail.
  2. Keep the client posted on everything you’re doing so that there are no surprises.
  3. Record your time and evaluate it for efficiency.

With those three things in mind, each billing entry should be descriptive, and include things like phone calls, emails, drafting and court sessions. Including the names of people you are writing to or the nature of a court visit is a good idea, too. A short description of each event topic is a good idea to include, as well. All of these things will help your client better understand what they are paying for.

Aside from those details, not too much else should be included on your legal billing invoice. Things like the substance of your communications or your opinions should be on confidential memos for your client, not on their bills.

Using abbreviations in your billing is a great way to increase efficiency, too. A lot of billing programs have these built in, but here is a list to help you know which ones are best to use:

rd           review documents

tcc          telephone call w/client

tco          telephone call w/attorney

demc      draft email to client

democ    draft email to opposing attorney

dlc          draft letter to client

rremc     review and respond to client email

mc          meeting with client

rremc     review and respond to client email

demm    draft email re mediation

You can add your own abbreviations to the list, too. Whenever you notice that you’re using the same term frequently, add it to your list. The main things to consier when you’re putting together a legal billing invoice are simplicity and making sure your system works for you.

Article source: callawyer.com

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10 Of The Weirdest Canadian Laws

Our country is a great one, but just because we’re relatively young, it doesn’t mean we’re immune to some pretty strange laws. So whether you live here or you’re just visiting, it’s important to know the random laws you might be breaking. Here are 10 reminders why you should always never be too far from a professional who knows their way around the law, or at least knows how to research it, before you do something even remotely questionable.

1. In Halifax: No wearing a t-shirt if you’re a taxi driver
According to the Nova Scotia capital’s legislation, it is illegal for taxi drivers to wear shirts without collars or sleeves, as well as shorts or “ankle-length” pants.

2. In Fredericton: No carrying around your pet snake or lizard
In New Brunswick’s capital, you can’t bring your snake or any other reptile out into the street with you or into any public place, unless its in a cage or some kind of container that will confine it.

3. In Alberta: No painting wooden ladders
Province-wide, you just straight-up aren’t allowed to paint a wooden ladder. No ifs or buts about it.

4. In Alberta: No pet rats
Province-wide, you aren’t allowed to buy, own or sell a rat without a very specific permit.

5. In Sudbury: No sirens on your bike
In this Ontario town, the only noise-making device you’re allowed to have on your bike is a bell or horn, because a siren or any other artificial noise maker is considered unusual noise.

6. In Toronto: No swearing in public parks
In any park in Ontario’s capital, it is illegal to use any kind of profane language, be boisterous, be violent or threatening, or use abusive language.

7. In Windsor: No jamming in public spaces
A bylaw in this southern Ontario town states that you’re not allowed to make a racket with an instrument in parks or offices.

8. In Ontario: No keeping your horse if you don’t pay your hotel bill
Province-wide, if you run out on your hotel bill, the establishment can seize your horse, sell it, and keep the profits.

9. In Oshawa: No climbing trees
This one seems to be about protecting the Ontario town’s trees, which means you can’t attach anything to them, including yourself.

10. In Hay River: No dog sleds on the sidewalk
This town in the Northwest Territories allows you to have your dog on a leash on the sidewalk, but doesn’t allow a pack of dogs attached to a sled to run on the sidewalk.

Which one of these laws shocked you the most? Sound off in the comments below!

Article source: buzzfeed.com

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TWU Law School Rejection Upheld by Ontario Appeal Court

Trinity Western University’s proposed law school hit another road block last week when the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed its bid to have the school accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The decision was made based on the fact that TWU’s Christian community covenant is discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. In order to be admitted into TWU, each student has to sign that covenant, which states that they  have to refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Appeal court justice James MacPherson’s wrote that part of the covenant that the court took issue with was deeply discriminatory and hurtful.

In 2014, the Law Society voted 28 to 21 in favour of rejecting TWU’s request for accreditation, and the case set religious freedom against equality rights. The Court of Appeal did conclude that the Law Society’s decision was a breach of religious freedom, but a legitimate one because they were acting in the public interest.

MacPherson also wrote that although lacking the benefit of the Law Society’s accreditation will make it harder for TWU to run their law school, it doesn’t mean they can’t still do so. TWU, however, sees the infringement on their religious rights as a serious matter, and will be taking their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Law Society of Upper Canada saw the court’s decision as another step towards promoting diversity in the field of law, and removing discriminatory barriers, which is also how OUTLaws sees it. They intervened in the case, argued in favour of rejecting the appeal, and stated that they were delighted with the most recent outcome.

The decision to reject the appeal was made unusually fast, due in part to the impending Pride celebrations in Toronto, as well as the tragedy that struck Orlando last month.

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Physician-Assisted Dying is Now Legal in Canada

Following a week of debate, Canada has made physician-assisted dying legal, marking our country one of the first to allow sick people who want to end their lives to seek the help of doctors.

The new law does limit this option to only the incurably sick, and medical approval is required, as well as a mandated waiting period of 15 days.

The bill was introduced in April by the Canadian government, and it passed the final vote in the Senate this past Friday. It includes strict criteria that all patients who are seeking a doctor’s help in dying must meet.

That criteria includes eligibility for government-funded healthcare, which is meant to apply the law only to those who are Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and limit the possibility of suicide tourism.

The patient must also be 18 or older and mentally competent with a serious incurable illness, disease or disability, and they must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline that involves enduring and intolerable suffering.

When the patient officially signs their request for physician-assisted death, there must also be two independent witnesses present.

Most of the ongoing debate has to do with the criteria that stipulates the patient’s natural death is imminent, because some lawmakers want to broaden the law to include patients with degenerative diseases who are not close to death.

The law could be seen as immoral, based on the fact that those who are suffering a great deal but aren’t near to death could face even more suffering due to expensive court cases to gain the right to die.

That potential amendment was dropped, however, based on the fact that it could expand the law to those who have a wide variety of serious illnesses, be it PTSD, a spinal cord injury, or even someone plagued by the memories of a sexual assault.

Prime Minister Trudeau was an on-g0ing supporter of the legislation, ever since the Supreme Court struck down the ban on physician-assisted dying in 2015.

News source: npr.org

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Proposed Legislation Aims To Protect Transgender People

On Tuesday, Canada introduced legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination, and Prime Minister Trudeau stated that every Canadian should be able to live without stigma. This move was made based on a Liberal election campaign promise, and it was designed to give transgender people in Canada equal status.

During a statement aptly made on Tuesday, which was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Trudeau said that all Canadian should feel safe and secure, with the ability to freely express themselves.

According to the proposed legislation, transgender people will have the right to use bathrooms that correspond to their chosen gender, and be treated according to that chosen gender, too.

The legislation is expected to pass in Parliament’s lower house, since the Liberals hold the majority, and they are expected to receive support from the other parties, too. This kind of legislation resonates across the border, where the U.S. is actively debating the use of bathrooms by transgender people.

In the past 10 years, the lower house of Parliament has passed legislation to protect the rights of transgender people twice. Each time, it was brought forward by the opposition’s lawmakers with a private members bill, and each time, the bills didn’t make it to a final vote in the upper chamber before the parliamentary session ended for the year.

Part of the reason why the bill never came to a final vote in the upper chamber is due to ammendments from Conservative Senator Don Plett, which suggested controlling which bathrooms transgender individuals could use in public places.

Hopefully, this new legislation and announcement will be a step in the right direction and ensure that transgender people can live without stigma.

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Filing Small Claims in Ontario Can Now Be Done Online

Screen shot 2016-05-09 at 11.05.49 PM

Until last week, if you were suing someone in Ontario for less than $25,000, you would have to put together all the paperwork and documentation and then go to small claims court to file it. But last week, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General finally modernized the system and announced that all small claims can be filed online.

A pilot project within the Attorney General’s office was started in 2014 to test the efficacy of online filing for small claims court, and more than 20,000 people made use of the system, with 15 per cent filing outside of the court’s usual hours.

The whole process is, of course, secure thanks to requiring users to create a One-key ID and password, which is an electronic verification that gives the user the ability to communicate securely with the government.

This big and welcome change was made to make the process of filing court documents easier and faster for Ontarians, and the hope is that this service will go beyond just small claims court and be available in all court systems.

Another benefit is that if you have a paralegal or a lawyer representing you, the process will be a lot quicker because they’ll no longer need to use a process server.

And if you’re not particularly savvy when it comes to tech, the online system comes with a filing wizard that makes the process super easy to understand by breaking it down into steps. In spite of this newly streamlined system, it is valuable to keep the fact that small claims are difficult to draft in mind. You’ll likely still need help with that, and that’s why it’s great to have a lawyer or paralegal continuing to advise you.

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