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Edmonton Inmates Sue Attorney General Over Solitary Confinement

A former Edmonton inmate, Matthew Hamm, successfully sued against his six-week solitary confinement. Since the court ruled in favour of Hamm on August 8, Hamm has been outspoken on his treatment while in prison, reports the CBC. He and two other inmates are also suing the Attorney General of Canada for $5.6 million over their treatment in solitary.

Hamm was completing his five-and a-half-year sentence when he was placed in solitary confinement on June 28. Also known as “the hole”, solitary is an indefinite placement that doesn’t require an initial hearing to justify its use. Hamm and five other inmates were initially told they’d be moved to their own unit, but were placed in solitary. Court documents state that the group was moved because they planned to harm correction officers. Hamm contested the claim and filed a habeas corpus.

A habeus corpus is a way to report unlawful detention or imprisonment. Hamm claims that the correction officers retaliated against him. However, he was able to use his time in solitary to work on his habeus corpus.

By the time Hamm won and was released back into the general prison population, he had served 43 days in solitary. Under the Correction and Conditional Release Act, inmates are only permitted to spend 30 days in solitary.

The Current Lawsuit

The men claim that solitary was “cruel and unusual punishment”. The state of solitary was “grossly disproportionate and failed to comply with principles of fundamental justice”. Correctional Service Canada states that inmates in solitary receive daily health care visits, inspections, visits by the warden, and access to visitors and support. Hamm said that this was not his experience at all. As per the CBC, Hamm states that the lawsuit “is his way of speaking up for those in similar situations who may not be able to do so for themselves”.

Read more about this case on the CBC news website.

Story source: CBC

Featured image source: Right on Crime

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Dakota Access Pipeline Construction To Be Halted

The thousands of protestors gathered at Standing Rock recently gained cause to celebrate. After months of activism and peaceful protests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

At this point, construction of the four-state, 1,885 km pipeline is mostly complete. Engineers planned on building the remainder of the pipeline underneath Lake Oahe, which is a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Over the past several months, the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction attracted much controversy. Many travelled to Standing Rock to protest the pipeline’s construction, amidst media reports of increasing tensions between protestors and police.

Critics considered the construction of the pipeline to threaten drinking water and infringe on sacred Native lands. Located north of Cannonball River, Oceti Sakowin Camp represents the largest sacred site that protestors argued would be harmed by the pipeline.

The Assistant Secretary for Civil Works said that the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline ultimately halted its construction. Many consider this a hugely optimistic sign that persistent peaceful protests can be effective. Moreover, critics of the pipeline applaud the decision for respecting Indigenous land.

But for many protestors, the fight remains ongoing. While this decision certainly marks a victory for protestors, the fate of the pipeline ultimately remains to be seen. Many protestors — who consider themselves to be water protectors — remain nervous about Trump’s plan when he takes office. During the presidential election campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump voiced his support for the pipeline. It remains unclear whether he can — or will — choose to resume construction during his presidency.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer announced that the pipeline’s construction would be stopped, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe released a statement of their own, thanking protestors and applauding Obama’s administration. Of course, the decision to halt construction has not been met with universal acclaim. Unsurprisingly, Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the construction of the pipeline — as well as North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer and Paul Ryan have all slammed the decision.

For more on this story, visit the CBC. Featured image source: The Huffington Post.


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New Anti-Smoking Legislation Rolled Out In Quebec

Many Canadians probably think that by 2016, the country has already seen the last of its anti-smoking legislation. Indeed, we’re long past the time where it was actually legal for people to smoke indoors inside public places, or even light up a cigarette while travelling on a train or airplane. Most media and movies no longer portray smoking as a romantic, cool pastime — for the most part, the government’s advertising has effectively re-framed it as a health hazard and public nuisance. That’s why it might be surprising to hear that one province is still working to pass laws aimed to stop people from smoking. In Quebec, an anti-smoking law recently came into effect last week, which requires smokers to stand a total of nine metres away from the opening of any establishment.

The “opening” refers to not only doors, but any other window or air intake — for both public buildings and private residences.

You might not see this to be a huge deal, but it will undoubtedly effect how crowds gather outside public places to take a “smoke break.” You often see small clusters of people smoking outside bars and restaurants, or outside a venue during an event. But smoke breaks aren’t limited to just the nighttime — walk anywhere downtown or clustered with office buildings, and you’re sure to come across people taking smoke breaks during their workday as well.

This new law will make it much more inconvenient for people to run outside for a quick cigarette. In fact, since most areas of the city are quite built-up, it severely limits where people can legally smoke outside at all.

The Tobacco Control Act was initially passed in November of last year to stop people from smoking in Quebec. In passing the law, the government’s goal was twofold: to stop young people in the province from deciding to start smoking, and to shield non-smokers for second-second smoke. Since the updated law makes it much more difficult to smoke outside, the hope is that smokers could be encouraged to quit — even if out of sheer frustration.

Since the initial Act was passed, Quebec has seen different restrictions in how cigarettes can be sold and marketed in the province, but nothing that stipulated where smokers could and couldn’t smoke.

But now, if a restaurant or bar doesn’t adhere to the newest regulations, they could see some hefty fines. If a business repeatedly has customers smoking on its terraces or patios, it could be fined $100,000.

Only time will tell how restaurant and bar owners respond to this law, and whether or not these restrictions will ultimately create any real decrease in smoking in the province.

For more on this story, visit CBC. Featured image source: Global News

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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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Protect Your Firm Against Personal Legal Action With LexisNexis

According to a global report issued by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), new risks put corporate leaders at higher risk of experiencing investigations, fines, or persecution over alleged wrongdoings. D&O Insurance Insights: Management Liability Today found that there’s a “growing trend toward seeking punitive and personal legal action against executives for failure to follow regulations and standard, which could result in costly investigations, criminal prosecutions or civil litigation.”

AGCS stated that these new risks include cyber incidents, data privacy, rising regulator and shareholder activism, and the influence of third-party litigation funders. One of the main findings from the report was that the top cause of Directors and Officers’ (D&O) loss is non-compliance with laws and regulations. The average claim for breach of trust and care came to more than US$1 million, globally. However, D&O claims can be valued much higher, as in the hundred of millions of dollars higher, when the time it takes to resolve claims is taken into account.

For Canada, the report states that “regulatory aggression continues to feature heavily in the landscape for directors. The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) is becoming more demanding in its investigations, as is the Alberta Securities Commission.”

With these new risks, it’s imperative that businesses have the resources they need to ensure they’re complying with the law. LexisNexis can help. With the Lexis Advance Quick Law program, LexisNexis can provide organizations with legal information and insight from commentary to legislation, case law, and tribunal decisions.

For legal firms in particular, LexisNexis also has legal management software call LexisNexis PCLaw that can help law firms get a full view of their practice. This program gives legal firms control over trust accounting, client management, case and matter management, and also provides resources to track billable hours, capture expenses, and manage billing and accounting. With PCLaw, you can keep your trust accounts compliant, gain insight into your law firm’s finances, and reduce the time you spend on accounting.

Visit the LexisNexis website to learn more about their programs. To learn more about the AGCS report findings, click here.

Story source: Canadian Underwriter, LexisNexis

Featured image source: University of Utah

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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.

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Trinity Western University Wins Legal Fight To Open Law School

Trinity Western University, an evangelical Christian university based in British Columbia, won a legal victory that puts them one step closer to opening a law school.

The Appeal Court of B.C. released a unanimous decision in favour of the university on Tuesday, November 1. The court stated that the British Columbia law society’s efforts to deny accreditation to Trinity Western law graduates is “unreasonable”. All 5 judges on the appeal panel stated that the negative impact on the university’s religious freedoms would be severe and outweigh the “minimal effect” accreditation would have on LGBTQ rights.

The legal dispute started over Trinity Western University’s code of conduct that bans students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage. The Law Society argued that this rule discriminates against gays and lesbians who want to enter the legal profession. However, the Appeal Court found that denying approval to the university would not enhance access to law school for members of the LGBTQ community and that creating 60 new law school seats would divert some law school hopefuls from other programs, therefore increasing the number of seats available to LGBTQ applicants overall.

The judgment officially states that “a society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society – one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal.” It also stated that the case overall “demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”

B.C. Law Society spokeswoman Vinnie Yueng said in a written statement that Appeal Court decision “added another dimension to an already complex issue”. She also said that the society would review the ruling before considering next steps.

This isn’t the first time that Trinity Western University has faced push back on its “push for recognition” in the legal community. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal denied the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s efforts to prevent the law school’s graduates from receiving accreditation. However, Ontario’s Appeal court upheld the ruling against Trinity Western, denying recognition to the university’s future law graduates.

Read more about this case on the CTV News website.

Story and featured image source: CTV News

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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.

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Judge Orders Child Not To Wear Girls’ Clothes In Public

A recent ruling in Alberta is raising questions about whether a judge should be able to exert control over a child’s clothing.

Last December, a judge in Medicine Hat, Alberta, ruled that a four-year old child is only permitted wear “masculine” clothing in public. The ruling, which was passed down family court, came amidst a custody battle between the child’s parents and goes against the wishes of the child’s primary caregiver.

The child, who was born biologically male, is now five years old — and began claiming years ago that they were female. The child began introducing themselves as a girl, and would routinely respond with anger when called a boy by their mother. Things escalated even further when the child threatened to cut off their own genitals.

That was the final straw for the child’s mother, who then decided that she would enlist the help of professionals and take her child’s claims more seriously. She began to refer to her child as a girl, which elicited much appreciation.

After the mother told the father — from whom she is separated — about these developments, he filed for primary custody of their child. He also credited the mother as the source of their child’s gender “confusion.”

Last winter, the child’s parents took up their custody dispute in Medicine Hat family court. It was there that Judge Derek Redman ruled that the mother could remain the primary caregiver, but the child was not allowed to wear blatantly feminine clothes while in public.

A few months later, the case was taken up by another judge. Judge Fred Fisher reaffirmed the clothing stipulation, but this time, gave primary custody to the child’s father.

Last month, a third judge — Judge Gordon Krinke — solicited the input of a parenting expert. He accordingly modified the clothing restriction and stipulated that the mother and father must provide their child with clothing for both genders. The child can then pick what clothing they feel is best.

Transgender activists have spoken out against these rulings, noting that the courts cannot decide what clothing a child wears — doing so contradicts the province’s Bill of Rights. In addition, boys who aren’t transgender are still legally permitted to wear dresses, which makes this ruling unfair.

For more on this story, visit the CBC.

Featured image source: Manitoba Courts

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