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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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PhD Graduate Uses “Pseudolegal” Tactics To Avoid Paying Debt

Knowledge of the legal system is a powerful tool, and a dangerous one in the hands of the wrong person. Equipped with the right vocabulary of legal language (otherwise known as “legalese”) and certain tricks, a person can make the legal system jump through hoops for years on end.

Take Angela Greter, for example, a one-time PhD in Animal Science student at Guelph University. Solely through the use of cunning set of legal phrases, Greter was able to evade paying her student debts (which totalled $64,000) after graduation for three full years.

How did Greter accomplish such a task without a law degree? Well, the internet and the use of pseudolegal tactics.

After the province of Alberta reached out to Greter regarding the money she loaned for her education, Greter took to online resources that had templates and prepared questions when facing creditors.

Apparently, Greter only wanted to find out if Alberta had sold the securities to her debt, which would have meant the province would have gotten paid, notes the National Post. So, not wanting to pay someone twice, Greter used her newly acquired set of legal lingo to find out about the status of her loan.

Except the websites Greter visited showed the types of questions and phrasing a con artist would use. Asking whether the province had evidence that they were the “current holder of the original debt” and a “True Bill inked in blue with ‘Bill’ and ‘Value’ marked upon the face,” Greter basically asked unanswerable questions that stalled her repayment, a tactic known as using pseudolegal tactics.

Later on, Greter said she would charge Alberta for all time wasted in correspondence, then going as far as to ask if the province had any tangible evidence of a loan agreement held with the “flesh and blood name of Angela Marissa Greter (NOT the legal name).”

This back and forth lasted from December 2013 to April 2015. By that point, the province of Alberta sued Greter for repayment (interest included) and by May 2015, it was found that Greter was essentially trying to get out of paying her student loan.

To be precise, Greter’s methods and demands (specifically the one asking Alberta to provide a distinction from her physical and legal self) were deemed “absurd,” and were ultimately just “pseudolegal” techniques created to “frustrate the administration of justice.”

At the end of it all, Greter still pleaded ignorant, stating it was never her intent to evade her repayment, she just wanted to know if the government truly needed to be paid or not. After speaking with a government lawyer only several weeks ago, Greter saw that Alberta’s request for her to pay them back was entirely justified and a repayment plan was established.

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Not Criminally Responsible Verdict Reached for Matthew de Grood

It’s not often that a judge finds a defendant not criminally responsible. It’s tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was mentally incapacitated at the time of the crime, and a particularly difficult verdict to deliver in the face of grieving families who are looking to see justice done. But that’s just what happened in the case of Matthew de Grood, the 24-year-old from Calgary who stabbed five people to death at a house party in 2014.

Two years ago, young Calgarians celebrated the end of the semester at what was supposed to be a typical university party, only to watch the unthinkable unfold. Upon his arrival, de Grood grabbed a knife from the kitchen and killed young party attendees Kaitlin Perras, 23; Lawrence Hong, 27; Josh Hunter, 23; Zackariah Rathwell, 21; and Jordan Seguara, 22 in what appeared to be a random stabbing rampage.

While de Grood confessed that he killed these five people at the party, Justice Eric Macklin of Court of Queen’s Bench said he believed de Grood was suffering from a mental disorder at the time — making him not criminally responsible for their deaths. Macklin said he accepted the testimony from psychiatric experts, who found that de Grood did not appreciate that what he did was morally wrong.

In his closing arguments, de Grood’s defence lawyers said that Matthew believed he was protecting himself from vampires and werewolves. Before he stabbed the victims, de Grood reported that he heard voices instructing him to kill.

Throughout the trial, testimony painted a picture of de Grood becoming more and more withdrawn before the killings. During this time, he was also increasingly posting on Facebook about a number of bizarre, disturbing topics, including religion, vampires, Darth Vader and the apocalypse.

So what’s next? With this ruling, de Grood will now go to a secure psychiatric facility — much to the disappointment of the victim’s families.

Outside the courthouse, Miles Hong spoke on behalf of families, saying that they’ll continue to be broken as they wonder what consequences will befall the man that ended their loved ones’ lives.

This tragic case reflects a reoccurring moral issue in the Canadian legal system: how to handle crimes committed by the mentally ill, while delivering justice to victim’s families.

For more on this story, visit The Globe and Mail.

Featured image source: Canadian Press

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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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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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Canadians Are Legally Required To Fill Out Long-Form 2016 Censuses

Whether it’s online, by phone, or on paper, being part of or taking a census isn’t really regarded as an enjoyable activity by most Canadians. If anything, censuses are generally seen as something of a nuisance to Canadians, given how long one can take to fill out.

But regardless of your personal feelings towards censuses, ready yourself should Statistics Canada send you access codes to be a part of their latest survey. For failing to oblige is actually a convictable crime.

Beginning May 2nd, 2016, the Statistics Canada 2016 survey will be sent to 1-in-4 Canadian households. Those chosen will receive access codes to then take the long-form census (which numbers to 36 pages) or have the option of filling out a hard copy version.

As mentioned, if any chosen household fails to complete the mandatory form, one could receive a $500 fine or be forcibly imprisoned for three months. Both summary convictions are also a possibility.

Statistics Canada reserves this power thanks to Section 31 of the Statistics Act which states that anyone who “refuses or neglects to answer, or willfully answers falsely” to the census questions or “knowingly gives false or misleading information or practices any other deception there under” can be charged with a summary offence.

Created in 1918, the Statistics Act provides Statistics Canada (originally the Dominion Bureau of Statistics) the power to “”collect, compile, analyze, abstract, and publish information on the economic, social and general conditions of the country and its citizens.”

While this does seem like an unfair amount of power given to an information-collection governmental agency, the Statistics Act also ensures that the identity of anyone partaking in a Statistics Canada census will be kept confidential.

The latest census to be sent out by Statistics Canada is longer than those of previous years, marking a return to the long-form, which was part of the Liberal Party’s platform during the election.

May 10th is currently marked as “Census Day” in Canada, the date in which the 2016 census should be completed. Of course, if you want to ensure you don’t receive any fines or the like, you can complete the census early and dodge any proverbial bullets.

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Love It Or List It Sued for Shoddy Work

A couple in North Carolina is suing the popular real estate and home renovation show Love It Or List It that airs on both HGTV and the W Network in Canada.

The plaintiffs, Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan, are suing for a number of reasons: shoddy work, breach of contract, unfair trade practices in violation of North Carolina’s general contractor laws, and a “bizarre business model that creates an inherent conflict of interest”.

If you haven’t seen the show, couples sign on to have their homes renovated to fix problem areas. They are also shown a number of homes on the market based on what they want in a dream home, so they can decide whether to love or list their existing home at the end of the program.

Murphy and Sullivan contacted the show after seeing an ad for it. They wanted to renovate and move into a rental property, but ended up filing a lawsuit against the production company (Big Coat TV) and the North Carolina contractor they used (Aaron Fitz Construction) after seeing the completed renovation.

They allege that the TV program did not use a licensed architect to develop renovation plans, that they were never shown houses on the market by a licensed North Carolina real estate agent that had the ability to broker the sale, and were left with “disastrous work done by Big Coat and its subcontractors”. They also state that the home was “irreparably damaged” because of holes left in the floor, industrial carpeting, windows painted shut, and other unpainted surfaces.

The suit also exposes how little “reality” actually occurs in reality TV shows. The show is apparently scripted with the TV personalities and couples on the show expected to play a certain role in the episode.

Learn more about the allegations and the lawsuit on Journal Now.

Featured image source: Epilepsy Halton peel Hamilton Blog

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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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Quicklaw Full Service Shows Canada’s Evolution on Assisted Dying

Nearly two decades after Sue Rodriguez first appealed to the Supreme Court to help end her life, it looks like Canada’s legal landscape is on the verge of drastically changing with respect to its assisted dying laws. But just how drastic the new laws would be is up for debate.

While the Liberal’s new bill would allow for physician-assisted dying in Canada, it contains a set of specific criteria that must be met for those turning to doctors to help end their lives.

The proposed legislated, which was tabled in Parliament last week, would only pertain to adults over 18 years of age, who are mentally competent and suffer from a serious and incurable illness. These adults must be experiencing intolerable suffering as a result of “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capacity.”

Crucially, only those whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” would fall under the bill’s set of criteria — yet the bill does not specify or propose any timeline that would constitute as “reasonably foreseeable.”

But that’s not all: the bill stipulates that a person must-go-through a 15-day period of reflection and consent before they can end their life. Two witnesses with no financial interest to the patient, as well as two doctors or nurses would also be required to evaluate the patient’s request.

Many physicians applaud the bill for approaching assisted dying with caution and including measures that help protect the vulnerable, while some are criticizing the bill for not going far enough. Needless to say, it is clear that years from now, lawyers will look back on this moment as a major breakthrough for right-to-die advocates.

Lexis Nexis Quicklaw Full Service provides lawyers with the tools they need to engage in comprehensive legal research. Quicklaw Full Service allows for lawyers to study past court decisions, legislation, a wide range of primary and secondary materials, and much more. Lawyers can see for themselves just how much the country’s legal landscape has changed: with full-text court and tribunal decisions dating back nearly two centuries, Quicklaw users can study what cases in particular provided Canadians with new legal rights, and helped shift the way we think about moral and legal issues. In addition, Quicklaw offers a breadth of commentary and legal analysis on recent cases in the news, so lawyers can see how, for example, the vague wording in the Liberal’s assisted dying bill can lead to legal loopholes.

For more on the Liberals’ assisted-dying bill, visit The Globe and Mail.

Featured image source: LexisNexis

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