Legal Feeds Blog
All photos: Alex Robinson
Former law clerks descended on Osgoode Hall in Toronto Wednesday evening to reminisce about their time at the Court of Appeal and reconnect with old friends.
“We often speak of the Court of Appeal family,” said Chief Justice George Strathy.
“We work in an intense, fast-paced environment and become very close to the clerks. So this really does feel like a bit of a family reunion.”
Dozens of former law clerks attended the event and were treated to a musical performance by judges, singing popular songs with altered law-themed lyrics.
The Court of Appeal brings in 17 new clerks every year to work closely with judges, which Strathy says is an experience that makes them better lawyers in whatever path they choose to take.
“I asked the law clerks to take the message back to their law firms to encourage young lawyers to entire the clerking program and to hire young law clerks, because they get it,” Strathy says.
Some former clerks came from as far away as France to be at the event at Osgoode Hall.
- Judge orders stay of criminal charges until accused gets government-funded counsel
An Ontario Superior Court judge has ordered a stay of criminal charges against an alleged drug supplier until he gets a government-funded defence lawyer.
|'It should be obvious . . . the income thresholds being used by Legal Aid Ontario do not bear any reasonable relationship to what constitutes poverty in this country,' wrote Justice Ian Nordheimer.|
A single income individual in Ontario would have to make $12,000 or less in order to qualify for legal aid, according to the ruling in R. v. Moodie.
“It should be obvious to any outside observer that the income thresholds being used by Legal Aid Ontario do not bear any reasonable relationship to what constitutes poverty in this country,” wrote Nordheimer.
“As just one comparator, in a report issued last year, Statistics Canada calculated the low income cut-off, before tax, for a single person living in a metropolitan area (more than 500,000 people) for 2014 at $24,328, or more than twice the figure that Legal Aid Ontario uses,” he noted. “The low income cut-off is the level of income below which persons are paying a disproportionate amount of their income for basic necessities (food, shelter and clothing).”
The Crown had argued the applicant failed to take adequate steps to come up with enough funds to pay defence counsel, suggesting he could have asked for a bank loan, got a second job, or asked a family member to co-sign for a loan. Nordheimer said none of these suggestions are realistic.
“No financial institution is going to loan the applicant money given his income level, his lack of exigible assets, and his outstanding credit card debt,” said the judge. “The applicant’s father has made it clear that he is not going to assist his son in any way. Unfortunately, the applicant’s mother is no better situated financially, than is the applicant, in terms of co-signing for a loan.”
Partly because the applicant’s bail conditions impose a curfew, he was also unable to find a second job, the judge said.
Rowbotham applications have become more common in recent years, according to criminal lawyer Sean Robichaud.
“In the past five years, I’ve seen Rowbotham applications skyrocket and the reason for that, it seems, just as the justice pointed out, is [that] the threshold and criteria that are being used by legal are entirely out of touch with the standards of poverty and need for people seeking legal assistance who can’t afford it,” Robichaud says.
But part of what’s driving Rowbotham applications is also LAO’s reluctance to grant change of solicitor requests when an accused no longer wishes to be represented by their legal aid lawyer, says Robichaud. That leaves individuals who can no longer continue their relationship with their current counsel without a lawyer.
“The change of solicitor application is a different procedure altogether that has nothing to do with poverty, therefore it’s a way for [LAO] to claw back on certificates without violating their own internal polices that have been set by the government,” says Robichaud.
He says these kinds of administrative difficulties add to defence counsel’s hesitation to take on legal aid certificates.
For its part, Legal Aid Ontario says it has to make do with its fixed funding from the province.
“As with all legal aid plans, Legal Aid Ontario operates within a fixed budget so must be responsible in how the public money it receives from the Ontario government is spent,” says spokesman Feroneh Neil.
“The demand for legal aid assistance for low-income Ontarians is high. While the province has recognized this by raising the legal aid financial eligibility thresholds, Legal Aid Ontario has a yearly budget it must adhere to and must prioritize, in accordance with its legislation, the cases it is able to fund.”
Camouflaged man armed with long gun arrested in Windsor, Ont., Canadian Press
- Judges hits lawyer with personal costs over ‘bizarre’ claim he did not review file
A judge has ruled against a Vancouver lawyer for alleging the judge did not review a file related to an immigration case. The lawyer, Lawrence Wong, was ordered to pay $1,000 by Federal Court Justice Richard Bell.
|An immigration lawyer tried to claim a judge hadn’t looked at his file before dismissing it because there were no markings on it.|
The associate said in a deposition that there was “no marking, sticky note, hand writing, bent corner, crease or any other discernible sign of them having been read,” and also said he saw no signature of a justice of the federal court.
“The original position of the applicant, denied at the oral hearing of this matter . . . is that I did not read the file. Of course, if I did not do so, such conduct would have constituted a serious violation of my oath of office,” said the ruling, in Liang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration).
At a hearing May 20, Wong allegedly backed away from saying the judge hadn’t read the file, and instead said it may have been put in the wrong place.
“Essentially, Mr. Wong contended that the case was so meritorious that any reasonable judge would have granted leave and Registry staff must have placed a ‘leave granted’ file in the ’leave dismissed’ pile. In essence, Mr. Wong contends either serious wrongdoing on the part of one of Her Majesty’s justices or serious negligence on the part of the Registry staff,” said the ruling.
Bell says the allegations were wrong on a number of counts, including the fact the allegations were founded on a notion that a judge would mark a publicly accessible file. He also said it “seems to presume a justice will make markings on court documents rather than in a bench book.”
The judge says in response to the allegations, he consulted the registry in Ottawa, and located his signature and date on the document in question, as well as his initials.
“In his written submission, which constitutes a public document, Mr. Wong, an officer of the Court, states that a review of the ‘court file, the physical file covers and the actual files show there is no written record of physical trace that will give the appearance that the file has been reviewed by a judge.’ This public statement made by an officer of the Court is inaccurate. The hand written signature of a judge, the hand written notation of the date and the identity of the Court constitute prima facie proof the file has been reviewed by a judge,” noted the ruling.
Bell called the allegations “an attack upon the integrity of the Court” that were “based upon speculation and innuendo and an inadequate verification at the Registry,” and ordered Wong to personally pay $1,000.
“Nothing was overlooked. Registry staff did not place the file in the ‘wrong pile.’ This motion for reconsideration is dismissed,” said the ruling.
Patricia Virc, a lawyer with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, says it was “kind-of a shocking thing for a lawyer to do” and she was “not surprised” costs were ordered against the lawyer personally.
“This was a very misguided approach to challenging a decision,” she says.
Robin Seligman, a senior immigration lawyer with Seligman Law PC, said this was “a fair decision by the court and registry.”
“It was frivolous and inappropriate for the lawyer to suggest that the judge had not read the file,” Robin Seligman told Legal Feeds.
Wong could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Closing arguments today at Tim Bosma murder trial, Canadian Press
Man found in his swimming pool in Burlington, Ont. has died, Canadian Press
|Anyone wanting to flip through the physical pages of the Ontario Reports will have to fork out $225.|
Some lawyers say they still like flipping through the paper version of the ORs for the latest news on who is doing what and what jobs are available. With LSUC and insurance fees hovering around $5,000 a year, some are questioning the extra charge.
According to law society spokesperson Susan Tonkin, 48,000 lawyers and paralegals receive the electronic version of the Ontario Reports at no cost.
Last week, those who still are receiving the hard copy received an e-mail notifying them that after July 1, licensees and others who wished to continue to receive a hard copy, can make arrangements and pay a fee of $225 directly with LexisNexis. Otherwise, they’d be getting the digital edition e-mailed them to each week, at no additional charge.
Tonkin says the change to charging for the ORs "is in keeping with the preference of most readers, who are already accessing the digital version of the Ontario Reports.”
The change also reflects declining advertising revenues and was approved in February 2016.
LexisNexis will be communicating directly with readers about this change.
There is also an iTunes app for the weekly Ontario Reports.
Update 4:30 pm: More information added on the reason for the changes.
Ronald Caza has never been one to shy away from a fight when it comes to defending the rights of Canada’s linguistic minorities.
|Members of Ontario's legal professions were recognized for exceptional career achievements and contributions to their communities at the annual Law Society Awards ceremony held May 25, at Osgoode Hall.|
It’s one of many cases Caza has taken over the years that have focused on protecting the institutions of linguistic minorities.
Caza, who is a partner at CazaSaikaley LLP, was one of 14 legal professionals the Law Society of Upper Canada honoured Wednesday. Caza was given a Law Society Medal.
One of Caza’s most significant cases was a fight to keep the francophone Montfort Hospital open in Ottawa when the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris was looking to close it down.
At the time, Montfort was the only Francophone teaching hospital in Ontario.
“There was a constitutional obligation to protect linguistic minorities, which included the protection of their institutions,” he says.
The Divisional Court and later the Ontario Court of Appeal determined the decision to close Montfort was unconstitutional as the hospital was an essential institution of the francophone community and shutting it would cause harm.
Since Montfort, linguistic minorities across the country have challenged governments’ decisions to close or impact their institutions, Caza says. The Montfort case set a number of precedents and also resulted in a number of Supreme Court decisions, which confirmed the constitutional rights of linguistic minorities, he added.
“It’s all about ensuring that the francophones across Canada outside of Quebec continue making efforts to preserve their language and culture and that they don’t basically assimilate,” he says.
Other honourees awarded a Law Society Medal included Peter Rosenthal, a social justice lawyer who is also a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Toronto.
Over the years, some of the people Rosenthal has represented included homeless people, G20 protesters, and members of First Nations — and all on a pro bono basis. Rosenthal says he never asks to be paid for his work, unless the people he represents have legal aid funding.
He is currently representing the “Neptune Four” — a group of four black teenage boys who are suing the Toronto Police after they were stopped, questioned and arrested at gunpoint near their homes on Neptune Drive in 2011. They alleged the police acted out of racial bias.
Rosenthal first became interested in the law when he was arrested at an anti-Vietnam war protest in 1969. He became a paralegal for a couple of decades before eventually deciding to go to law school and was called to the bar in 1992.
“My interest in the law has been to promote social justice issues,” he says.
Rosenthal represented Miguel Figueroa, the former leader of the Communist Party of Canada, in Figueroa v. Canada (Attorney General), a case that successfully challenged part of the Elections Act that deregistered political parties if they had less than 50 candidates run in a general election.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Figueroa, which Rosenthal says was significant, as it would ensure supporters of small political parties could get tax deductions for financial contributions.
“It makes a big difference to the amount of support parties get financially,” Rosenthal says.
The Law Society also awarded its Laura Legge Award to Lisa Borsook, an executive partner at WeirFoulds LLP, and one of the first women named a managing partner at a large Ontario law firm.
Borsook was recognized for her work advancing the interests of women lawyers in Ontario. When she first became a managing partner, Borsook says she hoped it would show other women what they could achieve.
Borsook first became a managing partner in 2006 and has mentored many colleagues over the years. “I think it’s important women lawyers have role models,” she says, adding that when she made partner it sent a message to women in the legal profession that they can achieve positions of prominence in their firm.
“Whoever asks, I try and find the time for them,” she added.
Borsook says gender imbalance in the legal profession is a problem that is not going to solve itself and that women must push hard and take risks to achieve their goals.
“I look forward to a time when we don’t need to have an award to celebrate women’s advocacy for women, but I am so honoured to receive this award,” she said in a speech Wednesday.
Police raid marijuana dispensaries in Toronto, The Toronto Star
Mississauga girl seriously injured after being hit by bus, Canadian Press
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