Legal Feeds Blog
Lu Chan Khuong has served a formal notice on the directors of the Barreau du Québec demanding that they they rescind the resolution ordering her suspension as bâtonnière.
Khuong was suspended last week following a special meeting Wednesday called as a result of an article in La Presse, in which the newspaper reported its discovery of a record of the shoplifting offence, which involved two pairs of jeans.
At the meeting, the board voted unanimously to demand Lu Chan Khuong’s resignation. When she refused to resign, the board responded by suspending her indefinitely.
“I intend to stay in office and to carry out the reforms desired by the 63 per cent of lawyers who democratically elected me on May 22. I intend to put an end to wasteful expenditures, reduce the dues paid by our members and work for our citizens, who deserve a simpler and more accessible justice system. I will not let myself be distracted by certain individuals who, through illegal and immoral means, are trying to sabotage the results of the election,” said Khuong in a statement this morning.
Khuong is asking the Barreau's directors to correct their error, which she says has already done harm to the image of one the most prestigious professional associations in Quebec.
In addition, Khuong, who is being represented by lawyer Jean-François Bertrand, wants a public apology and said she reserves the right to take action for defamation.
She said she received a wave of support during the last week from the bars of Longueuil, Laval, Arthabaska, Outaouais, Richelieu and Mauricie, as well as petitions and letters from lawyers and members of the public.
The Canadian Bar Association – Québec Branch issued a release earlier today saying it is “deeply concerned by the crisis that has been gripping the Barreau du Québec.”
It says the “reasons cited and made public to date by the Board to justify its decision are in our view insufficient and contrary to the principles of fundamental justice that underlie our profession.”
At this point, Khuong has not been charged with anything and the file on the case has been closed so the CBA-Quebec points out “she is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” like any other Canadian. It’s calling on the Minister of Justice to investigate who leaked the information on Khuong from its Diversion Program’s confidential files.
“CBA-Québec accordingly insists that [Khuong]., the democratically elected President of the Québec Bar by popular vote, be immediately allowed to resume the duties of her office, and that the Québec Bar's Board of Directors collaborate fully with her in ensuring the proper operation of the professional order of Québec lawyers.
Also speaking out against the Barreau’s board of directors is Claude Provencher, a senior federal bureaucrat and a former executive director of the Barreau. “It’s a settling of scores,” Provencher told Droit-Inc. “They were looking for a chance to act against the bâtonnière and they seized on the slightest pretext without doing any rigourous or reasonable analysis.
“It’s a vendetta,” he added, clarifying that he was speaking as an individual and not in his capacity as general counsel and regional director in Quebec for Justice Canada.
Speaking of the article in La Presse that led to the board’s decision, Provencher said, “They didn’t try to find out if it was true, because for them it was a gift fallen from heaven."
Khuong, he said, had promised major reforms at the Barreau, dealing with things ranging from the salary of directors to the number of hours of mandatory pro bono work required.
Update 2:40 pm: Comments from CBA-Quebec added.
Update 3:35 pm: Remarks from Provencher added.
Alberta appeal court upholds infanticide convictions for Calgary woman, Canadian Press
Newfoundland man in court accused of stabbing youth soccer player, Canadian Press
Tobacco companies return to court to fight settlement ruling, Canadian Press
Chicago will attempt to convince judge that pension law is constitutional, Reuters
Georgia appeals court to hear Ku Klux Klan lawsuit against state over refusal to adopt highway, Reuters
Former Italian PM Berlusconi found guilty of bribing a senator, Reuters
Former Serbian commander accused of war crimes extradited from Australia to face trial, Reuters
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a defamation finding against former University of Ottawa professor Denis Rancourt, who called Joanne St. Lewis, a law professor at the same university, “a house negro” in a 2011 blog post.
|‘I think what the court did was clearly state there’s a boundary to freedom of speech; you don’t get to defame people,’ says Joanne St. Lewis.|
Speaking from Montreal, where she’s on vacation, St. Lewis says she is “very pleased” with the court of appeal’s decision.
“I feel really vindicated. The whole point is that for those of us who are racialized in our workplaces, it’s one thing to critique our work but when you choose to make false statements, defame someone, and not engage in a substantive analysis, you can’t hide behind free speech in the way that he [Rancourt] attempted to do,” says St. Lewis, who is also a bencher at the Law Society of Upper Canada.
“I think what the court did was clearly state there’s a boundary to freedom of speech; you don’t get to defame people. I think that’s a very important statement,” she adds.
Rancourt tells Legal Feeds: “I’m disappointed in the decision. I’m still reviewing it now, and I will be considering my options. In my view, the appellate court’s endorsement is wrong, on many points.”
“The Court of Appeal adopted the respondent’s theory. That theory is that in order to have evidence, you must lead evidence. My theory is that the evidence is what is in the record before the jury.”
The protracted lawsuit stemmed from Rancourt’s use of the pejorative language in a blog post in which he took issue with St. Lewis’ criticism of a 2008 student-commissioned report that found issues of systemic racism at the University of Ottawa.
The blog post, which has now been removed from Rancourt’s UofOWatch blog, was titled, “Did Professor Joanne St. Lewis act as Allan Rock’s house negro?” At the time, Rock was serving as the university’s president.
Last year, a jury found man of Rancourt's statements in the blog posts were defamatory and he exhibited actual malice. It awarded general damages of $100,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000. The trial judge endorsed the verdict and ordered substantial indemnity costs of $444,895, all inclusive, against Rancourt.
Rancourt appealed the lower court decision and sought a new trial on the basis that the trial judge erred in several ways. The judge, he argued, did not instruct the jury with respect to “fair comment,” did not consider that St. Lewis’ claim was statute barred, and failed to instruct the jury to watch a video of Malcom X speaking, which was embedded in one of the impugned blog post.
Rancourt also argued the finding that he defamed the respondent violates his right to freedom of expression. The court of appeal dismissed all his arguments and awarded St. Lewis $30,000 in costs.
Rancourt did not participate in the whole trial. He appeared in court on the second morning of the trial and read a prepared statement to the judge indicating he would not participate further, the court of appeal said.
“He left the trial and only returned to hear the jury verdict on June 5, 2014. In the result, he did not call evidence in his defence,” wrote Hoy.
Update July 9, 2015: Comments from Rancourt added and clarification on his participation in the trial.
Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP is merging with U.K.-based Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. to create a new international firm with more than 1,400 lawyers.
|Gowlings CEO Scott Jolliffe will be part of the international board governing the new Gowling WLG.|
The new firm — full name: Gowling WLG International Ltd. — which officially launches in January 2016, will have offices in 18 cities across Canada, the U.K., Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Gowlings is currently one of the five largest law firms in Canada with over 750 lawyers.
“It’s a really wonderful day for Gowlings and a wonderful day for Canada to see a Canadian firm expanding globally in the way we are,” says Scott Jolliffe, CEO of Gowlings.
While other firms from the U.S. and U.K. approached Gowlings, Jolliffe says WLG was a good fit as it shares many of the firm’s strengths in expertise, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and innovation.
The firms are also like-minded and share similar corporate environments, says Jolliffe.
“They’re very much like us. They’re good people, they are sort a people-oriented firm as we are,” he adds. “They are one of the best employers in the U.K. as we are in Canada.”
While the appeal of an international market contributed to the merger, Jolliffe says a lacklustre Canadian legal marketplace was a bigger motivator.
“The Canadian market has been pretty stagnant or contracting on the legal side,” Jolliffe tells Legal Feeds. “The same is true for business generally in Canada. Our clients are more and more looking into international markets and especially developing markets for their growth.”
“Gowling WLG is a true coming together of like-minded firms,” said David Fennell, CEO of WLG. “In addition to complementary practice and sector strengths, a strong commitment to client service, and a shared vision for international growth, both WLG and Gowlings have fostered internal cultures that champion a people-first approach, innovation and collaboration. Together, we look forward to building one of the top sector-focused law firms in the world.”
The news follows another major law firm merger in March, when international giant DLA Piper found a portal into the Canadian market through an amalgamation with Vancouver-based Davis LLP.
Unlike DLA Piper Canada LLP and Dentons Canada LLP (which was formed when Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP merged with SNR Denton and Salans in 2012), Gowling WLG will not follow the Swiss verein model.
Gowling WLG will be structured as a company limited by guarantee, a scheme that creates an umbrella organization of which WLG and Gowlings will be members, according to Jolliffe. While it’s not a financially integrated partnership, the two firms’ client service and approach to the market will be full integrated, he says.
“We found that the U.K. limited by guarantee [model] was a more flexible structure and one that is a little more transparent,” he adds. “It’s also governed by U.K. common law, which we’re much more familiar with than Swiss civil code.”
The new firm will be governed by an international board, comprising each of the founding firms’ CEOs, Jolliffe and Fennell, and two additional representatives from each founding firm.
Gowlings WLG will provide services in areas including life sciences, manufacturing, power generation and distribution, projects and infrastructure, real estate, energy, and technology and communications.
Clients are excited about having immediate access to international expertise, Jolliffe says. “Secondly, a lot of our clients have been proud of the fact that this is a Canadian institution expanding internationally under a Canadian name.”
With this merger, Jolliffe says it was important for Gowlings to maintain its Canadian identity.
“We’ve seen other very good firms, U.S. and U.K. firms come to Canada and pick up a Canadian law firm to become part of their existing international platform. What that has meant is it’s a good thing for those [Canadian] firms but they’ve sort of given up their name and identity to join an international firm,” he continues.
“Our feeling was that we should create our own — a platform that was particularly suited to the Canadian market and the needs of Canadian business.”
Among recent mergers was also Norton Rose’s move in 2013 to join up with American firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, creating Norton Rose Fulbright — just a few years after storied Quebec-born Ogilvy Renault became part of U.K.-based Norton Rose.
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Iraqi court sentences people to death over killing of hundreds of Shi'ite soldiers, Reuters
|John Williamson is taking on a two-year term as dean of law at UNB while the university conducts a search for another replacement.|
According to a spokesperson for UNB, a search for the next dean will take place during the two-year term.
Past dean, Dr. Jeremy Levitt, resigned voluntarily in March. At the time the university said he was on “research leave” until the end of July, so as to allow him to “complete ongoing research activities and speaking engagement commitments on behalf of the university.”
Levitt, who was hired last summer and went on leave in January, left UNB “in order to return to, and help advance, his home institution in Florida following completion of those commitments.”
Williamson has been with UNB’s faculty of law for more than 40 years. He spent nearly 20 years in leadership roles in the faculty, including associate dean, acting dean, and interim dean. It’s his first time in the top job.
Prior to joining UNB in 1974, Williamson obtained a bachelor of business administration and law degrees at UNB and an LLM at Harvard University. His primary teaching and research areas are debtor-creditor law, bankruptcy and receivership and commercial law.
UNB joins several other law schools across the country that are currently looking for new deans, including the University of Windsor, University of Saskatchewan College of Law, and the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University.
Williamson’s two-year term began July 1.
Federal government drops Supreme Court CSIS overseas spying appeal, Canadian Press
Sleeping man who admitted to raping a sleeping woman wins a new trial, Canadian Press
Calgary man charged for flying in balloon rigged chair, Canadian Press
Former Goldman Sachs programmer wins dismissal of second criminal conviction, Reuters
U.S. appeals court upholds decision to strike down Puerto Rican bankruptcy law, Reuters
School teachers among people arrested for promoting Islamic State, Reuters
International judge resigns from U.N.-backed war crimes trials in Cambodia, Reuters
- Tragedy also strikes law office in Terrebonne, Que.
|Winnipeg police have charged Guido Amsel in connection with the bombing that seriously injured lawyer Maria Mitousis.|
Police, in fact, told the news conference they were investigating another scene at a Canada Post depot this morning and have issued a warning for people to watch for other incidents. The package turned out to contain only DVDs, reported the Winnipeg Free Press.
“Police are concerned that other packages could have been sent out to other legal counsel or justice officials who have dealt with Amsel,” the Winnipeg Police Service said in a news release yesterday.
“Police are asking those individuals to be aware and diligent in alerting police to any suspicious packages or items that may be addressed to them.”
The warning follows Friday’s explosion at the law offices of Petersen King on River Avenue that left lawyer Maria Mitousis, 38, with serious injuries to her hands, throat, and stomach. Police said this morning she remains in hospital and noted her condition had stabilized and she has been able to speak to officers.
Police investigated a second explosive device on Saturday as well as a third at the law firm Orle Barkman and Davidson on Stradbrook Avenue yesterday.
Police had earlier called the original bombing an isolated incident but have since charged Amsel, 49, with two counts of attempted murder, one count of aggravated assault, and a number of counts related to the possession of explosive devices. They are suggesting he has targeted his ex-wife as well as legal counsel who have represented either her or himself in the past.
Response and support from the bar both in Winnipeg and across Canada has been overwhelming says Sofia Mizra, president of the Manitoba Bar Association. Mizra says friends and family say Mitousis is recovering very well but her injuries are quite serious.
Members of the bar in the city are staying alert and looking carefully at packages before they open them, she says, noting the MBA offices were also evacuated on Friday in one of the other bomb scares.
According to police, the devices discovered so far have had distinct packaging and “unique” block lettering. Due to the Canada Day holidays last week, police believe any further packages will likely emerge in the next day or so.
Mizra emphasizes that issues of threats and potential violence are not new to many lawyers who are often involved in very emotional circumstances with their clients, but the situation with the bombings is obviously extreme. Lawyers and judges, particularly in the area of family law, are often on the receiving end of the anger from unhappy parties.
“When litigants hear something they don’t want to hear, they can take matters into their own hands,” she says, adding, “We have some brave lawyers in our community.”
According to Manitoba court records, Mitousis had represented Iris Amsel in family litigation against Guido that dates back to 2004 as well as a separate case filed in 2010 dealing with a numbered company. Mitousis is a family lawyer who had joined family law boutique Petersen King in 2014. Manitoba court records show Guido has also faced other small claims litigation matters over the years.
According to the CBC, police on Sunday deployed the bomb unit as part of the their investigation to two businesses, including EuroTech Auto Body. That business is among the defendants, along with Guido, named in the lawsuit launched by Iris involving the numbered company.
The incidents follow another tragic situation involving members of the legal community in Quebec. According to the CBC, lawyer Benoït Côté, 51, and notary Marie-Josée Sills, 30, died in hospital Saturday after a shooting at a law office in Terrebonne, Que., on Thursday.
Côté had once represented Michel Dubuc, a man found dead in his home on Friday along with the bodies of his two sons. Côté had been facing a $1.2-million lawsuit filed by Dubuc, the CBC reported.
Longueuil police spokesman Tommy Lacroix told the Canadian Press the timeline of events and motives behind the shooting had yet to be established but that autopsies were going to be conducted.
Canadian Bar Association-Manitoba members Laurelle Harris and Kelli Potter have set up a donation page on gofundme for those looking to support Mitousis in what will likely be a long recovery. In two days, it has raised more than $25,000.
Ontario court sides with Uber in legal dispute with Toronto, Canadian Press
Ottawa softens anti-corruption rules for companies seeking government work, Canadian Press
Newfoundland man set free by Supreme Court sentenced to house arrest for threat against jail guard, Canadian Press
Couples sue over refusal of marriage licences despite gay marriage ruling, Reuters
Molycorp Inc. receives bankruptcy court approval for interim financing to support operations, Reuters
Hungary passes legislation tightening rules for asylum, Reuters
RBS may need to settle securities-related claims according to court documents, Reuters
|Lu Chan Khuong was suspended after refusing the Barreau’s board of directors’ demand for her resignation.|
When Khuong refused to resign, the board responded by suspending her indefinitely.
The offence, according to La Presse, was treated non-judiciously by the Crown — a fact the Barreau says Khuong admits.
Quebec’s non-judicial program, according to the website of the province’s Ministry of Justice, is a way of “dealing with certain offences in a particular way so as to better rationalize the use of resources allocated to the judicial system and not to unduly stigmatize the misconduct of an offender whose behaviour does not warrant judicial action.”
Adding controversy to the affair, in its decision, the Barreau stated that some of the statements attributed to Khuong in the La Presse article were “worrying,” although it did not specify which.
In an initial interview with La Presse conducted as she had just begun her term as head of the Barreau, confronted with the provincial records in which her name appeared as part of a non-judicial case involving shoplifting, Khuong responded: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
When the question was raised again during the same interview, Khuong, according to the newspaper, said that no accusation had been made against her.
After that interview, Khuong contacted the Barreau to explain her situation. Another interview with La Presse followed, during which she told the newspaper she had left an outlet of Simons at Carrefour Laval with two pairs of unpaid-for jeans in April 2014, citing a lapse of attention. According to the paper, the total value of the jeans was around $455.
After she left the store, she said, a store employee asked her to accompany her to the office, telling her the police had been called. When a police officer arrived, Khuong told La Presse, “I didn’t make a statement” because the officer “didn’t ask me any questions.”
Khuong also told the newspaper the non-judicial process was something she chose “to avoid media attention and avoid wasting my time in court.”
According to the website of the Ministry of Justice, “the decision not to have the courts deal with an offence is a matter of prosecutorial discretion and is made by the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney” only once “it is has been determined that the wrongful act attributed to the offender constitutes an offence, that it can be proved and that no legal obstacle bars the prosecution.”
After receiving the complaint about Khuong, according to La Presse, Quebec’s Directeur des poursuites criminelles et penales chose to treat the case non-judiciously in June 2014.
In making its decision this week, the Barreau “took into consideration that the bâtonniere has to be unreproachable, because she is representing justice, she is representing protection of the public,” Lise Tremblay, CEO of the Barreau, told the CBC. “She has to support the administration of justice. No grey zone can be tolerated.”
The board of the Barreau will meet again late next week to decide on next steps.
Khuong could not be reached Friday to comment.
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