Jason Lamarche on the Insite Program

By: Contributor · January 30, 2009 · Filed Under Ethics, Health Law, Politics · Comments Off 

As a follow-up to the previous post on the Insite program, here is some commentary from Jason Lamarche of the Liberal Minute.

Employment Lawsuits Will Rise in Recession

By: Ryan MacIsaac · January 29, 2009 · Filed Under Class Action, Labour & Employment Law · Comments Off 

In the current economic climate, companies big and small are feeling the stress of financial insecurity and reduced profits. As a result, more and more Canadians are finding themselves unemployed. This will likely lead to an increase in employment-related lawsuits.

To quote a recent article by CFO Publishing, “layoffs mean lawsuits.” In the United States, employment litigation has risen correspondingly to the decline of the country’s economic health.

In a case of being fired without just cause, a former employee can make a claim of wrongful dismissal; thus age-discrimination lawsuits and so forth have been on the rise recently.

But a business may collapse suddenly, still owing its employees wages and/or benefits. Take for example the case of a Saskatoon company that built trailers for the oilpatch. A slowdown in the tar sands led to its laying off all 270 employees, many of whom are owed outstanding wages. A group of the former employees is now considering a class-action suit.

The number of employment-related class-action suits has been on the rise, according to Toronto-based employment lawyer Daniel Lublin. This has led to what he calls “workplace law’s newest, and biggest, phenomenon: lawyers specializing in class action lawsuits.”

As companies like IBM and Air Canada let employees go, they will have to be careful to avoid class-action suits – especially since employees are becoming informed and asserting their rights.

Finally, even without firing employees, a company can become the target of a class-action suit. In the current case of CIBC, the bank is fighting employee claims of unpaid overtime. Since the ramifications of this case “could spill over into workrooms across the nation,” companies that scrimp and save in the face of economic uncertaintly may find themselves in the courtroom if they choose to do so at the expense of employee entitlements.

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UPDATE, 26 Feb 2009:  Today as part of a series looking at the recession’s effects on people in Toronto, the Globe & Mail published an article about booming business at one employment law firm. The article references this survey of litigation trends, in which “Labour/employment” is by far the top type of legal dispute currently worrying Canadian firms.

The Harm Reduction Controversy & Injection Sites

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · January 28, 2009 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Ethics, Health Law, Politics · Comments Off 

Third post in a series on the First Annual Interprofessional Health Law Conference.

The harm reduction panel spoke about strategies for reducing communicable diseases.  Most of the discussion focused on the controversy over injection sites.

The first legal injection site in North America was Insite in Vancouver, B.C.  The downtown eastside area where the clinic is based was considered by the  Canadian Community
Epidemiology Network on Drug Use
(CCENDU) as the center of an injection drug epidemic.

The US Office of National Drug Control Policy called it “state-sponsored suicide,” and Harper later said, “We as a government will not use taxpayers’ money to fund drug use.”

Read more

Bloggers, Beware of Comments

By: Will McNair · January 27, 2009 · Filed Under Torts · 13 Comments 

According to Out-law, the English High Court has ruled that a man who did not delete an allegedly-defamatory post from his blog could not sue the poster in defamation.

Christopher Carrie, the would-be litigant, established the blog in 2007 to promote his self-published book, in which he alleges that he was sexually abused by the late Father John Tolkien, who died in 2003. Tolkien was the son of an author with whom you may be familiar. According to Carrie, Tolkien’s grandson Royd Tolkien posted a comment on his site, accusing Carrie of lying about the abuse to extract money from the Catholic church.

The court found that by leaving the inflammatory remarks online, Carrie had consented to their publication, which contradicted his assertion that the post caused him “substantial upset and distress”. The ruling is here.

Summary judgment: Leaving the post online for all to see does little to alleviate the suspicion that Carrie was trying to cash in by besmirching a famous surname.

Law Students Can Network with Lawyrs

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · January 26, 2009 · Filed Under Marketing/PR in Law, Technology · 2 Comments 

Lawyers NetworkDevin Johnston, a second-year law student at the University of Manitoba, predicts the death of Facebook within three years.

A major reason is alternative social media platforms that will compete with it more effectively.

I’ve already mentioned Jurafide as one alternative for lawyers seeking American clients, and Jordan Furlong has mentioned LawLink just over a year ago.  At that time, LawLink was restricted to American attorneys.  It has since opened up to include lawyers from the UK, Canada, and Australia.

However, they still have a statement under the “threat of perjury” that the registrant is a practicing attorney in those countries.  It was effective enough to deter this law student from registration.

I’m trying out Lawyrs instead, a platform specifically intended for lawyers and law students, with no geographic constraints, and more importantly, no threats of legal prosecution.

The ability to dialogue and network with legal professionals from 128 countries (although mostly American and British) is fascinating.  They obviously have groups like other social networks, often comprised of alumni or interests, and a legal news page.  But without RSS for the news, I’m unlikely to check in regularly on the site for updates.

There’s also a page for law firms, and if the view stats are any indication they appear to be used with some frequency.  Firms can provide news stories as well, and this might be an inexpensive alternative for law firms to send their releases.

Finally, Lawyrs has a publications page, which might be useful if you’re looking for a legal scholar in a specific area.  Publications give a lawyer credibility.  But it’s also a useful outlet for publicizing your publications, instead of remaining unread by anyone other than the editors of the law journal.  I’m trying out different platforms to share some of my own recent publications in hopes of getting the material to people who might be interested in it.

A drawback of the site is the inabilty to import contacts like other social network platforms.  Nobody with a sizable addressbook would attempt to manually invite all the lawyers in their (virtual) rolodex. I have no idea if anyone else I know is using the site, or really how useful it’s going to be in the long-term.  If you do sign up though, please do add me as a contact so I can see what you’re up to.

One thing is for sure, we will continue to see more and more law-focused social networks.  Eventually one, or several, will emerge as dominant, depending on the purpose they are being used.  It’s also possible that none of them will thrive, and the lawyers will instead flock to whatever networks everyone else is using.  We’re surrounded by lawyers every day, all day, and keeping in touch with all the other people in our lives is important.

It’s also worth noting that a social network exclusively for lawyers doesn’t allow lawyers to interact with past, present or future clients.  More importantly, those potential clients can’t find you, no matter how many news stories or publications you upload.

Cross-posted from Slaw.

Potential Career Alternative

By: Will McNair · January 25, 2009 · Filed Under Criminal Law, Humour · 3 Comments 

At this time of year, as the legal community battens down the hatches against recession, and law students gaze over the desolate, frigid waste of their summer employment prospects, some might be tempted to give in to despair and seek alternative employment. Such people would be well advised to avoid any job containing the words “escort”, “Craigslist”, or “Airport Motor Inn room 232″.

On January 1st, a 22-year-old law student at the University of Michigan and a 44-year-old U-M professor pleaded no contest to charges of using a computer to commit a crime, reduced from charges of solicitation and prostitution. They received deferred sentences, conditional upon each seeking counseling and paying $1280 in fines and costs. The charges stemmed from the student’s report that the professor had assaulted her during a sexual encounter. Police indicated that the student had advertised sex acts on Craigslist, AdultFriendFinder and Eros, a “high class escort” site. She participated in as many as nine liaisons in a two-month period, at $250 apiece.

Last week a second University of Michigan student was charged with soliciting prostitution online, after she arranged to meet an undercover agent at an Ann Arbour Motel. She claimed that she advertised sex acts online “to help cover tuition costs”.

Police confirm that prostitutes are increasingly using the internet to ply their wares. Craigslist is doing its part to combat this burgeoning industry: the online giant forbids posting ads that promote prostitution, human trafficking, child exploitation and other illegal activities. Craigslist has filed 14 lawsuits against parties who violated their terms of service.

Dalton McGuinty: Union Buster

By: Will McNair · January 24, 2009 · Filed Under Labour & Employment Law · 7 Comments 

The Ontario legislature is set to reconvene tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. to introduce legislation that will force CUPE 3903 members back to work, bringing an end to the 80-day strike at York University. Premier Dalton McGuinty is calling upon all MPPs to accede to the proposed bill.

The move comes a week after union members voted 63% against the university’s final contract offer, and only three days after Premier McGuinty appointed mediator Reg Pearson to “bang a few heads together”. Without pointing fingers, Pearson reported there was “no reasonable prospect of a negotiated settlement” between York and the union, despite all his head-banging efforts.

Osgoode students will have to get up a little earlier on Monday: their days of having entire buses to themselves are coming to an end.

Osgoode Jumps on the JD Bandwagon

By: Thomas Wisdom · January 23, 2009 · Filed Under Law School · Comments Off 

The Osgoode Hall community received an e-mail today regarding the “JD or LLB?” debate, that had pretty much disappeared from most of our minds due to the dramatic collective action (or perhaps more fitting, inaction) that’s been going on at York University since the beginning of November.

It must have been a happy day for the York Senate who, for the first time in months, were able to grant approval to a motion that didn’t piss someone off.  They followed the example of US law schools and an increasing amount of Canadian law schools who have dropped the LLB (Bachelor of Laws) handle and pick up the JD (Juris Doctor) in its stead.

About a year ago we all voted on it.  And by “all,” I mean only those of us who bothered to participate in the democratic process.  73% of students voted in favour of the change, while 90% of the alumni surveyed did the same.  I’m somewhat curious as to why more alumni voted in favour than current students.  Perhaps the former have been practicing for a while and haven’t been fully satisfied with their degrees as they were.  I hope I don’t have the same problem.

So why the change?

The main reason given for Canadian and American schools switching to the JD is that it more accurately reflects the “nature” of our law schools.  The distinction is pretty simple:  In some countries people attend law school after at least a couple years of undergraduate studies, and in others they attend law school straight out of high school.  But we all get an LLB in the end.

Actually, I look back to when I was filling out my law school applications and recall reading in many cases something to the effect of “We will take you with two years of undergraduate studies if we have to, but highly recommend you complete the whole degree first.”  Maybe we’re on our way to a strictly post-graduate program.  In fact, because of the incredibly high demand for positions at Canadian law schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if that eventually happened.  Yet another way of thinning the herd.

I myself know several people that have headed down south for their law degrees because the schools are so numerous that some of them are forced to have lower standards, and other people who have headed across the pond to take advantage of the more relaxed substantive admissions requirements.

There will always be the argument that the schools that opt for the JD designation are just elitist institutions seeking to differentiate themselves from schools that will take just about anyone.  While this may in some circumstances be the case, I personally believe that there are true differences in the ways some countries and their law schools operate, and I don’t see anything wrong with the superficial title of the degrees reflecting that reality.

For whatever reason they’ve decided to make the change, I approve.  Not only is it another reason to update my facebook profile, but I also suddenly feel slightly cooler than I did yesterday.  “Juris Doctor.”  Nice.

…And Now, Conservatives Budging on Khadr Too

By: Contributor · January 22, 2009 · Filed Under Civil Rights, International Law · Comments Off 

In response to President Obama’s move yesterday, the Conservative government of Canada is finally reconsidering its position on Omar Khadr,  Canadian citizen being detained at Guantanamo Bay.

Canada remains the only industrialized nation to not advocate on behalf of its citizens at Guantanamo.

The Globe & Mail reports,

For the first time, the Conservative government is quietly budging from its vehement refusal to act on behalf of Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, with Defence Minister Peter MacKay saying the government is “reassessing” its position.

In one of his first major orders as U.S. President, Barack Obama called a time-out on the military commissions system, telling military prosecutors to request a 120-day “suspension” of the court cases – a request that Guantanamo judges granted. The suspension not only adds to the uncertainty surrounding Mr. Khadr’s future, but also puts more pressure on the government in Ottawa to change its long-held position that it will not act on the detained Canadian’s behalf while a legal process is continuing.

Omar Khadr’s Guanatanamo Trial Suspended!

By: Lawrence Gridin · January 21, 2009 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Ethics, International Law, Politics · 2 Comments 

It’s over!

For now, anyway.

Staying true to his promise, Barack Obama has made it one of his first official acts as President to request a suspension of the military tribunal process in Guantanamo.

Omar Khadr is the first beneficiary of the directive. His “trial” was suspended this morning.

The suspension will last for 120 days so that the government can explore alternatives.

The legal maneuver appears designed to provide the Obama administration time to refashion the prosecution system and potentially treat detainees as criminal defendants in federal court or have them face war-crimes charges in military courts-martial. It is also possible that the administration could re-form and relocate the military commissions before resuming trials.

President Obama has acknowledged in recent interviews that shutting the facility is likely to be prolonged and complex. And the administration now faces a number of potentially daunting challenges to following through on the president’s campaign promise. Obama is expected to sign an executive order soon that will lay out in detail his plan to empty the facility.

(source: Washington Post)

The military tribunal process has been roundly criticized by human rights groups, lawyers and lay people alike as a violation of the rule of law.

In his inaugural address, Obama spoke these inspiring words, which I leave you with:

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

The Values and Ethics of Euthanasia

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · January 20, 2009 · Filed Under Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Ethics, Health Law · 1 Comment 

Second post in a series on the First Annual Interprofessional Health Law Conference.

The euthanasia panel started off with Bob Parke, an ethicist with Humber River Regional Hospital. The discussion over euthanasia is often a conflict of different values, including:

There are often tough questions to ask, like how to deal with internal defibrillators. They are necessary for the patients who use them, but they can also cause a lot of pain at the end of life.

However, the main reason most patients want euthanasia is not because of pain, which can often be managed these days through pharmaceuticals. More often it’s about feelings of being a burden to those around them, especially family. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are also common motivations.

The greater challenge for those in health care is to ask whether we should use all the technology we have simply because we have it. There are also issues of distributive justice, which needs advocates to champion various causes.
Trudo Lemmens, an Assoc. Prof. at UofT in both Medicine and Law, discussed the claim for legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Refusing treatment is often more often accepted internationally than active euthanasia.

The case law on the subject was basically leading in this direction, providing more self-determination and control of the body by the patients.

The arguments against this, which were expressed at the level of the Supreme Court of Canada, was the impact this would have on attitudes and protections in society. It could easily be projected, for example, on to people with disabilities. In an environment with limited health funding, there is enormous potential for abuse.

The Charter does provide a heavy ones on the government to ensure there are no less restrictive means of infringing individual liberty rights. This essentially is a question of evidence, and some countries do have legal euthanasia already.

Lemmens discussed a case of a Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t want a blood transfusion, but was provided one anyways by a physician and sued. The court held that people have a right to make choices, even if they are foolish.

He also discussed another case in the Netherlands, where a woman who was severely depressed, had lost two sons, and could not be treated conventionally. The court there ruled that she had a right to assisted suicide, and that psychological suffering can also be a form of unbearable suffering.
Dianne Williams is a palliative care nurse and nurse practitioner at St. Michael’s Hospital. Her role was to explain what palliative care was, and how palliative care used to be synonymous with hospice care. Hospice is actually community based care, whereas palliative care is a philosophy of care associated with more medical and professional services.

Most of the patients they see in palliative care was cancer patients, but they are now seeing more cardiovascular problems, respiratory cases, HIV/AIDS, and end-stage cardiac or renal disease. There is now more integration of palliative care outside of cancer to other disease trajectories.

Palliative care improves the quality of life through prevention and relief of suffering. They use early identification, assisting in treatment, and deal with physical and pyschosocial problems. Palliative care can start right at the time of diagnosis.

She closed with a quote from Robert Buckman to emphasize the role all of us can play through communication instead of relying exclusively on pharmaceuticals,

Communication skills make an appreciable difference to clinical management. We take for granted our own communication abilities in history taking, but further training can enhance our ability to diagnose and treat conditions, including depression.1 Communication is often a major component of the medical management in chronic and palliative care: sometimes it is all we have to offer. Compared with most medications, communication skills have undoubted palliative efficacy (often reducing symptoms significantly), a wide therapeutic index (overdose is rare), and the commonest problem in practice is suboptimal dosing. At a more mercenary level, poor communication skills have been shown to be a predictor of medicolegal vulnerability and also of burnout.2,3

Finally, Hugh Sher of Scher & De Angelis LLP, spoke against euthanasia. Sher held several executive roles including with the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and ARCH Disability Law Centre.

He started by asking,

If only choice is to suffer to death or kill yourself, some would say its not a choice at all.

Euthanasia is not about pain, according to Sher, but about fear and desperation. The debate focuses on how we define our choices in society.

A religious basis used to serve as fundamental prohibition vs these discussions, but we don’t live in that same framework. We now live in a secular society based on individual freedoms and rights.

But this argument transforms doctors as healers to doctors as killers, which is a fundamental transformation. Physicians are gatekeepers of services, and also have their own perspectives based on their own ethical, cultural and religious views.

He related the ordeal of one of his clients who had a severe disability. He had wonderful relationships and wished to live, even though there was no likelihood of dying from his condition any time soon.

But the person needed oxygen to survive. And the cost of this service was more than what he got from the government.

Sher raised the example of some Aboriginal communities in the Maritimes who have a high rate of depression and a dependancy on solvents, but nobody would advocate euthanasia, nor should they.

Euthanasia requires consent, but this notion is often ignored. This decision is often made for people in the terminal end of life, not when they are earlier on in their disease. They do not lose their humanity over this continuum of the disease, so why do perspectives of euthanasia then change?

He claimed over 1600 people were killed in the Netherlands without proper protocols being followed. Another report following this finding discovered that another 800 people had been similarly killed.

According to Sher, once you make the decision to rationalize ending people’s lives, it’s much easier to rationalize the failure to follow protocol. It creates a culture permissive of these acts, and we can move the goal posts more and more.

Lemmens did say in response that at least in the Netherlands we know what the situation is. In Canada, we still do not fully know what practices are being observed in end-of-life care.

Resume Writing Tips for Law Students

By: Devin Johnston · January 18, 2009 · Filed Under Humour · 3 Comments 

This educational video provides helpful and pragmatic resume writing tips for law students applying for articling positions. Follow these steps to move closer to your dream of being a partner in a Bay Street law firm.

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