Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bits 'N Briefs

It was a busy news week, much of which I spent sneezing, sniffling and snoozing. Here, then, are some of the highlights of stories I didn't get to:

  • Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Louise Arbour, will be stepping down from her role as United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner on June 30, at the end of her current four-year term at the head of the international human rights agency. Citing family concerns, she noted that relentless criticism of her strong voice against America's use of torture in the "war on terror" was not a factor in her decision against accepting a further four-year term. According to CBC, Ms Arbour said "I am not quitting because of this pressure. On the contrary, I have to resist the temptation to stay to confront it."

  • CCH legal writer Stephanie Mah was good enough to point us to this Toronto Star story, Video helps those who can't afford a lawyer, on a tremendous resource developed by the Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Bar Association. The Association has produced a video, including simulated trial footage, to assist self-representing litigants on the basics of courtroom procedures and etiquette. So far, so good. So, here's the rub: according to the article, the video was "distributed free to every public library and courthouse in Alberta, legal clinics and universities in the province, and all provincial bar associations." Distributed to libraries? Memo to the good elders of the CBA: Post this tape online at YouTube, please (or at least at your site), so people can actually find it. It's 2008, for goodness' sake!

  • In an important affirmation of the law of "implied undertakings," the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on March 6, 2008 that B.C. police and prosecutors may not have access to civil discovery evidence given by a Vancouver daycare centre operator, Suzette Juman, in a negligence suit against her. Ms. Juman is being sued by the parents of a 16 month-old child who allegedly suffered seizures and brain injury while in the daycare facility's care. Criminal investigations are also pending as a result of the incident. Mr. Justice Ian Binnie delivered the court's unanimous ruling, which overturned a contrary decision by the B.C Court of Appeal: "Information obtained on discovery, including information thought by one of the parties to disclose some sort of criminal conduct, is subject to the implied undertaking. It is not to be used by the other parties except for the purpose of that litigation." For the full text of the Court's ruling, see: Juman v. Doucette, 2008 SCC 8.

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal as to the constitutionality of Bill 104, a Quebec language law that regulates which students can be enrolled in English-language education in the Province.

  • In other Supreme Court of Canada news, the Court has refused to hear Karlheinz Schreiber's appeal against deportation. As a result of a deal with Canada's Justice Department, however, Mr. Schreiber will nonetheless be allowed to temporarily stay in Canada to appear at a pending parliamentary inquiry into his business dealings with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

  • Finally, Objections 2.0. - New spin on a never-ending debate. The argument in Minnesota regarding cameras in the courtroom has taken a modern turn: "One of the judges' concerns I have heard raised about cameras in the courtroom is the specter of the "unshaven blogger" coming in with cell phone camera at the ready. Apparently the judges are worried about being made to look sinister or downright ridiculous by a slip of the tongue or out-of-context snippet of dialogue winding up as a video posted on a blog or YouTube." See: Judges wary of the 'unshaven blogger' from Minnesota Lawyer Blog

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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