Monday, March 31, 2008

N.S., Quebec: New Laws Will Curb Driving While Talking on Cell Phone, April 1, 2008

Driving While Talking to be OutlawedMy friend T. passes on this friendly memo from Bell Mobility regarding new laws that come into effect April 1st in two Canadian provinces that will regulate cell phone use while driving:

On April 1st, new laws regarding the use of mobile phones while driving come to effect in Québec and Nova Scotia. This means that only hands-free devices will be permitted while driving, i.e. headset, Bluetooth or in-car units.

Such a law is already in effect in Newfoundland other provinces are considering similar legislation. In Québec, there is a three month grace period during which only warnings will be issued. Following that, fines ranging from $80 to $100 and 3 demerit points will be imposed. Note that the law also applies to motorists who are stopped at a traffic light or stop sign.In Nova Scotia, police will initially issue warnings but there is no formal grace period. The fines will range from $165 for the first offence, $222 for the second offence and $337 thereafter.This is an important opportunity to reiterate the principles of responsible driving for our employees, whether on company business or personal time.

While on the road, your primary focus should always be on driving. There are many potential distractions, including interacting with other passengers, using the stereo, eating, grooming, etc.

When using a mobile phone while driving:

  • Avoid unnecessary calls and keep conversations brief
  • Suspend conversations when driving conditions become hazardous
  • Keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel
  • Never email or text message while driving
  • Respect the law and use a hands-free device if required

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Ontario Minimum Wage Increases Today

Wise Law Office, Toronto - Employment LawOntario's minimum wages have increased.

The Province's general minimum wage rises today to $8.75 per hour.

The minimum wage for students under 18 years of age rises to $8.10 per hour.

The chart below (click to enlarge), adapted from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, details the full schedule of minimum wage increases now in effect, along with additional increases scheduled through March 31, 2010:

Ontario Minimum Wage Increase Schedule

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour: “Great Job Canada”

Promoted by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour was a global effort to raise awareness of climate change.

Yesterday, between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Canada showed its support of the cause in numerous cities across the country.

World Wildlife Canada reports:

Earth Hour was a huge global success! On Saturday, March 29, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. people around the world turned out their lights for Earth Hour, sending a very strong message to our government, and governments around the world, that we need to take action on climate change now.

Beginning in Tel Aviv and ending in Vancouver, the lights went out and the celebrations began. Many iconic buildings and landmarks around the world turned out their lights, including the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco; Alcatraz jail, San Francisco; Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia; Brighton Pier, UK and the Sears Tower, Chicago.

Canada had one of the highest participation rates around the globe with over 150 cities participating. Great job Canada! Many buildings and landmarks also turned off their lights. These included the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, Toronto Eaton Centre, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Honest Ed’s in Ontario; all buildings in which VanCity, BC Hydro and City of Vancouver operate; and the MacDonald Bridge, City Hall, and Parade Square in Halifax.

Thanks to everyone here in Canada and around the world that participated in the first ever, world wide Earth Hour! Your efforts and determination have made this an event to remember.

The Toronto Star reports that during Earth Hour, power usage in Toronto dropped 8.7% exceeding the City’s goal of a 5% power drop during the event.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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UK Employers to Protect Against 3rd Party Sexual Harassment

Employers in the Canada and in the United Kingdom have a legal obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.

Typical discussion of this obligation has focussed on the employer's duty to protect its employees from sexual harassment by other employees.

As of next week, however, employers in the U.K. will also have a specific legal obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment advanced by third parties such as clients and customers.

The reports:

Employers will be duty-bound from next week to protect their staff from sexual harassment by customers, suppliers and others they encounter in the course of their work. Workers are already protected from harassment by colleagues, but under new rules which come into force on April 6, they will be able to seek damages from employers who fail to take reasonable steps to protect them from harassment by a third party, if bosses knew that at least two incidents had already taken place.

The government was forced to change the law after the then Equal Opportunities Commission - now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - won a ruling that the government had failed to properly implement the European equal treatment directive, which requires workers to be protected from "any unwanted conduct related to their sex which violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment".

The rules are expected to have their biggest impact in the catering, hotel and retail trades. The EOC told the high court that sexual harassment by customers was rife in the hotel and restaurant industry, which employs 670,000 women.
- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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The Obama Playbook

The current, Five-Step Obama Campaign Playbook:

1. Declare presumptive victory before all votes are counted.

2. Repeatedly emphasize that it would be wrong, undemocratic and positively un-American to require all ballots to be counted, given that inevitable victory has already been achieved.

3. Repeated this mantra: "If the battle does not now end, America will surely self-destruct."

4. Firmly demand that the opponent withdraw for the 'good of the country.'

5. Repeat steps 1 through 4.

Sound familiar?

How about now?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Sunday Tunes: Who Fought the Law?

The weekend is upon us, so let's take a stroll through the YouTube archives to canvas a classic rebel-rock tune with a storied history:

"I Fought the Law" is a much-covered song originally recorded by Sonny Curtis and The Crickets (post Buddy Holly) in 1959. The song was famously covered by Bobby Fuller Four, who recorded a more successful version of the song in 1965, and The Clash, who recorded a punk rock version in 1978.

Our tour begins, then, with the classic take, from Bobby Fuller:

Canada's own Bryan Adams gives it a try:

You'll probably agree that Bryan did a whole lot better at fighting the law than did Alvin et al...

Still, with due acknowledgment to all the various pretenders, nobody has ever really fought the law quite the way The Clash did:

And finally, here's an interesting footnote for trival buffs.

Did you know that Sonny Curtis, the writer of I Fought the Law, also wrote "Love is All Around," the theme song for The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Maybe Next Year....

The Toronto Maple Leafs have once again been eliminated from N.H.L. post-season contention.

With a 4-2 loss to the Bruins in Boston Thursday night, the team mathematically sealed its unhappy fate for the third consecutive year.

Toronto's second-favorite spectator sport - Leaf post mortems, recriminations and off-season dramas - may now accordingly begin.

Who should stay and who should go?

Will Brian Burke be the Leafs' new general manager when the puck is dropped for next season's opening faceoff?

Will Matts Sundin return?

Will anyone in Toronto still care?


(Perplexingly, to the last question, at least.)

So, now that the game is over, let the real games begin...

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Quotable: On Racism's 'Aesthetic Makeover'

Serious food for thought from David Sirota at Truthdig:

Since the 1960s, bigotry has undergone an aesthetic makeover. Today, the most pernicious racists do not wear pointy hoods, scream epithets and anonymously burn crosses from behind masks. They don starched suits, recite sententious bromides and stage political lynchings before television cameras. For proof, behold the mob stalking Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

... It is polite pinstriped prejudice shrouding bigotry in feigned outrage against extremism—the operative word being “feigned.” After all, John McCain solicited the endorsement of John Hagee—the pastor who called the Catholic Church “a great whore.” Similarly, according to Mother Jones magazine, Hillary Clinton belongs to the “Fellowship”—a secretive group “dedicated to ‘spiritual war’ on behalf of Christ.” She is also friendly with Billy Graham, the reverend caught on tape spewing anti-Semitism. But while Wright’s supposed “extremism” blankets the news, McCain and Clinton’s relationships with real extremists receive scant attention.

Why is it “controversial” for one pastor to address the black community, racism and blowback, but OK for another pastor to slander an entire religion? Why is it news that one candidate knows a sometimes-impolitic clergyman, but not news that his opponent associates with an anti-Semite? Does the double standard prove the dominant culture despises a black man confronting taboos, but accepts whites spewing hate? Does the very reaction to Wright show he’s right about racism?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Polygraph Results Ruled Inadmissible in Ontario Civil Courts

Via the always exceptional Cavanaugh Williams law blog, this report on a decision of the Ontario Divisional Court, ruling polygraph test results are inadmissible as evidence in Ontario civil court proceedings:

Justice Quinn reviewed the law. He said that evidence that a person has offered to submit to polygraph testing can be admissible, but that was a neutral factor here, since both parties had made such an offer. Secondly, the questions and answers from the testing can be admissible, if they constitute admissions against interest. But the test results themselves are not admissible because they usurp the jurisdiction of the trier of fact. As His Honour said, “the court should not delegate its jurisdiction, even on consent”. Hence, a new trial was ordered.

See: Petti v. George Coppel Jewellers Ltd.

A number of news, background and research articles on the efficacy of polygraph tests can be found here.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Matlow Inquiry Continuing April 8, 2008

According to a Canada News Wire release today, the inquiry into the conduct of the Honourable Judge Ted Matlow of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will be continuing with the hearing of fresh evidence next month:

The Honourable Clyde Wells, Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador and Chairperson of the Inquiry Committee created to review the conduct of the Honourable Theodore Matlow, has indicated that the Inquiry Committee will be reconvening its proceedings to hear further evidence in this matter. The hearing will take place in Toronto on 8 April , 2008 at 10 a.m., at 180 Queen Street West (courtroom 7C), Toronto, Ontario. The hearing will be open to the public.

After the inquiry has concluded its work, the Committee will report its findings and its conclusions to the Canadian Judicial Council in respect of whether or not a recommendation should be made for the removal of Justice Matlow from office. The Council will then decide whether to make a recommendation to the Minister of Justice that Justice Matlow be removed from office for any of the reasons set out in section 65(2) of the Judges Act. In accordance with Canada's Constitution, a judge may only be removed from office through a joint resolution of Parliament. The Council's mandate, under the Judges Act, is to make a recommendation in that regard. The Canadian Judicial Council is composed of the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada's superior courts. Information about the Council, including documents related to the Inquiry Committee in this matter, can be found on the Council's website:

It is both surprising and interesting that new evidence is now to be considered in this matter. The Toronto Star reported on January 11, 2008 that the inquiry hearings had concluded and that the panel had reserved its decision.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Legal Outsourcing to India

In the not too distant past, when people in the west thought of India, they thought of a country of sadhus, snake-charmers and saris; a country of tigers and elephants, poverty and congestion.

Those images are still very much a part of popular western perceptions of India.

But something has changed.

Discussion today on India is just as likely to be about the four Indian billionaires in the world's top ten list. Or the many Indian companies that have gone global with acquisitions all over the world, including Europe and North America.

Mostly though, when it comes to India, the subject now on most westerners' minds is outsourcing.

India has emerged as an economic powerhouse in the service industry.

Outsourcing to India started in the early 1990’s with medical transcription being the first known outsourced service. However, it is the IT and call centre outsourcing that really brought the Indian outsourcing industry into limelight. Today Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Companies in India provide services in a wide spectrum of industries including call centre, data management, engineering, financial, healthcare and legal. The most recent addition appears to be reproductive outsourcing.

While Legal Outsourcing to India appears to be relatively new phenomenon, some US law firms have been outsourcing their patent work to India since as early as 1996.

Today outsourcing legal work to India is no longer a novelty. It's a reality which more and more corporations and law firms are exploring as a cost saving measure.

Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) as it is called now got a big boost when corporate legal departments started to outsource their in-house legal work. The big US corporate names that have outsourced legal work to India in one form or another other include General Electric, Microsoft and American Express.

While the typical services provided by Indian LPO firms started with paralegal, secretarial, and litigation support work, however, Indian firms are now reportedly offering more valuable services, including contract review and monitoring, document review for due diligence, patent drafting, simple filings and legal research.

Anthony Lin of New York Law Journal, in his story on LAW.COM, says:

Legal process outsourcing vendors target the more mundane but nonetheless time-intensive tasks associated with legal practice, reviewing mountains of documents for discovery rather than drafting appellate briefs. Once the province of junior associates, such work is now more commonly handled by domestic staffing agencies fielding large teams of temporary attorneys.

While critics say that Indian lawyers can fulfill only the functions of paralegals and very junior associates, reports that some LPO firms are trying to move up the value chain to more complex tasks, and the prospect of higher-value work has fuelled a surge in the number of
Indian firms eager to take on corporate outsourcing.

However, the fact remains that top-tier Indian law firms have largely shunned off shoring contracts who say they won’t be tempted until high-value services can engage their interest.

India has huge potential in legal outsourcing, with more than 200,000 Indians graduating from law schools each year. These English-speaking modestly paid lawyers familiar with common law principles offer significant value to foreign companies to reduce in-house legal costs. On top of everything else, the time difference of about 12 hours allow for overnight and 24X7 operations.

According to Lin:

LPO salaries for Indian lawyers are generally well below $10,000 a year. By comparison, a U.S. contract lawyer usually earns around $30 an hour while associate base salaries at major firms in New York start at $160,000 a year.

But the math is not that simple. Maintaining a group of lawyers in India imposes significant infrastructure costs on the outsourcing companies. Aside from office space and computers, the leading companies also have U.S.-trained lawyers working in both India and the United States to supervise the work of Indian staff. They also maintain client development teams to market services to U.S. companies.

Such costs explain why outsourcing companies usually charge clients around $30 an hour, lower than what a U.S. staffing agency would generally charge but not by the magnitude simple labor-cost arbitrage would suggest.

Where does Canada stand in all this action?

According to National Post, Canadian lawyers are also looking to India to lower costs. In a story “Service brings India to Canada's lawyers” the newspaper reported on the official launch of Legalwise, believed to be the first homegrown outsourcing firm that uses Indian lawyers to carry out assignments under the guidance of Canadian lawyers.

It is the brainchild of Toronto lawyer Gavin Birer, a former Bay Street corporate lawyer and former vice-president of legal and business affairs at Travelex Americas, a non-bank foreign-exchange firm.

"Clients are becoming more aware of the type of legal services they are getting and the costs associated with that," he said.

"We are not a law firm, we don't provide legal advice," explained Mr. Birer, noting his firm works with a team of 430 lawyers based in Mumbai and Pune, who are trained in common law principles, similar to Canada. Legalwise works with lawyers here to identify projects that can be tasked to India. That includes litigation and corporate commercial services, such things as legal research, document review and drafting, contract management, lease abstracting, and due diligence. "It's the lower end of the legal spectrum," he said.

The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association last year found that keeping costs down was the number two priority -- after keeping up with the volume of work -- among 32% of in-house lawyers it surveyed.

A 1,500-hour project would costs $375,000 if carried out here by a $250-an-hour junior lawyer. In India, the same job would be $50 an hour for a total project cost of $75,000 --a savings of $300,000.

With the potential for cost savings so huge, the gold rush is on. More LPO firms are mushrooming everyday, spinning up the competition for talent. Lin says:

As a result, many companies have turned away from the big cities like Mumbai, where real estate costs can be as high as in U.S. cities. British firm NewGalexy Partners opened an office in the smaller Indian city of Pune for that reason.

Opening in a smaller market was the only way to meet U.S. and European clients' expectation on costs and service.You can't do that in a major Indian city anymore. The labor supply is finite.

The other threat to the outsourcing industry in India is the possibility of opening of the Indian legal market to foreign competition, which has been on the cards for a few years now. Such a move would affect the ability of LPO firms to recruit top candidates, as foreign firms would likely be able to pay even higher salaries.

It may well be that as in the IT sector, at some point of time in the future companies and law firms may have to look for alternative offshore outsourcing locations.

The financial benefits of outsourcing are not necessarily without risks and challenges.

Worries over issues related to confidential information and lawyer-client privilege are common. People are concerned about someone who’s not a part of their company or law firm, particularly a non-lawyer, who is not bound by the same rules of ethics as lawyers in US and Canada, having access to confidential information.

These types of concerns are usually addressed with strict contracts. Some outsourcing contracts are reported to specify that off-shore lawyers' computers could only have limited access to the Internet to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of documents.

Outsourcing is also perceived as a long-term threat to the traditional on-the-job training system for new lawyers. The traditional routine jobs given to lawyers when starting out are essentially the jobs that are being outsourced. Firms could find that while they are saving money outsourcing, their young lawyers are not getting properly trained.

Further, there will obviously be loss of jobs here in North America, however it is no longer considered to be a serious concern. In the 2004 US Presidential Election Campaign, loss of US jobs to offshore locations such as India was a political hot potato. Not in the present election campaign.

The fact remains that offshore outsourcing has become an ongoing and long-term economic reality.

Today IT professionals from North America and Europe work in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad in India.

Who knows, some years down the road, lawyers from this continent may be looking for jobs in India...

- Shashi K. Raina, Toronto

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Monday, March 24, 2008

SCC: Khadr Appeal May Consider Legality of Guantanamo Detentions

In a series of preliminary decisions, the Supreme Court Canada reiterated March 20, 2008 that it will allow a wide latitude of argument in its hearing of the Omar Khadr case as to "the legality of the detentions at Guantanamo in international law, and whether the Charter was breached by some form of Canadian complicity by interviewing [Mr. Khadr]and giving summaries of the interviews to the Americans."

The Court denied the Canadian government's motions to strike certain pleadings, to preclude the hearing of fresh evidence, and to revoke intervenor status granted to two parties, the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law — International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Court .

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who is imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan in July 2002. He is accused of five war crimes, including charges of murder in the grenade death of American soldier Christopher Speer. His trial before a U.S. military tribunal is scheduled for May 2008.

The Court's decisions were made in anticipation of its hearing on March 26, 2008 of an appeal by the Canadian government of a 2007 order of the Federal Court of Appeal granting wide disclosure rights to Khadr in his preparation for the U.S. military commission trial.

Khadr was granted disclosure of Canadian government's documentation for use in his defence at the military commission trial. The government's appeal will be conducted in a closed session of the Supreme Court of Canada.

As noted in The Court, a Canadian law blog that focuses Supreme Court of Canada matters:

It is settled law that the Crown is under an obligation to provide all relevant information to the defendant in a criminal trial, and also that "relevant" is very broadly defined: any information that has a reasonable possibility of being useful is considered relevant. It is also settled law that Canadian citizens are not uniformly entitled to information in the possession of the government of Canada. The question in this case is whether the Crown’s disclosure obligation applies to circumstances where (a) Mr. Khadr was captured abroad (in Afghanistan), (b) he was captured exclusively by the United States, and (c) he is being held by the United States without Canadian involvement.

In the decision under appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal held:

In these circumstances, the participation of Canadian officials in gathering evidence against the appellant at the pre-charge level raises, in my view, a justiciable Charter issue. They took an active role in interviewing the appellant and in transmitting summaries of the information collected to U.S. authorities. In doing so, they assisted U.S. authorities in conducting the investigation against the appellant and in preparing a case against him. Canada’s participation may have made it more likely that criminal charges would be laid against the appellant thereby increasing the likelihood that he would be deprived of his right to life, liberty and security of the person. I believe that in these circumstances the Charter applies.

In its rulings, the Supreme Court did allow the Crown's motion for a sealing order in relation to proposed fresh evidence which was given as disclosure in the U.S. proceedings. U.S. authorities indicated they would only allow the evidence to be tendered in the Supreme Court of Canada on condition of a sealing order being in place.

In an August 12,2007 letter, Canadian Bar Association President J. Parker MacCarthy, Q.C. called upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene to secure Khadr's release into Canadian custody:

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association to urge you to negotiate with the U.S. government the release of Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr, from Guantanamo Bay. Khadr should be released into the custody of Canadian law enforcement officials, to face due process under Canadian law.

...In an April 2006 letter, the CBA urged you to condemn the failure of the U.S. to meet the underlying principles of the Rule of Law through its detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay. We remain convinced that the procedures for holding detainees, including denial of due process and the interference with privileged communications with their solicitors, constitute an affront to the Rule of Law. The fact that Omar Khadr was a minor at the time of his capture only makes his situation more urgent.

As a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Combat, Canada has an obligation to ensure that the Protocol is being applied to its citizens.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

This article is cross-posted at BAR-eX

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The Funny Judge

National Review delivers an instant classic in the rare art of comedic judicial reasoning, penned by Texas U.S. District Judge, Samuel B. Kent:

Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact — complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words — to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.

With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins....

After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties' briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED...

It should be noted that not every day has been quite so amusing for Judge Kent, of late.

See Fifth Circuit Benchslaps the Naughty Judge Kent from Above the Law.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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The Angry Judge

Well, actually, two angry judges.

One who was angry for good reason....

Texas Defense Lawyer Jailed Over Lewd Courtroom Gesture - from ABA Journal:

A Texas defense lawyer representing a client in a DUI case was jailed briefly last week after he allegedly made a lewd gesture to let the judge know what he thought of a prosecution complaint in the case.

Adam Reposa, 33, was held in criminal contempt of court and jailed pending sentencing the next morning, at the order of County-Court-at-Law Judge Jan Breland, reports the Austin American-Statesman. His gesture, according to the judge, constituted "intentional and contumacious conduct" during a pretrial court review of a plea bargain offered to his client.

Specifically, Reposa "made a simulated masturbatory gesture with his hand while making eye contact with the court in response to an objection by the state to his interference with the court plea bargain inquiry," the judge wrote in a judgment order filed March 11.

Although Breland apparently added a handwritten note at the bottom of the order stating "No bond without my approval," Reposa was released later that day on a personal bond by state District Judge Charlie Baird. He said bond is legally required in lawyer-contempt cases, according to the newspaper.

And another, angry for not so good a reason...

Judge Apologizes for Shackling Lawyer -WSJ Law Blog:

Last week, the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure determined that D.C. Superior Court Judge John Bayly Jr. violated the code of judicial conduct when he ordered a public defender, Liyah Brown, to be shackled and detained after an argument. Here’s the story, from the Legal Times.

According to the story, trial transcripts reveal that the incident began when the public defender told the judge that her client was “a homeless man.”
“I don’t know that he is,” responded Bayly. An argument broke out, and Bayly told Brown to “be quiet” and sit down.

When Brown failed to quiet down, Bayly called on a U.S. marshal to “[s]tep her back, please. Step her back.” Brown was then handcuffed, subjected to a pat-down search and held in a cell with misdemeanor defendants for about 45 minutes.

The commission determined that Bayly violated the code of conduct that says a “judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity.” According to the commission, Bayly has accepted the commission’s conclusion and recognized his violation. He also wrote a note to Brown apologizing for his actions.

And of course, feel free to click on Judge Judy above, to see her really lose it on an eBay con artist.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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The Blogging Judge

Slate Magazine's blog on legal issues, Convictions, has a new contributor.

She is Nancy Gertner, a United States District Court judge for the District of Massachusetts.

Am I the only one who see a problem with this?

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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The Dialogue on Race in America

Barack Obama has called for dialogue on race in America.

Well, that long-overdue dialogue has begun. And not surprisingly, it isn't pretty.

Here are three must reads from two leading American commentators:

And while we're on this topic, in case you have not seen the entire clip, here is Reverend Jeremiah Wright's controversial post-911 speech that was at the genesis of last week's fiasco:

Below is a further clip, in which the Reverend opines very directly on the nomination battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

8-year-old Passes Law School Entry Exam in Brazil

The Associated Press reports on this odd law school tale out of Brazil:

An eight-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a judge has passed a law school entrance exam, shocking Brazil's legal profession and prompting a federal investigation.

The Universidade Paulista, a multi-campus private university, issued a statement acknowledging that Joao Victor Portellinha de Oliveira had passed the entrance exam and that it initially enrolled him. But he was turned away from classes when he showed up on Thursday with his father.

... The Brazilian Bar Association said the boy's achievement should be a warning about the low standards of some of the country's law schools.

Education Minister Fernando Haddad expressed concern and said he had ordered an investigation.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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Pope Calls for Peace in Iraq, Tibet, Darfur

In his annual Easter mass, Pope Benedict called for peace in the world, citing specifically the regions of Iraq, Tibet and Darfur. He also baptized an Egyptian born Muslim man, which the Vatican explained in a statement released earlier, was in the spirit of Christianity as all newcomers to the religion are "equally important before God's love and welcome in the community of the Church".

The National Post reports:

The pope, who turns 81 next month, celebrated an Easter Mass for tens of thousands of people in driving rain in St Peter's Square as Christians around the world commemorated Christ's resurrection.

The Sunday mass came hours after an Easter vigil service on Saturday night where, in a surprise move, the pope baptised Muslim-born convert Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken journalist and fierce critic of Islamic extremism

…"These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet, although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters," he said.

He called for "an active commitment to justice ... in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person continues to be scorned and trampled".

"It is hoped that these are precisely the places where gestures of moderation and forgiveness will increase!," he said, specifically mentioning Darfur, Somalia, the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon and Tibet.

He then wished the world a happy Easter in 63 Languages.

To all those celebrating, may you have a happy and peaceful Easter Sunday.

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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EU to Study Beijing Olympic Boycott over Tibet

The President of the European Union has called upon the EU to study a boycott of the Beijing Summer Olympics over China's continuing strife in Tibet:

European countries should consider a boycott of the Olympics in Beijing if the Chinese government continues to take a hardline attitude to unrest in Tibet, according to the president of the European parliament.

Hans-Gert Pöttering is the latest in a growing list of western politicians calling on China to open talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, whom Chinese officials blame for inciting a wave of protests and riots over the past two weeks.

"If there continue to be no signals of compromise, I see boycott measures as justified," Mr Pöttering told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper ahead of a debate this week about Tibet at the European parliament.

With less than five months until the Olympics begin on August 8, 2008, the Chinese government continues to defend its actions in Tibet, in the hope of minimizing controversy leading up to the games.

It may not work.

China's Response

CNN reports on China's response:

Information barely trickled out of the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other far-flung Tibetan communities, where foreign media were banned and thousands of troops dispatched to quell the most widespread demonstrations against Chinese rule in nearly five decades.

The Chinese government was attempting to fill the information vacuum with its own message, saying Sunday through official media that the restive areas were under control.

Xinhua issued several reports Sunday saying life was returning to normal in areas where protests took place in the wake of the Lhasa riots.

It said "more than half of the shops on major streets were seen reopened for business" in Aba, the center of northern Aba county in Sichuan province. It quoted county Communist Party chief Kang Qingwei as saying government departments and major enterprises were "running normally" and that schools would reopen on Monday.

Aba is where Xinhua has said police shot and wounded four rioters in self-defense. It was the first time the government acknowledged shooting any protesters. Xinhua also said Xiahe in Gansu province was returning to normal after rioting last week.

The government was in control in Maqu, also in Gansu, Xinhua reported, quoting the local government as saying 70 percent of the shops in the city were looted or damaged by rioters.

There was no way of independently confirming Xinhua's reports.

Protests in Tibet

This is a chronological summary of the Tibet protests to date, summarized from various CNN reports:

  • March 10, 2008: Coinciding with the 49th anniversary of Tibet’s failed uprising against Chinese rule that triggered the Dalai Lama’s exile from Tibet, protests erupt in various regions of India where Tibetan activists were planning to commence a 6 months march to Tibet. Their arrival in Tibet was scheduled to coincide with the commencement of the Olympic games. Most of the protesters wore bandages covered in blood, and/or Olympics rings around their necks. Tear gas and rocks were exchanged between citizens and police in India who quickly released an Order banning activists from partaking in the march.

    When Activists in India learned that approximately 300 monks were marching in protest to Chinese rule in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, activists in India chose to defy the government’s Order and began marching towards Tibet in protest.

    Due to the blackout of international media in the Tibetan region, reports of the protests taking place in the Tibet region, were largely based on eye witness accounts and activist groups. It was reported through them that 71 monks were detained as a result of the monks’ protests and that Chinese police and authorities were beginning to surround various areas in Tibet, specifically targeting monasteries.
  • March 12, 2008: the Chinese government issues a letter to China’s mountaineering Association advising that anyone requesting permission to climb mount Everest must be denied. It is reported that China plans to run the Olympic torch through the region, and is fearful of potential protesters interfering with the run.
  • March 14, 2008: Radio Free Asia, reported that three major monasteries in Tibet were completely surrounded by Chinese forces, that some monks were partaking in a hunger strike, and that at least 2 monks had attempted to commit suicide. The Chinese government requested that protesters in Tibet sign an agreement to refrain from future protests, but the request was refused. Unconfirmed reports begin to surface of protests turning violet with alleged gunfire and Chinese shops and windows being burnt.
  • March 15, 2008: Xinhua (China's official news agency) reports 10 deaths as a result of the protests in Lhasa and 61 arrests. Tibetans exiled in India report up to a 100 fatalities.
  • March 17, 2008: A rare video is released showing Chinese police in riot gear and the Dalai Lama speaks out calling for a “probe” of China’s human rights’ policies. He clarifies that Tibet is seeking “autonomy” not “ separation” from China.
  • March 19, 2008: An Austrian tourist releases another video of Tibet showing protesters burn and smash Chinese stores and windows. Xinhua advises that protesters are turning themselves in to Chinese authorities in exchange for promised leniency.
  • March 21, 2008: Xinhua reports that riots have spread into Provinces neighbouring Tibet. Chinese authorities set up Blockades and checkpoints throughout Tibet and neighbouring regions.
  • March 22: Xinhua releases a list of 21 most wanted protesters, offering rewards to tipsters. Its official death toll is raised to 22.
  • Today: China responded, as reported above.

Media outlets continue to have difficulty reporting on the conflict as a result of China's restrictive access to the region and media blackouts.

Toronto Mayor to Attend Chinese Trade Mission

Toronto Mayor David Miller is scheduled to attend a mission to China to discuss various issues, including human rights policies, climate change and free trade on April 13- 15. The Toronto Star reports that the mayor has confirmed that the mission will proceed in spite of the ongoing controversy.

During the International Olympic Committee's vote to determine the host of the 2008 summer Olympic games, Toronto came in second to Beijing.

Growing Controversy

An assortment of additional, ongoing controversies in China are at the root of various other calls for a Beijing Olympic boycott:

  • Animal cruelty: In preparation of the Olympic games, China’s clean up of stray cats includes cramping them into cages and sending them to “death camps” at the edges of the city. The cat cleaning controversy is occurring just one year after the government implemented the same procedure for stray dogs.

  • Darfur: Approximately one month ago, Steven Speilberg, who had been scheduled to be the artistic director of the games’ opening and closing ceremonies, removed himself from the role citing China’s lack of action in the Darfur region. China reportedly purchases approximately 2/3 of Sudan’s oil. Other celebrities including George Clooney, Mia Farrow and Richard Gere have also spoken out about China’s mishandling of the Darfur crisis.

  • Human Rights: Among the many ongoing human rights abuses in China, in an effort to clean its streets for the Olympics, China is implementing strict policies with reference to the mentally ill and homeless. It was reported that last month a citizen was beaten to death by Chinese policies after filming a conflict between the police and a street Vendor on his cell phone.

Further reading:

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama Rules

Finally I get it.

These are The Rules of the Democratic nomination battle, as adopted by supporters of the Barack Obama campaign:

Rule 1:

Every word Barack Obama (or any one of his supporters) shall utter shall be deemed to be historic, monumental and as pronouncing a self-evident, higher truth never before heard.

Rule 2:

Every word uttered by Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton (or any other supporter of the Clinton campaign) shall be deemed to be controversial, divisive and solely driven by a shameless desire for political gain, at any cost.


Now, at last, I understand.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Video: "It's Raining McCain...?"

Meet the McCain Girls...


- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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BBC Video: Tent Cities Spring Up In U.S. Due To Mortgage Crisis

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Gullibility of Andrew Sullivan

On the fifth anniversary of the commencement of American hostilities in Iraq, leading conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan has responded to Slate Magazine's request that he reflect on his "own failings of judgment" as a staunch supporter of the Bush administration's 2003 march toward war.

Mr. Sullivan's self-serving mea culpa - in which he admits only to such head-scratching pseudo-intellectualisms as "historical narcissism," "narrow moralism" and good, old-fashioned "unconservatism"- regrettably neglects to address his major, apparent failing:


When Colin Powell made his infamous presentation of "proof" to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, the delegation from France immediately knew Secretary Powell had his "facts" wrong.

So did the Germans.

As did Canada's Prime Minister at the time, Jean Chretien.

And sitting in my own armchair as I watched Mr. Powell's speech on television, I also knew, as did countless millions of American and other observers worldwide, that the Secretary of State's "facts" were thin as mountain air.

So why, then, did Andrew Sullivan and his ilk so readily and glibly jump aboard the Administration's public relations bandwagon to propel the United States into this miserable and ineffectual war?

They were gullible, that's why.

They simply believed what they were told, and marched ahead to the war's drumbeat, like good little stenographic soldiers.

They summarily dismissed every serious factual doubt raised about the Administration's dire claims of imminent mushroom clouds. They viciously characterized all dissent as the mad ravings of unpatriotic, ignorant leftists. They shunted aside questions from abroad as the crotchety concerns of an out-of-touch "old Europe."

Mr. Sullivan and his compadres were so gullible, in fact, that each day in the lead up to the war they simply parroted the Administration's spin du jour on their blogs and journals, adding their own clever twists to the Administration's blatant deceptions. They thereby took on a major role in the spread of disinformation that before very long, led American tragically into this ongoing and dangerous foreign policy embarrassment.

Soon enough, we learned the French and the Germans and the armchair observers worldwide had it right, all along - there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam, as evil as he may have been domestically, was no threat to the U.S.

And soon enough, too, we also learned that even within U.S. intelligence circles, only a minority cabal of neoconservative agents had ever been convinced of any military threat posed by the deposed Iraqi dictator to neighbouring countries or the domestic U.S.A.

From Richard A. Clarke and others, we learned what "cherry picking" intelligence means.

We saw critics like Ambassador Joseph Wilson savaged with the kinds of unflinching personal attacks by the Administration that ultimately led to the criminal convictions of Scooter Libby, disbarred yesterday for his role in obstructing U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Administration's shameless leaks of the identity of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame.

So I will suggest that Mr. Sullivan add gullibility to his list of failings.

The record indicates that he showed inadequate interest in getting his facts straight, as he joined the chorus of Administration hacks that blasted away daily at those who were guilty of asking all the right questions.

It is worth recalling that the now-repentant Mr. Sullivan did so back then with a straight face - because he genuinely believed what he was told.

Most regrettably, judging by Mr. Sullivan's recent musings on the current Democratic nomination battle, this personal failing remains both unrecognized and unmediated.

Daily Dish buyers, beware.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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