Thursday, November 23, 2006

Israeli Court: Israel Must Recognize Canadian Same-Sex Marriages

Haaretz reports today that on November 21, 2006, the Israeli High Court ruled that the State of Israel must register the marriages of five same-sex couples who were married in Toronto:

In a precedent-setting ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that five gay couples wedded outside of Israel can be registered as married couples. A sweeping majority of six justices to one ruled that the civil marriages of five gay couples obtained in Toronto, Canada, can appear as married on the population registry. The gay petitioners sought to force the state to give equal recognition to common law marriages of heterosexual couples to those of gay marriages, which can be performed in certain countries.

... The court rejected the position of the State Attorney, that states recognizing single-sex marriages cannot expect Israel to recognize such nuptial agreements drawn in these countries. The state told the High Court that "Israel lacks the appropriate legal framework for such marriages," and therefore it cannot register them. After the ruling was issued, the Civil Rights Association said it is "all the more important in the wake of the [recent] public turmoil stirred by the gay pride parade in Jerusalem."

Haaretz is an independent Israeli daily newspaper published in Tel Aviv.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

B.C. Native Justin Morneau wins AL MVP

While it has nothing to do with the usual content of this Blog, in the interests of CanCon and Canuck pride, it's worth noting that New Westminster, British Columbia's own Justin Morneau has been named the American League's Most Valuable Player.

A first baseman with the Minnesota Twins, Morneau had a .321 average, 34 homers and 130 RBIs in 2006, helping the Twins to make the playoffs.

A bit more background, from his Wikipedia bio:

Morneau is a 1999 graduate of New Westminster Secondary School, where he was named the New Westminster High School Athlete of the year and was a member of Canadian national champion baseball teams in 1997 and 1998. In 1998, he was selected the best hitter and catcher of the National Championships.

He was selected by the Twins in 3rd round as the 89th overall pick of the 1999 MLB amateur entry draft.

And from Yahoo:

Morneau became the second Canadian-born player to win [a baseball] MVP following Colorado's Larry Walker in 1997. He is the third Canadian-born athlete to win an MVP in a major pro league this year, following Phoenix Suns' guard Steve Nash and San Jose Sharks' center Joe Thornton.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, November 20, 2006

List of Lawsuits against Bloggers

A site link to start off the week....

The Media Law Resource Centre's listing of Libel and Related Lawsuits Against Bloggers, compiled by MLRC Staff Attorney Eric P. Robinson, provides an interesting look at what may apparently be a growing, new legal enterprise in America.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Toronto University Professors win Right to Use Medical Marijuana at Work

While a bit lean on details, an interesting development in Ontario human rights and employment law was reported today by CNN:

Canada profs win right to smoke pot

The use of medical marijuana has given two Toronto professors the right to something that many students could only dream of -- access to specially ventilated rooms where they can indulge in peace.

The two, at the esteemed University of Toronto and at York University to the north of the city, suffer from chronic medical conditions that some doctors say can be eased by smoking marijuana. They are among nearly 1,500 Canadians who have won the right to use the drug for health reasons. Using human rights legislation, the two petitioned their employers for the right to light up in the workplace. They faced a legal struggle, but the universities eventually agreed.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Google Opposes Australian Copyright Law: May 'cripple' online searching

ABC (Australia) reports that Google is lobbying Australian lawmakers in opposition to proposed copyright legislation in that nation.

According to the article, Google is concerned that the new law may place constraints on the legal entitlement of search engines to maintain cached copies of copyright-protected materials.

These cached page "snapshots" are collected and maintained by Google and other search engines for indexing and search retrieval purposes:

"Plugging a word or phrase into a search engine may soon give you fewer results if proposed new Australian copyright laws are adopted, according to internet giant Google.

The laws could open the way for Australian copyright owners to take action against search engines for caching and archiving material, Google says in a submission to a senate committee considering the legislation.

This could potentially limit the scope of the search engine results, which the internet company describes as effectively 'condemning the Australian public to the pre-internet era."

"Given the vast size of the internet it is impossible for a search engine to contact personally each owner of a web page to determine whether the owner desires its web page to be searched, indexed or cached," Google submits."If such advance permission was required, the internet would promptly grind to a halt."

- Garry J. Wise Toronto

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ex-Rock Star John Hall Wins Upset for Congress

While I'll have more to say later on the big-picture of yesterday's mid-term elections, this story is an interesting political sidebar for music fans.

Editor and Publisher reports that John Hall, former leader of Orleans was one of the many Democratic Party candidates to have a surprise victory yesterday:

John Hall, leader of the rock group Orleans that recorded such hits as "Still the One" and "Dance With Me," has won a stunning upset in his race for Congress in upstate New York, narrowly defeating Republican incumbent Sue Kelly 51%-49%.

Update: November 9, 2006:
Crooks and Liars now has video of Hall's appearance last night on the Colbert Report. Hall sang the national anthem with Colbert (who wasn't too bad at all as a harmony singer) at the segment's end.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tuesday's Legal News

Here are today's headlines:

-Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Net Neutrality Debate Comes to Canada

According to this article from Canadian Press, the debate in Canada over internet neutrality - or regulation of internet service providers' (ISP's) ability to favour selected content - has begun:

Industry Minister Maxime Bernier is currently poring over a report by the federally appointed Telecommunications Policy Review Panel that recommends changes to the Telecommunications Act, including replacing a clause on "unjust discrimination" that does little to either uphold the principles of Net neutrality or prevent it from being violated.

What telecom companies most want is to promote their own content, says Ben Scott of the American media watchdog Free Press and "If I'm Telus and I've just created my own Telus iTunes and I decide I want my Telus iTunes to work better than Apple's, well, too bad for Apple," says Scott in a telephone interview from
Washington, D.C.

"Essentially they set themselves up as gatekeepers and they say: 'Well, we own the wires and instead of treating all bits alike in a non-discriminatory fashion, we're going to set up special deals and if you have the money, you can pay us to make your websites go much faster. And you can pay us to set up an exclusive deal where your website goes very fast and your competitor's doesn't.' "

Net neutrality has been a cause celebre for bloggers and media watchdogs in the U.S. for quite some time. It has critical implications for the future direction of the internet in Canada.

The current internet environment is one of unfettered, equal opportunity for small businesses and previously unheard voices.

Professional marketers often remark that the internet is a "level communications playing field" that makes it possible for smaller enterprises to compete globally with ease and clout. The costs of global access would have been entirely prohibitive in prior times.

Net neutrality is the legal vehicle for maintaning democratized, equal access. The emerging debate is a critical one.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Poll: Canadians Name the Three Most Dangerous Men in the World

On the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections next week, this story from CITY-TV News certainly caught my attention - Bush, Bin Laden Among 'Most Dangerous' People, Canadians Believe:

What do George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong-il have in common? They're among the individuals Canadians believe pose the greatest danger to the world.

According to the EKOS poll, the U.S. President ranks third when it comes to who respondents felt represented the biggest threat - with 34 per cent of Canadians naming him. Osama bin Laden was considered the most dangerous, followed by the North Korea leader....

The survey also found that not only do Canadians have a negative view of Bush, their opposition for the Iraq War has risen sharply in the past three years....

When asked in the recent poll, 73 per cent of Canadians said they thought the Bush administration had no reason for invading Iraq... The survey also found 62 per cent of Canadians think Bush has made the world less safe since 2001, when he was sworn in as president...

Similar sentiment is echoed in British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il, a report from the U.K.' s The Guardian:

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.

It exposes high levels of distrust. In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security.

... Mr Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr Bush.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Friday Legal Headlines

I want to start by mentioning an interesting blog, Recording Industry vs The People. It is a U.S. defense lawyers' chronicle of the music industry's continuing copyright lawsuits against internet music downloaders. Well worth a look.

Now, on to the headlines...

We've been admitedly slow with updates this week. Today's news posting should catch us up.

-Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Determining Payors' Income in Support Claims - A Chartered Accountant's Perspective

Our friends at the Toronto accounting firm Mintz and Partners have a new newsletter, Valuation and Litigation, that is worth a regular look.

In the first issue, Stephen Rayson's article, Income determination for spousal support, addresses the challenge of accurately determining the income of a support payor in a family law proceeding.

I'm excerpting a few of his key points, as follows:

  1. In family law matters, income, as defined for tax purposes, isn’t necessarily the appropriate figure....
  2. When a payor is a shareholder, officer or director of a corporation, his or her income may be affected by the business’s earnings. For example, if a payor earns $100,000 in salary from a family-owned business, but the business earns $200,000 pre-tax after paying salaries and bonuses, the $200,000 may be added to the payor’s income. Also, any salaries or bonuses paid to other family members, which are higher than their market value, could be included in determining a payor’s income.
  3. There are two viewpoints on the issue of retained earnings of a business owned by a payor. One holds that retained earnings are the accumulation of undistributed profits, which are best viewed as property and not income. The other view holds that retained earnings are a real asset that the payor could have taken as income. Which view prevails depends on the case’s fit with current case law.
  4. If a payor deducts a high percentage of automobile expenses as business expenses for income tax purposes, but conducts most of his or her business at a single location, it’s likely that a portion should be added back to determine income. If part of a home is used as an office and these expenses are deducted for income tax purposes, it may be appropriate to include them for support purposes because they don’t represent an incremental cost to the payor.
  5. If a payor does not fully use property to realize income, that income could be ascribed to him or her. For example, if a payor loans funds interest-free to a company he or she owns, the interest that could have been earned may be determined.
  6. In family law, a tax gross-up occurs when a payor receives a personal benefit from a business expense. For example, if a corporation paid $10,000 for personal expenses on behalf of a payor, those expenses ($10,000) plus a gross-up factor would be added to the payor’s income. This reflects the fact that a taxpayer would require more than $10,000 in pre-tax income to spend $10,000.

Congratulations to the business valuation team at Mintz and Partners on this infomative publication. We'll very much be looking forward to subsequent newsletter editions.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Ontario Court Rules Against T.D. Bank in Mortgage Fraud Decision

Mortgage fraud leads this week's updates.

In an important Ontario Superior Court decision, Rabi v. Rossu and Toronto Dominion Bank, the Court shielded two Toronto condominium owners who were victimized by a mortgage scam from enforcment action by the T.D. Bank.

In in refusing to uphold the bank's claim that the mortgage remained enforceable, even in the face of an admitted and flagrant fraud, Mr. Justice Randall Echlin noted the following:

Arguably, the bank could have exercised greater due diligence before advancing a sizeable sum at the request of a mortgagor with whom it had never before had dealings. It delegated dealings to a mortgage broker who had no authority to bind the bank. Important telltale signs of the fraud were missed including the highly unusual failure to convey parking and storage spaces; payment of $30,000.00 to mortgage brokers for a standard mortgage; and the absence of a deposit being paid. If any of these simple matters had been noticed, the fraud might have come to light.

The appraisal exercise failed to even send an appraiser into the unit. A simple interior house inspection could have thwarted a mortgage fraud attempt such as occurred in this instance. Where the lender is granted an interior inspection, a fraudulent mortgagor would be less likely to be able to pull off its scam.

In this day and age of impersonalized mortgage lending and borrowing in which banks download the appraisal process to a mortgage broker who, in turn, does as little as possible to maximize profit, such frauds can and will occur. I cannot help but observe that there ought to have been more care taken in advancing a sum in excess of one quarter of a million dollars.

The complete text of Mr. Justice Echlin's decision is here. Also see the following links for news reports and commentary:

-Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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