Canada

Canada View From Up North Many judges suffer from a grave condition called T.S.S. (Tightened Sphincter Syndrome). You don’t have to conduct an intimate examination of a judge’s nether regions to determine if he/she has T.S.S. You can pretty much guess from the symptoms: constant grumpiness, a dour expression, words chosen to make onlookers feel the immense gravity of court proceedings, decisions pronounced as if only a fool would dare appeal them, etc., etc.

Sadly, T.S.S. is not fatal, but it does make everyone who comes into contact with an infected judge feel flu-like symptoms.

Justice Joseph Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice does not suffer from T.S.S. Whatever the opposite of T.S.S. is, this dude (and I say “dude” with the highest respect) has it. Take this sentence from his epic ruling in The Hearing Clinic (Niagara Falls) Inc. v. 866073 Ontario Limited: “Fridriksson has taken everyone on a hideously time-consuming and obscenely expensive journey down his private yellow brick road to the outskirts of the Emerald City where, it appears, he has a residence. It was not a worthwhile adventure.”

Find me another judge who invokes The Wizard of Oz to stick a broomstick up a deserving plaintiff’s butt. This case is delicious for so many reasons….

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[Plaintiff alleges he was extorted out of $90,000 on threat of] the defendant using the souls of the baby ghosts in the possession or control of the defendant to curse the plaintiff if he did not provide the funds.

– The complaint of Jian Liang Hu, filed in British Columbia by lawyer Mark B. Thompson. Jian claims he was blackmailed by spooky dead babies. I’d like to think dead baby souls have more on their agenda than settling scores for unscrupulous businesspeople. Like watching Frozen 10 times a day like live babies do.

Africa LF* “There’s too much at stake—too much money and interest.” Biglaw firms in West Africa are surviving, nay, thriving, despite the fact that the area is afflicted by the terrors of Ebola. [Am Law Daily]

* “[T]ake a step back, to pause to consider, I hope, a change of course.” The head of the FBI is pissed about cell encryption, and he wants tech companies to cut it out with this privacy stuff. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has a new chief financial officer. At Pittsburgh’s third-largest firm, the former litigation practice director could really make a name for himself. [Pittsburgh Business Times]

* Former employees — even lawyers — of the recently failed Canadian firm Heenan Blaikie are filing suit, seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance pay. Good luck with that, eh? [Globe and Mail]

* According to NY AG Eric Schneiderman, 72% of Airbnb rental sites in New York City are operating illegally. This is going to be problematic for those who enjoy the services of faux hotels. [New York Times]


The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is the prime industry group for Canadian lawyers coast to coast. In essence the CBA is an advocacy group that also provides its members with continuing legal education and networking opportunities. It has 37,000 members, so it speaks for a lot of Canadian lawyers.

Let’s move half a world south to the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador. An energy giant, Chevron, apparently caused a bit of nuisance there. The indigenous villagers in the region sued Texaco (which Chevron subsequently purchased) for causing extensive pollution and won a local judgement for $9.51 billion. I haven’t taken a trip to Lago Agrio, but I suspect from the size of the judgement we aren’t talking about a few puffs of black smoke.

The plaintiffs are now chasing Chevron’s assets all over the world, including Ontario. Chevron hath protested with vehemence that its Ontario assets should not be at risk. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled last year that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs “deserve to have the recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment heard on the merits” in Ontario. Thus, the C.A. has at least opened the door for the plaintiffs to realize on Chevron’s Ontario property in satisfaction of the multi-billion dollar judgement. Here’s the shocker: Chevron has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

This is where the CBA comes in….

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* Thanks to a partner from K&L Gates, victims of revenge porn will be able to rely upon the assistance of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project to guide them through the courts pro bono. [National Law Journal]

* The latest Princeton Review rankings are out, and now you can find out if you attend a law school that has some of the best professors in the country. Spoiler alert: Yale Law isn’t No. 1. [Huffington Post]

* Calling all lawyers and law students! If you bought a Red Bull in the past 12 years to get through an all-nighter, then you’ll be able to make some quick cash from this class action settlement. [BuzzFeed]

* It seems Madam Justice Lori Douglas, the Canadian judge whose nude pictures were leaked online, is no longer facing sexual harassment charges. That must be nice for her, all things considered. [CBC News]

* Per federal prosecutors, if you’re not too high to suck at playing games on Xbox, then you’re not too high to forget about friends of the accused Boston bomber removing evidence from your room. [Bloomberg]

* Adrian Peterson’s felony child abuse trial is supposed to begin in December, but it could be delayed because the judge may have to recuse. That’s what happens when you call lawyers “media whores.” [CNN]

One thing I remember best from law school. Professor Ron Delisle said, “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.” It’s a bit of an unwieldy sentence, but it encompasses some of the most important concepts in a free society.

Like rule of law. No one is above the law.

Like transparency and independence within our justice system. Our trials are, for the most part, held in open court. We have appellate courts to review the work of judges below them. The Prime Minister can’t tell even the lowest judge how to rule on a case.

Like freedom of the press, which provides oversight and an independent voice to challenge those in power who abuse the system.

The system isn’t perfect, but it works pretty darn well most of the time.

Let me ask, how does a country built around those lofty concepts allow lawyers to regulate lawyers?

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What the hell is going on here?

Canadians are generally a friendly lot. At least, when they aren’t building anti-gay law schools or talking about their Stanley Cup drought (21 years and counting). So it was more than a little bit startling to see the latest cover from Canadian Lawyer magazine going all Birth of a Nation on us.

The prominent legal publication featured a cover story about the lack of diversity on the Canadian bench. Unfortunately, the cover image they used did a much better job demonstrating why there might be race problems in Canada. Great White North indeed.

And bizarrely, the magazine hasn’t apologized for its cover despite the controversy it’s sparked….

(Please note the UPDATE added below.)

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What’s all the fuss with Trinity Western law school? For those who don’t know, Trinity Western is a private university in British Columbia. Its stated mission is to change lives “through its whole-person, Christ-centred approach to education.”

We don’t have very many religious four-year colleges and universities. Trinity Western is one of the few I can name. The U.S., of course, has a long history of religion-affiliated colleges. The Catholics have Loyola-here and Loyola-there, the Jews have Brandeis and Yeshiva, Muslims have Zaytuna, the Protestants have Bob Jones, etc.

Trinity Western is our country’s Bob Jones. Every student has to sign a long covenant (we’ll call it “The Covenant”) that includes the following promise:

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Most of you know that Lexpert “ranks” Canadian law firms and lawyers every year. I thought it would be interesting to take a totally unscientific look at the Lexpert rankings and see if anything monumental comes out of it.

Here are the rules for reading this column:

1. It’s all meant in good fun. Don’t send me nasty emails if you don’t agree with something I write.

2. Read Rule #1 again.

A little background for those of you who don’t know. Lexpert has a methodology for divining the best law firms and lawyers by practice areas. I have no idea what the methodology is and I don’t care. I think all ranking methodologies are next to useless. What is important is once you declare you’re going to rank something, and put those rankings into a glossy magazine, people (lawyers and clients) put some stock into them. Lexpert could use a Capuchin monkey to pick names out of a hat and a lawyer would still brag to her mom if she was named one of Lexpert’s leading attorneys.

Lexpert has four categories: Most Frequently Recommended, Consistently Recommended, Repeatedly Recommended, and Everybody Else. Okay, it doesn’t use Everybody Else, but you get the drift. You’re either in one of the Recommended categories, or you’re on the outside looking in…

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In the most Canada news ever, a man has brought a class action suit against the Canadian government for its failure to control the moose population in Newfoundland and Labrador. An appeals court dismissed the claim, but personal injury lawyer Ches Crosbie vows to take his campaign all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court: “The case is unprecedented in many ways… It’s rife with live legal issues for a court of appeal.”

The theory of liability here is that the Canadian government introduced moose to Newfoundland island in 1904 as a source of food. Now their population is out of control, and motorists routinely slam into them and are injured by the large herbivores.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly… the solution is NOT to release an “apex predator” to control the moose population. A prime moose can generally not be messed with by any alpha predator. Top predators will eat some moose calves, but when you get out to check the damage the moose did to your car, the sound of timber wolves closing in around you is not something you are going to want to hear.

Oh, and for the Texans in the audience, shooting them hasn’t really been a successful answer either. Sorry Canada, you have a trophic cascade on your hands, and there is little that can be done about it….

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