A Dodek: Ronald Dworkin and Canadian Legal Ethics

Written by Adam Dodek, and originally posted at SLAW (Canada’s online legal magazine)- click HERE

Legal philosopher and Oxford and NYU Law Professor Ronald Dworkin died last month. Dworkin was arguably the most influential legal mind of his generation. Throughout his many writings, Dworkin argued that there was a moral content to law and to many of the phrases contained in the American Constitution. He strongly influenced legal scholarship and teaching in the United States and around the world, including Canada. Dworkin’s fingerprints can be seen in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its interpretation by the Supreme Court of Canada and in much academic writing in this country. Continue reading

Conference Season in Canada

Thanks to Noah Semple and Jasminka Kalajdzic for alerting the CALE listserv to the following conferences:

  1. March 19 (next Tuesday):  Panel on Access to Justice and Early Childhood Education (Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, Costs of Justice Project).  Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto. Link: http://issuesofcostandaccess.eventbrite.com
  2. April 25-27: CBA Envisioning Equal Justice Summit. Vancouver. Links: Website.  Program.
  3. May 30 – June 2: Law and Society Assoc. Annual Meeting. Boston. Links: WebsiteProgram.
  4. June 4-5:  Canadian Association of Law Teachers Conference.  University of Victoria. Links: Preliminary Program
  5. July 1-4: Canadian Law and Society Association Annual Meeting. University of British Columbia. Link: Website.
  6. July 2-3 Windsor Law is hosting a conference on Commercial Litigation Funding: Comparative, Ethical and Regulatory Perspectives. There are panels on access to justice, ethics and other themes. For further info: www.uwindsor.ca/law/fundingconference.
  7. Aug 5-7: International Conference of Legal Regulators Meeting. San Francisco.  Link: website.  I am told that this conference is open to researchers. If you contact them via their form they will put you on the mailing list.

A Wherry, “Pat Martin vs. The Justice Minister”

Written by by Aaron Wherry and published on MacLean’s website on Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:32am

For the original article and comments on the Maclean’s website, click HERE

Ed Schmidt, a lawyer with the Department of Justice, is currently challenging the department in Federal Court—seehere and here—over the department’s obligation to inform Parliament if a piece of legislation violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The NDP’s Pat Martin has now taken this issue to the House, raising it as a matter of privilege.

Mr. Schmidt alleges the Department of Justice counsel have adopted a policy of interpreting the constitutional duty as meaning “no advice is given to the minister that he or she…has a duty to report to the House” so long as “some argument can reasonable be made in favour of its consistency with the charter, even if all the arguments in favour of consistency have a combined likelihood of success of 5% or less”. If these allegations are in fact true, my privilege as a member of Parliament, indeed the privileges of each member of Parliament, have been breached.

Supposedly, when a bill is placed before the House as government bill, every member can be reassured by law that the bill is not in violation of either the Bill of Rights or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the fact that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has examined the bill and finds it to be compliant with these fundamental Canadian laws. If the allegations of Edgar Schmidt are true, we members cannot rely on the performance of these statutory and constitutional duties to know that a bill is consistent with the Bill of Rights and charter in deciding our vote as the bill proceeds through the committees and the House. Based on these allegations, the Department of Justice is approving proposed legislation that has only a mere remote possibility of being consistent with the charter or the Bill of Rights. In contrast, Schmidt argues that the statutory examination provisions require the Department of Justice to determine whether the proposed legislation is actually consistent with the charter or the Bill of Rights, not on the possibility of whether or not the legislation could be consistent.

This hinders us as members of Parliament in the performance of our parliamentary duties. It constitutes an interference in the performance of our duties to exercise due diligence of the bills before us. I believe every member of the House would agree that if these allegations are proven to be true, they show contempt for the authority and dignity of Parliament.

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler is due to add his concerns and there will no doubt be a response from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson before the Speaker makes a ruling.


J Gray: Ethics, conflicts of interest focal point for think tank

Published in The Globe and Mail Thursday, Feb. 28 2013, 5:00 AM EST and last updated Thursday, Feb. 28 2013, 7:02 AM EST


Jeff Gray

A new think tank being announced next week by the University of Toronto’s law school will take on the ethical issues lawyers faced on Bay Street, where they increasingly struggle with conflict-of-interest rules and other dilemmas. Continue reading