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Monday, August 22, 2011

PROVINCE LAUNCHES TWO REVIEWS

The provincial government has appointed former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to head up a review of the process for including members of First Nations reserve communities on the jury rolls.

Earlier this year, a murder trial in Thunder Bay, Ont., was adjourned after a judge found there weren’t enough potential aboriginal jurors in the pool to get a representative jury. Iacobucci has a year to review the existing process, hold consultations, and recommend improvements.

“I look forward to working with our First Nations representatives and all those who have an interest in this issue to complete a review that is comprehensive and timely and addresses the unique challenges of ensuring a representative jury roll,” Iacobucci said.

Meanwhile, the province has also appointed Andrew Pinto to review its human rights system in light of changes in June 2008 aiming to streamline the system.

Pinto, a partner at Pinto Wray James LLP, will conduct public consultations and deliver a report by spring 2012 on the implementation and effectiveness of the changes.

SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE MOURNED

Superior Court Justice Randy Echlin has died at the age of 60.

Echlin was a leading employment lawyer for more than two decades at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP before his elevation to the bench in 2003.

Writing for HR Reporter, Miller Thomson LLP partner Stuart Rudner mourned the loss of his colleague.

“Randy was an excellent lawyer, a respected judge, a kind man, and a good friend,” Rudner wrote. “His death is a loss to many, including the employment law bar and the justice system.”

A service celebrating Echlin’s life will take place at the Leaside United Church at 822 Millwood Rd. in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 2 p.m.

CBA WINNERS ANNOUNCED

The Canadian Bar Association honoured the best of the profession during its conference in Halifax last week.

Vancouver lawyer Dave Joe won the President’s Award for his contributions to the legal profession. As chief negotiator for the Council of Yukon First Nations, Joe was one of the principal architects of the Yukon umbrella final agreement and self-government agreements.

Melina Buckley of Vancouver won the association’s Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence after almost two decades of dedication to CBA projects and task forces, including serving as project director for the landmark Bertha Wilson task force on gender equality in the legal profession.

The John Tait Award of Excellence, meanwhile, went to Susan Hardy, director of legislation at Nunavut’s Department of Justice. Called to the bar in Nova Scotia in 1993, she has worked in Nunavut since 1998.

In addition, Ed Ratushny won the Walter Owen Book Prize for excellence in legal writing. The 28 authors of The Law of Climate Change in Canada, led by Dennis Mahony of Torys LLP, shared the prize.

Other winners included University of Saskatchewan law professor Ronald Cuming, who picked up the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law for his outstanding contribution to legal scholarship in Canada.

Kerry-Lynne Findlay, a Vancouver lawyer and federal MP, won the Cecilia I. Johnstone Award for her work on the advancement of women in the legal profession.

University of Toronto professor James Orbinski won the Walter S. Tarnopolsky Human Rights Award for his contributions to domestic and international human rights.

Calgary lawyer Patricia Blocksom won the Touchstone Award. Sherif Foda of Gatineau, Que., received the $40,000 Viscount Bennett Fellowship for graduate legal studies, while Ottawa’s Holly Doerksen, the CBA’s director of national sections and conferences, won the Jack Innes Achievement Award.

Rounding out the list of winners are Maxwell Yalden, who received the SOGIC Ally Award, and Susan Ursel, who took the Hero Award. Vancouver articling student Preston Parsons won the Edward K. Rowan-Legg Award, while Edmonton’s Arman Chak received the Young Lawyers Pro Bono Award.

SCC REJECTS ONTARIO LAW FIRM'S LEAVE REQUEST IN CLIENT FEUD

Toronto area law firm Heydary Hamilton PC has reached the end of the line in its squabble with former clients and their new law firm after being dropped despite an existing retainer agreement.

In 2010, the matter, Heydary Hamilton Professional Corporation v. Hanuka, went to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which ruled in favour of the respondents. The Supreme Court of Canada announced last week that it would not hear a further appeal of the case.

According to the Ontario Court of Appeal judgment, Heydary Hamilton was retained on a contingency fee basis to act for Thakar Baweja, Rajiv Baweja, and 6369162 Canada Inc. for representation in a dispute between the former clients and their franchisor.

In October 2007, the firm issued a statement of claim on behalf of the former clients against the franchisor and continued to work on the file for about two years.

In September 2009, the former clients told the law firm to renegotiate their sublease. The firm responded by indicating that this work was beyond the scope of their existing retainer and offered to enter a further retainer to complete the work.

The following month, the firm began settlement negotiations with lawyers for the former clients’ franchisor. On November 6, 2009, the firm received a copy of a letter written by lawyers from Davis Moldaver LLP to the franchisor’s lawyers regarding the sublease.

Two days later, the former clients e-mailed Heydary Hamilton for information on the fees and disbursements incurred and a copy of its dockets. The former clients failed to respond to Heydary Hamilton’s inquiries regarding the former clients’ intentions.

Heydary Hamilton went on to sue former clients the Bawejas over an unpaid bill of more than $60,000. Davis Moldaver and lawyer Ben Hanuka were also named as defendants. Heydary Hamilton sought damages for conspiracy, inducing breach of contract and unlawful interference with economic interests, and unjust enrichment.

Superior Court Justice James Spence quickly struck the claim, saying it couldn’t succeed due to clear case law backing the right of a client to release a lawyer. Court of Appeal justices Janet Simmons, Eleanore Cronk, and Jean MacFarland agreed.

“Although it may be generally desirable that successor law firms co-operate in protecting a predecessor law firm’s account, to hold that a successor law firm’s failure to make arrangements to do so, standing alone, could found a cause of action would trench on a client’s unfettered right to change counsel,” they wrote.

Hanuka told Law Times in January that he was surprised when he was named in the statement of claim from Heydary Hamilton.

“It struck me as bizarre, because we simply got a client who was not happy,” he said. “The allegations in the claim were extreme.”

Douglas Elliott, a partner at Roy Elliott O’Connor LLP who represented Heydary Hamilton on the appeal, told the newspaper that the court could have used the case to set clear guidelines for firms that poach clients on contingency fee retainers. He suggested that Ontario’s law relating to contingency fees is outdated.

“It’s true clients have a right to choose their lawyer, but at a certain point, the court is going to have to step in and offer some protection to the economic interests of law firms who take on these contingency fee arrangements or it’ll be the Wild West out there,” said Elliott.

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