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Monday, January 19, 2009

MCMURTRY STUDIES PUBLIC’S LEGAL NEEDS

Ontario legal groups have called on the province’s former chief justice to lead a study on unmet justice needs.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, Legal Aid Ontario, and Pro Bono Law Ontario last week announced that Roy McMurtry has come on board as chairman of the steering committee of the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project.

“Today, more people are appearing in courtrooms throughout the province without the support of a lawyer or licensed paralegal,” said McMurtry. “The costs of legal services are rising, and it is taking longer to resolve legal problems. We, as a legal community, want to address these issues.”

The initiative aims to find new and inexpensive ways for those who offer legal services in civil justice. The project will include a public telephone survey, focus groups with legal and social service professionals, and an appraisal of current services that aim to support access to justice.

COURT APPROVES ABCP PLAN

Ontario Superior Court Justice Colin Campbell last week gave his final approval to a restructuring plan for $32 billion of third- party asset -backed commercial paper.

“After more than a year of patience and understanding on the part of investors, both large and small, and through the efforts and compromises of all the stakeholders around the table, we are very pleased to be entering this final phase of the restructuring,” said Purdy Crawford, chairman of the Pan-Canadian Investors Committee, which designed the agreement.

“While no one could have predicted the scope and extent of the challenges that we’ve faced along the way, we continue to believe in the benefits of this restructuring and are pleased that we are arriving at its long-awaited and successful conclusion.”

The plan includes an arrangement stopping investors from suing banks, brokerages, financial services companies, and bond-rating agencies for losses caused when the short-term investments caved in.

Starting last Friday, investors were expected to be able to either get their money back for their dissolved ABCP or begin trading a new bond.

JUDGE REBUKED FOR AIDS COMMENTS

Justice Jon-Jo Douglas of the Ontario Court of Justice has officially been punished for shockingly misinformed comments made during a trial regarding and HIV-positive witness.

The Barrie judge, reports the Toronto Star, recently visited Casey House hospice for patients with HIV/AIDS to close the book on a complaint to the Ontario Judicial Council.

The complaint by the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic followed Douglas’ comments in a November 2007 trial. The judge asked an HIV-positive witness to wear a mask while in the court, erroneously arguing that the virus can reactivate with moisture.

Dr. Ann Stewart, medical director at the hospice, told the Star that Douglas showed courage through is visit.

“He asked a lot of questions,” Stewart told the newspaper. “He’s clearly learned a great deal since a year ago.”

LAWYERS NAMED TO ORDER OF ONTARIO

The province’s legal community has a strong presence in the latest round of Order of Ontario appointments, announced last week.

Topping the list is former Superior Court chief justice Patrick LeSage, who was named to the Order of Canada in 2007. He served as chief justice of that court from 1996 to 2002, and currently acts as counsel with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Toronto.

Other lawyers appointed to the Order of Ontario include:

• Dickson MacGregor Appell LLP partner Mary Dickson of Toronto, for her work as an educator and advocate for people with disabilities;

• former Ontario premier David Peterson, chairman of the Toronto law firm of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, recognized for public service work; and

• University of Ottawa common law emeritus professor Ed Ratushny, for contributions to education and law.

“I am pleased to invest some of our province’s most deserving citizens into the Order of Ontario,” said Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Chancellor of the Order of Ontario David Onley.

“This distinguished honour is bestowed on those who have gone above and beyond, those who have demonstrated excellence in various fields of endeavour.”

NEW NAMES AT BLG

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Toronto office announced a pair of new faces last week.

Margot Blight, previously from Blight Law Office, and Amanda Carson, who previously practised with Hughes Amys LLP, have both joined the firm.

Blight, who practises labour, education, human rights and constitutional, and administrative law, has been named a partner.

Carson, who practises insurance and tort liability, comes on board as an associate.

FMC BOOSTS MONTREAL OFFICE

Norman Issley and Steven Chaimberg have joined Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP’s Montreal office, a move the firm says will strengthen its commercial law practice.

“Their vast experience in mergers and acquisition, franchising, and real estate law reinforces FMC’s position as a leader in those fields and the firm’s commitment to providing our clients - from small and mid-sized businesses to large and foreign multinational companies - with strategic legal advice,” said Montreal office managing partner Claude Morency.

OSLER TARGETS INSOLVENCY

The addition of Robert Anderson and Christa Nicholson to Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s Calgary office is expected to beef up the firm’s national restructuring and insolvency practice.

“In this business climate, we are especially pleased to be able to offer the skills of these accomplished lawyers through our national practice,” said the firm’s restructuring/insolvency practice leader, Edward Sellers.

Both lawyers join the firm as partners.

SASK. EXPANDS PARENTING PROGRAM

Parents in Saskatchewan who go to Queen’s Bench Courts to resolve a family law dispute now must take a program to help them understand the effects of their disagreement.

“I am very pleased to see this program become a mandatory part of family law court proceedings where children are involved,” said Justice Minister Don Morgan. “The success rate of this program speaks volumes about its value to children and families in difficult circumstances.”

The Parenting After Separation and Divorce program previously was required for the court’s Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Yorkton locations. The province says a survey of attendees suggests a 90- per- cent success rate.

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