Monday, April 20, 2009

The memory of Scarborough assistant Crown attorney Paul Vesa, who died of cancer last year, will live on through a new bursary at his alma mater.

Jamie Chaffe, treasurer of the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, tells Law Times that Vesa also was posthumously honoured last week with the association’s Dennis Theman Award for excellence in leadership and membership in the development of Crown counsel associations.

The University of Windsor Paul Vesa Bursary was unveiled at the award ceremony, says Chaffe. Vesa graduated from the university’s law school in 1981.

The bursary will go to a second-year student interested in the practice of criminal law who best exemplifies Vesa’s “tremendous love of life, community involvement, education of the profession, and deep commitment to the administration of justice,” says Chaffe.

Vesa died in June 2008 after a battle with leukemia. During his lengthy career as an assistant Crown he served as president of the Ontario Crown Attorneys’ Association and CACC, and was a long-standing member of the Ontario Bar Association and Canadian Bar Association, serving on the OBA executive and several committees.

“He was really critical in building the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel into a national organization for Crown counsel right across the country,” says Chaffe, noting Vesa’s role in staving off an attempt from the Mike Harris government in Ontario to slash the province’s complement of Crown lawyers.

“People indeed weren’t laid off; they actually ended up hiring more Crowns,” says Chaffe. “He displayed incredible leadership and mentorship in developing these organizations, on top of his excellent work on behalf of the provincial and national memberships when he performed the role as president.”

Chaffe says members of the CACC, OCAA, Association of Law Officers of the Crown, and various individual lawyers in the province came together to create the bursary. He says the amount of money attached to it continues to build.

Attorney General Chris Bentley says the prospect of a consolidated, downtown Toronto courthouse is still on the table, despite the recent announcement that the province will soon break ground on a new courthouse in the city’s west end.

“This courthouse is to meet the needs of the west part of Toronto,” Bentley tells Law Times.

“There are obviously a lot of other discussions going on about what do our courthouse needs look like for the next 30 years in other parts of Toronto, and we’ll continue having those discussions and continue analyzing so that we’re always able to meet the needs of the system of justice throughout the city of Toronto.”

Bentley announced earlier this month that the Ontario Realty Corp. is working with the City of Toronto to finalize the site for the new courthouse within the Westwood Theatre Lands in Etobicoke, near the intersections of Bloor Street West, Dundas Street West, and Kipling Avenue.

The Ministry of the Attorney General said the new building will be a “green” building, meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards, and it will hold over 20 courtrooms, including two “major criminal courts.”

Ontario legal organizations last week honoured the 27th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms through the yearly Law Day celebrations.

The set of events are a collaboration between the Ontario Bar Association, Ontario Justice Education Network, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Association of French Speaking Jurists of Ontario. It also relies on funding from the Advancement of Legal Education and Research Trust and the Law Foundation of Ontario.

This year’s celebrations included offerings such as a Grade 5 poster contest, an elementary school mock trial competition, court tours, and a phone-a-lawyer program.

About 13,000 students and legal professionals participated in Law Day 2008, said the OBA.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s Toronto office has welcomed a new counsel to its ranks.
The firm recently announced that Tyler Hodgson has come on board to specialize in the areas of securities, regulatory, civil, and criminal litigation.

Hodgson, who previously practised with Dubai First International LLC in the United Arab Emirates, was called to the Ontario bar in 1999.

Macleod Dixon LLP recently announced that a swath of lawyers have accepted invitations to become partners.

Robert Eberschlag is the lone member of the firm’s Toronto office to move into the partnership ranks. In the Calgary office, the new partners are Kathleen Cowick, Rujuta Patel, Karl Seidenz, Rashi Sengar, and Chris Wolfenberg. Yerzhan Kumarov from the Almaty office also became partner.

"We welcome this new group of partners,” said Bill Tuer, the firm’s managing partner, in a release. “These seven individuals have made a valuable contribution to the firm during their careers with Macleod Dixon and will continue to do so as partners.

Not only is each a very strong practitioner, but each also possesses the professionalism and leadership that will help strengthen the firm and position us well for the future."

Lawyers in small Ontario firms now have an alternative to the dizzying option of juggling their career with the birth or adoption of a child, as the law society last week rolled out its parental leave assistance program.

Law Society of Upper Canada Bencher Laurie Pawlitza, co-chairwoman of the retention of women in private practice working group, tells Law Times she is “just delighted” to have the program up and running. But the focus now is on implementation, she says.

“What’s great about it is, because this is going to be a slow process, we know that overnight we’re not going to make huge steps - it’s going to be baby steps, so to speak,” says Pawlitza.

The law society expects about 60 lawyers per year to use the parental leave assistance, which is available to those in firms of five lawyers or fewer. Recipients will get $750 per week for up to 12 weeks - to a maximum of $9,000 per leave, per family unit - for costs to maintain their practice.

A tax ruling has established March 12 as the effective start date of the program, and recipients must meet the following eligibility criteria:

• be a birth parent (mother or father) or an adoptive parent (mother or father);

• be a member in good standing;

• be a sole practitioner or a partner in a firm of five lawyers or less;

• have no access to other maternity, parental, or adoption financial benefits under public or private plans; and

• cease to engage in remunerative work or to practise law during the leave for which he or she is receiving payments under the parental leave assistance program.

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