Monday, August 18, 2014

Canada’s legal community is mourning the death of the “dean emeritus of Canada’s corporate bar.”

“He just got it into his mind that the way to build the firm was to build other people — grow a lot of big trees instead of a lot of little trees,” said Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP vice chairman Brian Levitt of Purdy Crawford.

Crawford, who began his career at Oslers, died after an illness in Toronto last week at age 82. A leader in corporate and securities law at the firm, he moved to the corporate world in 1985 as head of Imasco Ltd. “This was the beginning of an illustrious career in business, during which Purdy led corporations, sat on the boards of some of Canada’s most significant public companies, advised on high-profile matters, chaired committees and important government panels, lectured as a law school professor, and gave freely of his time and expertise to philanthropic causes of importance to him,” the firm said. “Purdy was extraordinary in so many respects: widely considered the ‘dean emeritus of Canada’s corporate bar,’ one of Canada’s foremost business leaders, thought leader to the Canadian securities industry, and a great philanthropist,” the firm said in a tribute.

The Canadian Bar Association honoured former justice minister Irwin Cotler and blogger Simon Fodden with its president’s award last week.

On Wednesday, the CBA presented the award during its annual legal conference in St. John’s. “As a teacher, practitioner, and lawmaker, Irwin Cotler has made significant contributions to how lawyers view law, how law can be used as a vehicle for social change, and how our laws can be improved,” said outgoing CBA president Fred Headon of the current Liberal MP.

Headon also honoured Fodden, an academic who helped found Osgoode Hall Law School’s program in poverty law at Parkdale Community Legal Services and creator of the Slaw blog. “Not content to just retire after a long and distinguished academic career, he showed us how to innovate,” said Headon.

Slaw “has had a significant impact on the profession, serving as a forum to exchange ideas and to encourage change,” he added.

The president’s award recognizes significant contributions to the legal profession, the CBA or public life in Canada.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has launched a pilot project for electronically filing plaintiff claims with the Small Claims Court in select cities.

The pilot began last Monday for claims filed in Ottawa, Brampton, Oshawa, and Richmond Hill, Ont. Under it, plaintiffs can prepare and file all forms by going to ServiceOntario’s online business portal. They can also obtain default judgment online if the defendant doesn’t file a defence with the court within 20 days of service.

The ministry expects to expand the service across the province early next year. Currently, only plaintiffs can file claims online and they must be for a fixed amount of money related, for example, to a debt owed under a contract.

Given the uncertainty in the legal profession, it’s perhaps not surprising that lawyers are working longer hours.

But according to Robert Half Legal, the numbers should prompt managing partners and general counsel to pay attention to the stress lawyers are under. The survey of 350 lawyers at North American law firms and corporations noted more than half of respondents report working more hours over the last five years. More than a third of lawyers said they work more than 55 hours a week while the median response was 50 hours a week.

The number of people assisted by duty counsel declined in recent months, Legal Aid Ontario noted in its fourth-quarter performance review for 2013-14.

The numbers declined by 1.2 per cent compared to the previous year, according to LAO. The organization said the decrease reflects the trend towards hearing fewer events in court as well as court-efficiency efforts like the Justice on Target project.

In addition, LAO saw a slight decline in assistance aimed at moving cases to resolution. Dispositive services in civil or family matters dropped to 29,779 in the quarter from 31,218 the previous year. For criminal matters, dispositive services decreased to 91,505 from 101,633 the year before.

In the report, LAO also noted its new pilot project in select cities to offer mediation advice from a family lawyer.
A young offender has had his bid for an automatic right to state-funded counsel for the indigent on a first appeal.

In R. v. P.C., the applicant sought a declaration that s. 684.(1) of the Criminal Code violated his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The section gives judges discretion to appoint counsel for those without means on appeal “where it appears desirable in the interests of justice.”

The youth is appealing his manslaughter conviction but lacks the money to retain a lawyer, according to the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling on the constitutional issue last week. As part of its decision, the appeal court found in favour of having judges consider the merits of the appeal before appointing counsel. “The accused is entitled to conduct his appeal as he sees fit,” wrote Justice Karen Weiler.

“It is not unheard of for an accused to raise a ground of appeal for which there is a complete lack of support in the trial record, such as alleging that the trial judge was biased. Although the appeal does not raise an ‘arguable’ issue, the accused can still make the submission. However, assuming the accused has the ability to have his submission communicated to the court, either directly or through an interpreter, the appointment of counsel will not assist the accused in effectively presenting his appeal. Nor will the panel hearing the appealrequire the assistance of counsel in order to decide the appeal. Thus, requiring the accused to demonstrate that he has an arguable appeal does not treat the accused unfairly.”

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