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Editorial: Lawyers filling the void

There have been two good examples recently of lawyers finding or advancing solutions to issues governments have failed to act on.

As Law Times reports on page 3 this week, a number of lawyers are taking advantage of new court rules that allow for service by electronic document exchanges. They include Michael Tweyman and Arin Klug, both of CourtSide EDX, and Michael Marra, a family lawyer from Elora, Ont., who started the Support Information Exchange web site.

The services come as the provincial government admits it wasted more than $4 million when it scrapped the Court Information Management System aimed at introducing a comprehensive electronic filing system in Ontario’s courts. After years of repeated failure on that issue, the government is now moving towards incremental, piecemeal approaches such as a pilot project in the Small Claims Court. While the government’s track record on that issue is shameful, its new approach is better than nothing. In the meantime, we see lawyers moving to fill the void — on the service issue at least — through the new exchanges.

The other area where lawyers have taken the initiative is climate change. Last week, a task force of the International Bar Association co-chaired by Toronto lawyer David Estrin proposed a comprehensive legal framework for dealing with climate change. It suggested ideas aimed at both preventing global warming, such as enacting trade rules to account for climate change measures, and dealing with the fallout. Particularly notable was the proposal for an international court for the environment to deal with the inevitable legal disputes that will arise.

The lawyers’ actions follow years of failure — due to its own disregard for the issue — by the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, most notably by bringing in long-promised regulations for the oil and gas sector. Here in Ontario, despite the achievements in closing down coal-fired electricity plants, we’ve seen little progress on the cap-and-trade system promised under the Western Climate Initiative involving several states and provinces.

So on these two issues, lawyers have shown they can take the lead. While it’s often disheartening to see governments fail on these issues, we can at least take solace that others will advance them regardless. Whether we’re talking about electronic document exchanges or rapidly declining prices for alternative energy sources such as solar power, things are still progressing in small ways even when it looks like our governments are failing us.

Glenn Kauth

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