The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Access to justice

How self-represented litigants view the justice system

By Yves Faguy February 17, 2017 17 February 2017

 

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project has released its report for 2015-16 tracking trends among the SRL population, including data about income:

We continue to see the majority of those representing themselves reporting lower income levels below $50,000 with the majority below $30,000. In the latest sampling, 51% state that their income is under $30,000 (in the 2013 Study this figure was 40%, and in the 2014-15 Intake Report it was 45%).

The next largest group (15%) report annual income of between $50,000- $75,000, followed closely by those reporting income of $30,000-$50,000 (1%). This also closely resembles the data reported in both the 2013 Study and the 2014-15 Intake Report.

Also consistent with earlier reporting, 8% of respondents (6% in both the 2013 Study and the 2014-15 Intake Report) report earning more than $100,000. As income rises, so does the likelihood that the respondent previously retained a lawyer for this matter. One respondent in this sample group reported having spent more than $100,000 on legal fees before becoming self-represented.

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Charter law

Improving the Court Challenges Program

By Yves Faguy February 16, 2017 16 February 2017

 

Léonid Sirota sizes up the reinstated Court Challenges Program and reiterates his concern that “choosing to fund court litigation based on language and equality rights,” Parliament is in fact saying that it values those right over constitutionally protected rights.

Nicolas Hay acknowledges the argument, but writes that a well designed program still has merit. He cites the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case upholding a discrimination complaint against the federal government by failing to provide an adequate level of child welfare on First Nations reserves, as the type of challenge that requires a financing program:

I wholeheartedly agree: privileging some rights over others can have serious implications for federalism, and a Program that treated all rights equally would be more appropriate.

The Program is undoubtedly worth saving if it were adjusted to include the changes I have outlined so far: a more accountable selection process; a more robust method of allocating subsidies; and an expansion to include all Charter rights...

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The judiciary

Appeals court to weigh Trump executive order

By Yves Faguy February 7, 2017 7 February 2017

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban today. He has received plenty of pushback for singling out a a "so-called" federal judge in a tweet for blocking his immigration order.

Will Baude considers the difference between executive official criticizing a court’s decision and it criticizing its authority:

If the court has authority, then the parties are legally required to follow its judgment: even if it is wrong; even if it is very wrong; even if the President does not like it. But if the court does not have authority, then perhaps it can be defied. So the charge of a lack of authority is a much more serious one. It is the possible set-up to a decision to defy the courts — a decision that is unconstitutional if the court does indeed have authority to decide the case.

Yves Boisvert addresses the independence of U.S. courts:

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Access to justice

HackJustice: Tech apps that will improve access to justice

By Yves Faguy February 6, 2017 6 February 2017

 

Over the course of two days, several participants at the MaRS Discovery District and at the Cyberjustice Laboratory at Université de Montréal gathered for Hackjustice, co-sponsored by the CBA, to code and build tech applications that will improve access to justice.

“I was truly excited, impressed and amazed by the technologies that our HackJustice participants were able to develop in what amounted to about 10 working hours,” said Nicole Aylwin, assistant director at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution. “It was inspiring to see how conversations about the role of legal technology in improving access to justice helped informed participants creations.”

Each participating team was required to choose a challenge and later present their tech solution to panel of judges.  The three challenges were: to develop ways to use social media tools to engage and empower the public in policymaking; to resolve consumer disputes; and to develop tools to help people deal with everyday legal problems.

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The profession

Joe Groia’s incivility dispute heads to the Supreme Court

By Yves Faguy February 6, 2017 6 February 2017

 

It’s somewhat fitting that it is in these polarized and vitriolic times, where levels of incivility and nastiness seem to have become commonplace – in the media, in politics, on social platforms, in the workplace – that the Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to hear the appeal by Toronto lawyer Joe Groia. 

As a quick recap, in 2011, the Law Society of Upper Canada found that Groia engaged repeatedly in uncivil conduct in the defense of his client, John Felderhof, the chief geologist and central figure of the Bre-X Minerals scandal. At trial, Felderhof was acquitted of all charges. Though the trial judge had never complained to the Law Society about Mr. Groia’s conduct, a disciplinary panel nevertheless found that Groia’s violated professional conduct rules by being rude and lacking respect for the court. Groia saw his licence briefly suspended.

Sean Robichaud gives some background, and frames the debate, arguing that advocacy is about “justice, not civility."

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