A private liberal arts Christian university in British Columbia seeking permission to open a law school is meeting resistance because it won't admit students or hire faculty unless they sign a covenant promising not to engage in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” This post in a new Canadian legal blog, Canadian Legal Ease, offers a good quick look at how our neighbors across the border treat the issue of religious tolerance and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The chambers judge followed his practice of cutting and pasting paragraphs from the briefs filed by the parties, having those paragraphs retyped, and then signing them as “Reasons for Judgment”. The decision at 2011 ABQB 595 is 67 paragraphs long, and the decision at 2011 ABQB 596 is 78 paragraphs long. ... Every one of the paragraphs in the reasons was extracted, essentially verbatim, from the chambers briefs. There is no independent authorship. Even spelling mistakes in the briefs are faithfully carried forward.
So what's the problem? The appellate court explains:
Deciding between competing adversarial positions is at the core of the judicial function, but so is explaining how the eventual result was reached. ... This fundamental judicial obligation cannot be discharged without the judge conducting an independent analysis of the case, and articulating it in appropriate form. ... The repute of the administration of justice depends in the end on litigants having confidence in and respect for the decisions that affect their rights, whether they won or lost. It is imperative that the litigants feel that they were fairly dealt with, that their arguments and evidence were considered, and that a principled, balanced, transparent, independent and impartial analytical process has been applied in reaching the final decision. To a great extent, whether these objectives are achieved depends on the reasons that are given in support of any particular result. ... Previous decisions have commented on the problems that result when a chambers judge merely copies the briefs filed, rather than composing original reasons. Because they are prepared in an adversarial context, the briefs of the parties tend to be “one-sided”. They generally tend to place the position of that litigant in the best possible light, and downplay (or even ignore) the arguments, authorities, and evidence in support of the opposite side. Merely copying those briefs often results in a failure to select in a judicial way from the evidence and legal authorities, with a resulting failure to assimilate the competing positions in a transparent and defensible manner.
...and that family law everywhere is a cauldron of emotions.
The Opening of Session of Courts in Ontario brought out protestors, described in this Slaw post. Blogger Omar Ha-Redeye's observations also reinforce the conclusion that family law reform is not for the short-winded:
The signal from the judiciary here is clear to me. Family law reform is needed, and there is significant support from the bar in volunteering their time to assist in the areas of need within family law. Judges do not have an easy job, and are restricted by the legislation and funding provided to them by the government. In this respect, the efforts of the protesters which target the judiciary and the courts directly may be misguided.
Some lawyers and members of the legal profession have made independent efforts to make family law more accessible, as I detailed last year. Since that time I've also involved myself in developing the only free resource online which allows members of the public to do a with-child SSAG support calculation.
The legal profession appears to share the concerns over family law but believes a different approach is needed to address these problems. Somehow the gap between the disgruntled public, and the legal professionals who actually want to help, must be closed. My hope is that these members of the public realize that lawyers and judges can be their allies as well.
Although we didn't ask to be reminded, Above The Law calls our attention to the ongoing ethics investigation of Lori Douglas, associate chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba, family division. Justice Douglas's husband, also a lawyer, took some nasty naked pictures of Douglas and posted them on the Internet. He was fined last year by the Law Society of Manitoba. The Canadian Judicial Council is looking into whether Douglas should be removed from the bench over the online photos and her alleged involvement in her husband's solicitation of another man to have sex with her, and what she should have disclosed when she was applying to be a judge.
This post at Slaw praises the openness and accessibility of the Canadian Supreme Court in conspicuous contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's worth noting for the record that sessions of the Michigan Supreme Court are available online for viewing, although our state court has a way to go to catch up with Canada's electronic filing capacity.
In Michigan, we have a well-developed and sophisticated appreciation for our northern/eastern/southern neighbor. But there is always more to learn, and Canada Day is as good as any to expand your knowledge. Find some delightful answers at An American’s Guide to Canada. Its author explains:
A few words from the author: Canada is a wonderful place. Its relatively small population and expansive landscape give it a distinctive character, a character that Canadians are constantly trying to enunciate and defend. Sometimes it feels like a small town. Some years ago, my Canadian sweetie and I had a couple of people over for popcorn, and for two consecutive nationally-aired commercials, one of the people in the room pointed at the TV and said, "Hey. I know that person." This country is endearing and civilized and charming, and I am very, very fond of it. I hope I can convey some of that fondness in these pages.
Canada's Conservative government (that's "conservative" with a Canadian "c") is sending mixed signals about the country's same-sex marriage law. In 2005 Canada became the Western Hemisphere's first country to legalize same-sex marriage by adopting a gender-neutral definition of marriage, over the opposition of the Conservative Party. Although they took power the following year, the Conservative Party has not moved to re-open the law. But recently the government told a U.S. couple married in Canada that it cannot grant the couple a divorce because the jurisdictions they reside in -- Florida and England -- do not recognize same-sex marriage. Questioned about the government's action, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the issue was not on the Conservative government's agenda, and pled ignorance:
In terms of the specifics of the story this morning, I will admit to you that I am not aware of the details. This I gather is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law and I will be asking officials to provide me more details.
The Toronto Globe and Mail calls the government's action a legal "about face," and Harper's response a "stumble."