Open Letter to Justice Minister Shandro RE: Legal Aid Alberta Funding

This is a copy of the letter I sent to Alberta Justice Minister this morning: August 3, 2022 Via Email to: ministryofjustice@gov.ab.ca   The Honourable Minister Tyler Shandro Minister of Justice and Solicitor General & Deputy House Leader 204 Legislature Building 10800 – 97 Avenue Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6 Dear Sir: RE:     Inadequate Legal …

Ghomeshi, Guilt and Gullibility

Given the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent horrendous decision in R. v. J.J., 2022 SCC 28 (extending its half-decade Crown win streak for sex assaults at that Court to 35) that I blog about here and the recent jury verdict in the Jacob Hogaard case (noting the awful, one-sided media coverage of it), I thought I’d …

Innocence is not a myth – Shakespeare, wrongful convictions and R v BEM, 2022 ABCA 207

I read a recent ABCA case of a conviction appeal dismissed that illustrates for me the extent of the quagmire that is sexual assault law in Canada. The decision is indexed as R v BEM, 2022 ABCA 207. The majority decision is by Schutz and Slatter JJ.A., with a partial dissent by Veldhuis JA (on …

Trauma and memory

Since I’m no brain scientist, I thought I’d crack open a textbook (crowns believe in textbooks, right?). I had a look at Witness Testimony – Anthony Heaton-Armstrong; Eric Shepherd; Gisli Gudjonsson; David Wolchover – Oxford University Press (oup.com) – 2006 (thank goodness for a solid Calgary law library). While skimming the book, I was looking …

Surprisingly Human: How Judges Think, by R. Posner

I recently read Richard Posner’s excellent 2010 book, How Judges Think. He pulls back the curtain on judicial thinking, clarifying a topic seldom discussed or understood. He puts the lie to the commonly held perception that judges’ reasoning is (for the most part) Divinely inspired. He reinforces Justice Berger’s somehow-controversial comments in R. v. Gashikanyi, …

The train wreck that is Legal Aid Alberta

I have lots to say about Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) and its funders. They’ve slashed their budget drastically the last few years – with an extreme, detrimental impact on both the public and the lawyers who depend on it for their livelihoods. Given their very tight budget (and drastic reductions in funding from Alberta’s provincial …

Policing Thoughtcrime: The Role of Law Societies?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the role Law Societies play in regulating the opinions expressed by lawyers. Lawyers are required to be “respectful” of tribunals and courts, yet they’re also required to be critical of injustice when they see it. How does one reconcile these sometimes-conflicting duties, and who decides what behaviour is …

The Trial of Steven Truscott – How Little has Changed since 1959

“And with the greatest respect, my lord, I submit that the jury listening to your charge could not help but get the impression that you consider a verdict of guilty was warranted on the evidence,” Steven’s lawyer said. It was as close to calling a judge biased as a lawyer could go. The judge’s five-word …

“What Worries Me (Most) About Sexual Assault Prosecutions”

I recently watched OsgoodePD’s 2021 Symposium on Sexual Assault available here – not inexpensive, but quite worthwhile. I enjoyed most of it. My favourite part was by far the “debate” between Professor Melanie Randall (“Randall”) and Alan Gold. Randall is a law professor out of Western, and Gold is a legendary criminal defence lawyer (and …

The Presumption of Guilt in Sexual Offence Trials in Canada

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.] I’ve been watching excellent seminars from Professor Sankoff recently. As always, incredible quality and …