Friday, June 30, 2006

Coast-to-Coast Legal Podcast: The Fun Side of Lawyers

Law.com bloggers and attorneys J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi look at the "fun side of lawyers" in this Coast-to-Coast podcast. Coast-to-Coast is a regular show on the Legal Talk Network, a U.S. Internet radio network for lawyers.

This recent episode features a law professor who is also an Elvis impersonator, an attorney who founded a dating service called lawyersinlove.com, and the president of the Association of Surfing Lawyers.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:17 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 29, 2006

International Labour Organization Databases

In the past 2 weeks, I have been doing quite a bit of research on labour issues so this caught my eye.

This week's "Resource of the Week" at ResourceShelf is A Review of International Labor Organization Databases Accessible on the Web.

The review contains descriptions of databases with information from around the world on labour laws, labour standards, union rights, health and safety regulations, substance abuse in the workplace, training, migration, child labour and other issues.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Anti-Terrorism News

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that trials of Guantanamo detainees in front of military commissions violate the Geneva Conventions as well as the rules of U.S. military justice.

The decision in the case known as Hamdan v. Rumsfeld can be found online.

The legal news site JURIST (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) has compiled material from various sources:

JURIST has a collection of resources on the Guantanamo prison camp, including news items, legal commentaries, official documents, and videos.

JURIST is also reporting that Rulings against anti-terror laws creating 'constitutional crisis': UK MP after British courts struck down key provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:15 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wikipedia in U.S. and Canadian Case Law

The Tech Law Prof Blog had a post last week about some of the recent credibility problems of online collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia.

As explained, "The Wikipedia founder says that he regularly gets about 10 email messages from students per week saying they cited Wikipedia as their source and got Fs on their papers".

The post did mention that "20 federal courts have cited Wikipedia in opinions" [U.S. federal courts that is]. Quipped the blogger: "Pity the poor students and their failing grades. You'll have a better time citing Wikipedia when you become a judge."

I did a search on Quicklaw and found at least 5 Canadian cases that have cited Wikipedia:

  • R. v. P.B.B., [2006] O.J. No. 2004 - Wikipedia article on "trust"
  • R. v. Y.N., [2005] O.J. No. 4388 - quoted Wikipedia definition of "explanation"
  • Gillet c. Arthur, [2005] J.Q. no 15034 - referred to Wikipedia article on "shock jock"
  • Almrei v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2005] F.C.J. No. 437 - referred to Wikipedia article on the Maher Arar deportation and torture case
  • Bajraktaraj v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2005] F.C.J. No. 293 - referred to Wikipedia material on Kosovo

Earlier Library Boy posts about the Wikipedia accuracy controversy:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Distracted by Info Overload or Attracted by Infolust?

Slaw.ca has published a couple of interesting posts about how the ever expanding set of information tools people can have at their disposal often leads to distraction, feelings of constant attention deficit, even mental exhaustion (see Sorry, I Got Distracted and Changeful Complexity).

But there is another message out there. Brought to you from the "You say tomayto, and they say tomahto" department.

The website trendwatching.com has found out that the masses seem to revel in their infolust:

"Experienced consumers are lusting after detailed information on where to get the best of the best, the cheapest of the cheapest, the first of the first, the healthiest of the healthiest, the coolest of the coolest, or on how to become the smartest of the smartest. Instant information gratification is upon us. So forget information overload: this desire for relevant information is insatiable, and will soon move from the online world to the ‘real’ world to achieve true ubiquity. Get ready for a click-and-know, point-and-know, text-and-know, hear-and-know, smell-and-know, touch-and-know and snap-and-know world."

And then my head exploded.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:21 pm 1 comments links to this post

New U.S. Report on Anti-Spyware Enforcement

The U.S.-based Center for Democracy & Technology has come out with a recent report on ways for law enforcement officials to more effectively combat the problem of malicious software downloaded inadvertently onto to people's computers that can create privacy and security problems.

"Because spyware is a moving target, it requires attention from a multitude of sectors, from litigators and legislators to technologists and consumer advocates. The following charts serve to summarize the spyware behaviors that law enforcement officials have targeted in their recent cases. By highlighting specific practices that have already been determined to be illegal, CDT hopes to provide a tool for future spyware prosecutors, consumer protection agencies, and legislators, as well as for software developers looking to avoid behaviors that could cause their software to be classified as spyware."

CIPPIC, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic based at the University of Ottawa, has created a page of Canadian material on spyware.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:06 pm 0 comments links to this post

Amnesty International UK and USA's Human Rights, Trade and Investment Matters

I picked up a reference to this document at the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

The UK and USA branches of the international human rights NGO Amnesty International released a collection of articles last month that explore the connections between trade, investment and human rights, and consider the potential for integrating human rights into trade and investment agreements.

"Amnesty International’s foray into the field of investment and human rights reflects a wider critical focus on the human rights implications of foreign direct investment from a broad spectrum of bodies ranging from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to research institutes, think tanks and pressure groups. Of particular concern is the ad hoc nature in which international investment rules are framed, often without reference to international human rights law, as well as the lack of transparency of application of these rules and of mechanisms for resolving disputes."

"The first section of this journal focuses on the role of financial institutions in shaping standards... The second section reveals the scope of the problem by exploring some of the connections between trade, investment and human rights... The third section explores the potential for integrating human rights into trade and investment agreements..."

"The final section focuses on the legal accountability of companies for the impacts of their investment. David Weissbrodt welcomes the decision of the UN Human Rights Commission to appoint a Special Representative on Business and Human Rights. He argues that this has created an opportunity to advance the process of developing universally recognized standards for business with an effective implementation process to ensure adherence. Peter Muchlinski examines how litigation might offer remedy to victims who bring claims against companies for human rights abuses associated with their investments. He argues that despite the constraints on both victims and their lawyers, the legal community is making significant advances towards bringing human rights into the equation of corporate liability, in particular via class action suits."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:56 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 26, 2006

Survey of Codes of Conduct in Australian and Other Parliaments

The Parliamentary Library in Australia recently released a study entitled A survey of codes of conduct in Australian and selected overseas parliaments:

"The conduct of ministers and members of parliament is often in the news. The need for parliamentary codes of conduct, particularly ministerial codes, is discussed when the public duty and private interests of members of parliament are reported to conflict."

"This e-brief summarises the approach taken in federal, state and territory and some overseas parliaments to codes of conduct for ministers and members of parliament, registers of interests, the post-separation employment of ministers and the use of ethics commissioners in providing advice on and/or conducting investigations into breaches of codes. Where possible the publication provides links to relevant documents. It does not compare codes of conduct."

"This e-brief also examines the codes of conduct in the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and the USA."

Earlier Library Boy posts on government and/or public service ethics include:

Recent Library of Parliament (Canada) publications on the topic of government ethics include:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:05 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Feature Article on Canada's Chief Justice

The most recent issue of Canadian Lawyer features a profile of Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the article, McLachlin discusses issues such as recent changes to the judicial appointment process, the debate over judicial activism, the upcoming Court agenda, the maintenance of a collaborative and collegial atmosphere on the bench, etc.

The article also describes the Chief Justice's career and life.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:47 pm 0 comments links to this post

American Association of Law Libraries 2006 Conference Materials

The 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries takes place next month in St.Louis, Missouri but the presentation handouts can already be found online.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:41 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another European Union Blog

On March 6, 2006, I posted about the EU Law Blog, a "web log about European Union law for students, academics, practitioners and anyone else who may be interested in it".

A relatively new blog called ECJBlog now covers news from the European Court of Justice. The blog is based in the Netherlands. The Court examines the legality of measures taken by European Union institutions and ensures the uniform interpretation and application of EU law.

For more information, the most recent annual report of the European Court of Justice has just been published.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:05 pm 0 comments links to this post

Recent Reports on Operations of Parliament

Earlier in June, 2 reports on the workings of federal parliamentary institutions were tabled in the House of Commons:
  • The House of Commons Report to Canadians 2006: "The Report to Canadians provides a look into the activities of Members and the work of the House of Commons Administration. It is one component in the House of Commons’ effort to increase the public’s understanding of Canada’s parliamentary system, and to maintain high standards of public-sector governance." The document explains the work of parliamentary committees, the everyday work of Members of Parliament, the behind-the-scenes support infrastructure for parliamentarians, procedure and rules of order, as well as interesting statistics such as the number of citizen petitions presented on different topics
  • Strategic Outlook for the 39th Parliament: this document outlines the governance vision as well as the objectives of the House of Commons administration
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Rise of DocuTicker - Tracking Government and Think Tank Reports

One of my favourite international sites for monitoring government, NGO and think tank reports is DocuTicker, a daily update provided by the librarian team that created Resourceshelf.

DocuTicker offers an RSS feed. It also organizes items by broad categories, including one called Legal and law enforcement. Not surprisingly, much of the material is American, but not all.

Recently, DocuTicker has featured reports on the fragile nature of the rule of law in Russia (Foreign Policy Centre in the UK), a German report entitled Empathy and Emotions: Do Women Judge Better? (available via SSRN), a report on road rage (Parliament of Victoria in Australia), a global survey of fraud risk in emerging markets (Ernst & Young) and much more.

The most recent issue of the UK information industry newsletter FreePint features an article by DocuTicker's Shirl Kennedy about the selection process used by the site to sift through the many association, government, and other reports that could be of interest on any given day.

Some of the points:
  • DocuTicker tries to "include important documents many people are looking for, i.e. those mentioned in the news or that are issued on a regular basis"
  • "Everything ... includes a link to a freely available full-text report"
  • There is "a good mix of subject matter, with an emphasis on high interest topics, such as education, health care, social and cultural issues"
  • Posts contain an abstract "taken directly from the document or from a press release issued by the agency responsible for the document" - Docuticker does not provide commentary or value judgments, it assumes readers are smart enough to figure out biases
  • DocuTicker tries to include international materials and asks that its non-American readers notify it of interesting reports out there

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:59 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Paper Will Never Die

The June 2006 edition of PracticeLink, a Canadian Bar Association publication, carries the reprint of an article entitled Why Paper Still Matters: A Contrarian View of the Paperless Office.

The author argues that "the paperless office will not become widely used for two reasons — one philosophical and one practical".

From the philosophical point of view:
  • "Emotional attachment to tactile paper will prove hard to overcome"
  • "Paper, in the end, may prove to be the more environmentally friendly product"
  • "Computer screens provide only linear searching and processing; developing a new concept is much harder when you have to follow the logic of the search program"
From the pratical point of view:
  • "Unlike a digital file, paper cannot be imperceptibly altered. That's one big reason why lawyers are required to maintain physical copies of important client documents..."
  • "...the use of familiar paper documents is often less costly in the long run"
  • "There are a variety of low cost technologies that enable a law office to enjoy the best of paper's advantages while reducing the record storage burden"
And then there is my take on paper's survival.

Many people, myself included, like to be surrounded by piles of "stuff": papers, files, books, magazines, etc. (old styrofoam cups, boxes of paper clips and staples, dozens of half-chewed pens and pencils, an old frisbee, the list goes on). If it doesn't look messy, it isn't an office. Digital existence is just too, well, clean.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:21 pm 1 comments links to this post

Aboriginal Judicial Appointments

Since today, June 21, 2006, is National Aboriginal Day in Canada, I thought I would post about resources dealing with aboriginal legal issues, in particular aboriginal judicial appointments.

The Indigenous Bar Association has been actively advocating for judicial appointments of aboriginal jurists to all levels of Canadian Courts and has commissioned papers, made submissions to Parliamentary Committees, and worked in partnership with other organizations to push for greater aboriginal representation on the bench.

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has also been pushing for greater aboriginal representation in the judiciary:
  • Racial Equality in the Canadian Legal Profession (February, 1999): this 113-page report by the CBA examines the history of racism in the legal profession, the process of considering and entering law school along with barriers faced by minority and aboriginal students, the structure of bar admission courses and exams, employment barriers, the influence of the judiciary, particularly judges, on how law is interpreted and applied, and the need for specific action to address the concerns of aboriginal people
  • Federal Judicial Appointment Process (October 2005): "Indigenous law and the common or civil law are 'vastly dissimilar legal cultures,' with Aboriginal law being 'neither English nor aboriginal in origin: it is a form of intersocietal law that evolved from long-standing practices linking the various communities'. The need for reconciliation between the two legal systems is obvious in cases relating to Aboriginal title to lands, rights to hunt or fish, membership, and self-government... It stands to reason that a rich understanding of Indigenous laws derived from experience would be beneficial in making judicial decisions when matters of 'intersocietal law' arise. Thus, the CBA urges the federal government to reflect better the recognition of Indigenous law systems in judicial appointments. Further, particular focus should be given to the appointment of Aboriginal judges to appellate courts".
  • Recognition of Legal Pluralism in Judicial Appointments (resolution at the annual meeting of the CBA in August 2005)
  • Indigenous legal traditions and Canadian legal pluralism (article in Feb. 2006 issue of Touchstones, newsletter of the CBA Standing Committee on Equity)
  • Indigenous Bar Association: Aboriginal appointments to appellate courts (Article in August 2005 issue of Touchstones)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:10 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

When Can Judges Break Silence Over Attacks?

There is an interesting controversy in the UK right now involving the reaction of judges to some very vocal attacks on the British judiciary because of what certain tabloids and politicians see as lenient sentences.

In a BBC interview, one senior judge decided to break with the tradition that holds that judges must remain silent. Council of Circuit Judges secretary Keith Cutler told the broadcaster that many of the judges he represents were deeply affected by personal attacks.

The Times reported that the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor have said that such attacks can undermine the judiciary.

Gary Slapper, a law professor at the Open University and a contributor to the Times law blog, has called for the continuation of judicial restraint: "Such debate, however dignified the contributions of judges, would demean the judicial process. It would politicise the court room. In a democracy, judges must judge cases and sentence offenders according to the law. That is all. They cannot engage in an ongoing dialogue with the pubs, coffee bars, and staff tea rooms of Britain about sentences in particular cases".

But Slapper also adds that politicians should adopt the attitude of "I cannot comment on that case because I do not know all the relevant facts and details."

Such attacks on judges do also occasionally occur in Canada. We all remember the recent attacks against Canada's Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, falsely accused by one government MP of believing the Supreme Court had "God-like" powers. She decided to respond through the Court's executive legal officer. The politician resigned from the House of Commons committee he chaired.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:11 pm 0 comments links to this post

Open Invitation for Additions to Taxonomy of Legal Blogs

I received an e-mail from Moritz Law School (Ohio State University) student Ian Best, the 3L Epiphany blogger and the creator of the much noticed Taxonomy of Legal Blogs.

Ian has sent out an open invitation asking people to send in any suggestions for:
  • "adding legal blogs that are missing from the taxonomy...;
  • suggesting that legal blogs currently included in the taxonomy belong in different or additional categories;
  • suggesting that legal blogs which were purposely omitted from the taxonomy should be included ...;
  • suggesting that entirely new categories of legal blogs should be added, or that existing categories should be changed or subdivided; and
  • providing updates about legal blogs which have a new URL, or have become inactive"

Ian also draws attention in his e-mail to a number of blawg-related items on his blog:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:31 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 19, 2006

Intranet 2.0

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post More on Government 2.0 and on Government Library 2.0.

On Stephen's Lighthouse, the blog of SirsiDynix VP of Innovation Stephen Abram, there was an item last week about Preparing for Intranet 2.0: how to integrate new communication technology into your intranet.

"Sometimes special librarians feel more insulated from some of the Web 2.0 trends as their environment can be very controlled by IT or coporate policies. I am at the SLA Conference in Baltimore until Wednesday and this is on my mind. Lo and behold this report comes over my aggregator... It's a great place to start to understand 2.0 concepts in the Intranet environment".

The report referred to explains how "(N)ew communication technology is making it [the enterprise Intranet] less a one-way publishing vehicle and more a platform for two-way communication, collaboration and innovation. In this chapter, we discuss these new technologies – from RSS, to wikis to blogs – and whether you should integrate them into your intranet".

At the Supreme Court of Canada Library, we will be exploring the use of wikis and RSS feeds as part of our 2006-7 business plan.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Where Are All the French Blawgers? - Part Deux!

This is a follow-up to the June 9, 2006 Library Boy post Where Are All The French Blawgers?

The post discussed a recent article in the Canadian Bar Association magazine The National that attempted to explain why there are so few French-language law-related blogs in Canada.

The article discussed the issue of lack of time, but also referred to the opinion of one law professor at the Université de Montréal who thought Quebec-based jurists were reticent to comment on legal issues for cultural and historical reasons.

I provided an explanation relating to the peculiar sociology and structure of the Quebec media industry.

Another Université de Montréal professor, Vincent Gautrais, has now stepped up to the plate with a a different explanation - a mathematical explanation: Quebec blawgs do not interest people in France because they are culturally too different; Quebec blawgs do not interest jurists in the Rest of Canada because they're in French; Quebec blawgs won't interest other Quebecers because they are about law after all, and Quebec blawgs won't even interest most Quebec lawyers because blawgs are becoming increasingly narrow or specialized in focus.

"All of this means that, in the final analysis, there are only 12 people left who are likely to read you".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

More on Government 2.0 and on Government Library 2.0

On June 8, 2006, a post on Slaw.ca referred to the Government 2.0 Think Tank, which is all about leveraging Web 2.0 concepts about interaction and open source technologies to improve the way government manages information and provides services to citizens.

In Quebec, the CEFRIO IT research firm has teamed up with the Réseau informatisé des bibliothèques gouvernementales du Québec (RIBG), a resource sharing consortium of Quebec government libraries and documentation centres.

CEFRIO and RIBG have launched a research project into the future of government library services in the context of the emergence of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 concepts.

In its preliminary environmental scan and literature review, the CEFRIO consultants comment that articles and studies about the transformation of government libraries in general are scarce. Available material does show, however, that government libraries are still behind many public and academic libraries when it comes to innovation and Web 2.0-style transformations (more collaboration and user interaction, knowledge sharing and management, etc.).

CEFRIO identifies a number of key shifts in the kinds of skills and competencies government libraries will need to develop in their staff, if they aren't already:
  • the shift from the reference service model to value-added research and environmental monitoring
  • the shift to more on-demand information services (through the use of new, personalized tools like RSS feeds etc.)
  • the shift from reaction to being pro-active, anticipating needs within the context of the overall information management strategy of the entire organization
  • the shift from just cataloguing and classifying to also managing metadata, records management, information architecture and building taxonomies
  • the shift from copyright to digital rights management
The CEFRIO documents refer in a number of places to the analyses being developed by the Council of Federal Libraries as part of their Community Renewal Project.

The Council's purpose is to improve the coordination and sharing of resources between federal government libraries, including the Supreme Court of Canada library, and to promote communication, cooperation and professional development among federal library staff. All of this in the current context of philosophical changes in public service management, which is moving, officially anyway, in the direction of responsiveness, accountability, and transparency.

The Community Renewal Project does not use the expressions "Web 2.0" or "Library 2.0" but many of the ideas associated with them bubble up periodically in the more recent project documents.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:35 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Supreme Court Security Certificates Hearings

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada has been holding its long-awaited hearings into the constitutionality of security certificates under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (see Division 9, especially sections 77-78).

The certificates can be issued against non-citizens considered a threat to national security as a prelude to their deportation.

The lawyers for three such individuals against whom security certificates have been issued have argued the process doesn't allow suspects to properly defend themselves because they can't face their accusers, much of the judicial process takes place behind closed doors without the defendant or their lawyers present, and any evidence is kept secret if its disclosure may be injurious to national security.

It is argued that this is at odds with Canadian notions of procedural fairness because it negates the rights of the individuals affected.

Some legal observers have expressed interest in proposals to appoint some sort of "special advocate". Such an advocate would have security clearance to see the government's secret evidence and would then act on behalf of the affected individual without jeopardizing legitimate national security concerns.

The idea appears to be a compromise that preserves the use of confidential national security information without impairing (too much?) an individual's right to a full and fair hearing.

The idea of such a special advocate has been put forward by the lawyers for Mohamed Harkat, one of the three men, as well as by counsel for various parties that have been granted intervenor status, such as the Criminal Lawyers Association and the Canadian Bar Association.

Here are some of the alternatives that have been mentioned, either in the factums submitted, the oral submissions or in commentary:

1) There has been some discussion of the procedure in place at the time of Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration) v. Chiarelli, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 711

The case concerned the deportation order against someone thought to be involved in organized crime. The documentary evidence relied on in support of deportation, including a detailed summary of surveillance information, was disclosed to Chiarelli. 2 R.C.M.P. witnesses had testified in camera. The respondent was given the opportunity to respond by calling witnesses or by requesting that he be allowed to cross-examine the RCMP witnesses. Chiarelli chose not to do so. At the time, certificates designating foreign nationals as threats to security were subject to a different process from that currently used.

2) The security certificate proceedings could operate like Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) hearings. SIRC was established under Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-23.

For many years, the usage of SIRC information in relation to deportation hearings on national security grounds was provided under the old Immigration Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-2.

SIRC hearings used independent counsel who liaised with counsel for the person throughout the hearing process and who could challenge the secret evidence in ex parte, in camera proceedings, to ensure that measures taken to protect secrecy minimally impaired the affected party's rights. Counsel would negotiate with CSIS, Canada's spy agency, on disclosure - CSIS would have to justify non-disclosure in each instance.

SIRC used to have responsibility for reviewing ministerial decisions to deport based on national security considerations. Its responsibility in relation to foreign nationals other than permanent residents was removed in 1988. In 2002, with the introduction of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SIRC was stripped of this responsibility in relation to permanent residents as well.

3) The amicus curiae model from the Arar Inquiry has also been brought up. The inquiry is looking into how Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was pulled off a plane in New York in 2002 by authorities suspecting him of being somehow connected to Al Qaeda and sent back to Syria where he was tortured for one year.

When the government requests that certain evidence be heard in camera due to security concerns, this independent counsel with national security clearance can examine and test these requests.

4) The idea that has attracted the most attention and discussion, however, is that of the "special advocate" role.

The special advocate concept calls for an independent counsel whose function would be to represent the interests of the affected foreign national in any secret hearing, but who would do so without disclosing any confidential information to the person concerned.

In the United Kingdom, Special Advocates have existed since 1997. A Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) was created in response to a European Court of Human Rights decision over the UK government's effort to deport a Sikh separatist militant who alleged deportation would expose him to real risk of torture (Chahal v. United Kingdom [1996] ECHR 54).

The role of the Special Advocate is to act on behalf of a person within a secret hearing process dealing with national security evidence. The rules of the SIAC provide that a Special Advocate can make submissions to the Commission at any hearing where the appellant is excluded, and cross-examine witnesses at these hearings.

In The Secretary of State for the Home Department and M, [2004] EWCA Civ 324, the Court of Appeal upheld a judgment of SIAC that a man, known as 'M', had been detained under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 on evidence that was wholly unreliable and should not have been used to justify detention. Detention was under a certificate quite like the Canadian security certificates and was also a step in the process leading to deporting 'M'. The Court refused the Home Secretary leave to appeal. In its judgment, the Court outlined the benefits of having a special advocate where secret evidence is used:

"The involvement of a special advocate is intended to reduce (it cannot wholly eliminate) the unfairness which follows from the fact that an appellant will be unaware at least as to part of the case against him. ... As this appeal illustrates, a special advocate can play an important role in protecting an appellant's interests before SIAC. He can seek further information. He can ensure that evidence before SIAC is tested on behalf of the appellant. He can object to evidence and other information being unnecessarily kept from the appellant. He can make submissions to SIAC as to why the statutory requirements have not been complied with. In other words, he can look after the interests of the appellant, insofar as it is possible for this to be done without informing the appellant of the case against him and without taking direct instructions from the appellant".

In concluding observations, the Lord Justices wrote: "Having read the transcripts, we are impressed by the openness and fairness with which the issues in closed session were dealt with ... We feel the case has additional importance because it does clearly demonstrate that, while the procedures which [the Commission] have to adopt are not ideal, it is possible by using special advocates to ensure that those detained can achieve justice and it is wrong therefore to under-value the SIAC appeal process. ... While the need for society to protect itself against acts of terrorism today is self-evident, it remains of the greatest importance that, in a society which upholds the rule of law, if a person is detained as ‘M’ was detained, that individual should have access to an independent tribunal or court which can adjudicate upon the whether of whether the detention is lawful or not. If it is not lawful, then he has to be released".

As pointed out in this week's hearings here in Ottawa, the special advocate process has been the subject of criticism in the United Kingdom. The Special Advocate is not allowed to communicate with the detainee about the secret evidence, nor receive instructions from the detainee.

In April 2005 a Constitutional Affairs Committee in the United Kingdom reviewed the procedure and recommended changes to make it easier for Special Advocates to communicate with appellants and their legal advisers after they have seen closed material, on a basis which does not compromise national security, so that the Special Advocate is able to form a coherent legal strategy with the appellant's legal team. [House of Commons, Constitutional Affairs Committee, The operation of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) and the use of the Special Advocates, Seventh Report of Session 2004-2005]

The lawyers in Ottawa who were defending the idea also called for allowing communication between a special advocate or an amicus curiae and the appellant.

Other blog posts on the hearings can be found at Slaw.ca:
  • Today's Terror Hearing (June 13, 2006) - includes links to a few of the factums of the parties before the Supreme Court
  • Terror in the SCC - Day 1 (June 14, 2006) - summarizes many of the questions put to counsel by the Justices on Tuesday and refers to the interest of the SCC bench in the "special advocate" idea
As well, the Canadian Bar Association has made its factum available online.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Federal Information Commissioner Annual Report

Federal Information Commissioner John Reid issued his most recent annual report to Parliament yesterday.

The Commissioner is an independent ombudsman appointed by Parliament to investigate complaints that the government has denied rights under Canada’s freedom of information legislation.

His message: large parts of the Canadian federal public service unfortunately continue to drag their feet, ignore access to information request deadlines, frequently conduct business orally to frustrate the public's right to know, and basically cover up. Mr. Reid is not a happy guy.

Earlier Library Boy posts about Canada's Information Commissioner include:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

World Cup 2006 in Germany - Amnesty International's Campaign on Violence Against Women

Amnesty International, as part of its worldwide campaign on the issue of violence against women, is taking advantage of the World Cup this month to draw attention to the situation in the participating countries.

"As the World Cup gets underway, no red cards are being handed out for the many women and girls being stalked, raped, sexually abused and harassed, trafficked for sexual exploitation, beaten or killed."

This is a follow-up to the earlier Library Boy posts:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:11 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 12, 2006

Law and Literature/Law and Pop Culture Resources

With summer upon us, I thought I'd go looking for material about the relationship between the law and literature, pop culture, film, etc. A neat way to compile a reading list or a list of movies to rent.

I came across a few interesting sites:
  • The Law & Humanities Institute "focuses on law and literature, law and narrative, legal history, sociology of law, and other fields of study involving the humanities and law". Among other things, it has compiled a list of works of literature with legal themes (e.g. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, Franz Kafka, The Trial, etc.) as well as a page of law and literature course syllabi
  • The Law in Popular Culture Collection at the Tarlton Law Library (University of Texas School of Law) "consists of works of fiction in all genres, as well as legal humor, plays, comics, pulp magazines, and feature films on video. The primary criteria for an item's inclusion is that it must either include a lawyer as a central character or have been authored by a lawyer". The collection covers everything from Shakespeare to Danielle Steele, from Hitchcock to Tom and Jerry. It includes a bibliography, a filmography, a history of the legal thriller, "lawyerly quotations from popular culture" and a collection of movie posters
  • The John Grisham Room (University of Mississippi) contains papers and materials donated by the Mississippi State University alumnus and best-selling novelist
  • Lawyers and the Legal Process in the Movies (University of California at Berkeley) contains annotated descriptions of dozens of law-themed films and links to bibliographies on the topic
  • Picturing Justice (University of San Francisco School of Law) looks at the ways in which law, the legal profession and the practice of law are portrayed or represented in film and television from Adam's Rib to West Wing
  • Finally, on the very serious, scholarly, I'd almost say nerdy side, the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture (University at Albany) publishes scholarly reviews of books and movies about criminal justice and original essays pertaining to the intersection of popular culture and the court system. It deals with such themes as the popularity of Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs, what the movie Serpico can tell us about whistleblowing in the Los Angeles Police Department's corrupt Ramparts Division, the meaning of the lyrics of Rage Against the Machine for radical criminology, etc.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Current Awareness on the Web - ACJNet Update

ACJNet, or the Access to Justice Network, is a project of the Legal Studies Program (University of Alberta) that offers a virtual library of Canadian law and justice resources on the Web.

One of the services it features is a monthly update about interesting new Internet material. It is very easy to subscribe to the update service.

Kirsten Wurmann, the librarian in charge of ACJNet, gave a presentation about ACJNet and other public legal information services at this year's conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Edmonton, Alberta.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:29 pm 1 comments links to this post

SLA 2006 Conference Blogging

The SLA 2006 conference has started in Baltimore, Maryland.

For those not attending, it is possible to follow the happenings via various blogs:

By the way, SLA has redesigned its website.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:52 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 09, 2006

More on World Cup 2006 and Law

This is a follow-up to the May 26, 2006 Library Boy post World Cup 2006 in Germany - The Law on Doping in Sports.

Slaw.ca has an item today about other non drug-related legal dimensions of the World Cup football competition that got off to its official start earlier today.

Home team Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 and Ecuador scored a surprise 2-0 upset against Poland. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!! as they say in Ecuador.

The Slaw material covers:
  • Drinking laws in Germany
  • Hooligans
  • The role of lawyers
  • Intellectual property issues
  • The sex trade
  • Employment (all those workers who will be calling in sick)
  • Racism

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:52 pm 0 comments links to this post

Where Are All The French Blawgers?

The most recent issue of The National, the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association, features an article that asks why there seem to be so few French-speaking law bloggers in Canada (Peu de blogueurs - Les juristes francophones ne blawguent pas = "Few bloggers - Francophone jurists are not blawging" - on page 14 of the April-May 2006 issue).

It can't be lack of time (who has time in other provinces?) or lack of familarity with computers.

Pierre Trudel, law professor at the Université de Montréal, is quoted as saying "many francophone jurists are uncomfortable with the idea of criticizing a law or a judicial decision (...) In many ways, Quebec society, for example, has stayed very close to what it was like under Duplessis".

Maurice Duplessis, of course, is the name of the late Premier of Quebec who died in 1959 and whose long years in power were known as "La Grande Noirceur" or "great darkness", a time of pronounced social conservatism, fairly rigid control of education by the Catholic Church in its pre-Vatican 2 Council incarnation, and authoritarian disregard for civil liberties.

I found Trudel's comment extremely surprising. It is not as if today's Quebec lawyers (or law librarians) are shy, wimpy little wallflowers. I think a better explanation may have to do with the smaller population size of the French community in Canada, based mostly in Quebec.

If blawgs can be seen as a form of legal marketing, as a means of getting ideas and commentary across, perhaps francophones don't need them as much because other tools are more familiar and more immediately available.

In Quebec, there is a tight little media world and any lawyer who attracts attention can easily and quickly get invited to all the major TV and radio studios, most of which are located within a 10-15 minute taxi ride of each other in Montreal (with perhaps a handful in Quebec City), and become known as an authority on an issue. They might even give you your own newspaper column or ask you to guest host a show segment (civil libertarian Julius Grey seems to be on Marie-France Bazzo's morning show Indicatif Présent on Radio-Canada almost every other week). Who needs blawgs?

That might be very pre-Web2.0 but that would be my theory.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

Judge Orders Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

You can almost hear the clients yelling "We are paying $300 an hour for this?":

A federal judge down in Tampa, Florida, is so frustrated with the unwillingness of opposing lawyers to agree on anything in an insurance lawsuit that he has ordered them to settle a dispute with a game of rock, paper, scissors.

The order of the court is on the CNN website.

How to play rock, paper, scissors (some think the World RPS Society site is a spoof site - check out the Online Museum - but the rules explained here are accurate, albeit presented in an ironic, self-aggrandizing tone).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:49 pm 0 comments links to this post

How Important Is Blogging Frequency?

Over the past few months, I have often asked myself how frequently I should post.

Only when I have something truly original to add? Once a day so readers or subscribers always have something fresh to read? When I feel like it? When there is no hockey game on TV?

Eric Kintz of Hewlett-Packard has come up with 10 reasons on Why blog post frequency does not matter anymore: " 'Thou shall post every day' is the most fundamental and most well known principle of blogging. Every new blogger is warned about 'the' ultimate rule and is confronted with the pressure of a day going by with no new post.... Daily posting shows that you are serious about blogging, generates traffic and drives reader loyalty, as readers come back daily to check your new posts. You cannot be successful if you do not go by the rule, right? RIGHT? Wrong. Daily posts are a legacy of a web 1.0 mindset and early web 2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity of blogging".

Legal marketing Kevin O'Keefe responds in his blog Real Lawyers Have Blogs: "I agree with Eric that you can create a heck of an effective medium for engaging with your target audience by posting once a week, or even less. But let's not criticize those who are posting more often so as to further engage their audience. And worse yet, try to create global rules for blogging so as to make it easy for executives and corporations who don't want to learn about blogs and RSS".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:20 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Articles on American Association of Law Libraries Centennial

The American Association of Law Libraries, a sister organization of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries, is celebrating its 100th year of existence this year and there are a number of recent articles and resources on the topic:

  • AALL History through the Eyes of Its Presidents (Law Library Journal, Spring 2006): "On the occasion of the celebration of AALL’s centennial in 2006, Professor Houdek offers a personalized history of the Association by presenting reminiscences of those who have served as its president. Collectively, these stories contribute a unique perspective on the important issues that have confronted AALL as an organization and law librarianship as a profession. They also help explain how these individuals became AALL leaders and what the experience meant to them".
  • Our Century of Change: Pioneering Innovations (AALL Spectrum, June 2006)
  • There is also the AALL Centennial Celebration Home

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:09 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, June 02, 2006

London Times Law Blog

At work, we monitor a number of UK news sources as part of our regular current awareness duties. We often find interesting legal news about the UK court system and judicial reforms in the London Times.

Well, today, I discovered on the BarclayBlog (who got the news from someone who got the news from someone else) that the Times has a law blog that was launched back in February.

Topics run the gamut from European Court of Justice decisions to Paul McCartney's divorce to football employment practices to nude sunbathers to Tony Blair's many, many, many legal and political problems. The tone is pleasantly blunt.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:05 pm 0 comments links to this post

Internet Filtering Map

This is a follow-up to the February 7, 2006 post Toronto Academics Get Huge Grant to Fight Internet Censorship and to the February 13, 2006 post Helping Citizens in Repressive Societies Get Around Censorship.

Both posts refer to the Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), a member of the OpenNet Initiative (ONI). The ONI is an international human rights project whose primary goal is to combat state censorship on the Internet.

ONI has produced an Internet Filtering Map of the world. Clicking on a country of the world and then clicking on its info icon prompts a window to pop up with data on government filtering and/or censorship practices as well as links to additional material.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:47 pm 0 comments links to this post

WorldLII Special Project Resources

This is a follow-up to the May 31, 2006 post Privacy Commissioner's Annual Report to Parliament.

The non-profit World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) website has a special section of privacy law materials.

One can search or browse through the rulings of privacy regulators from numerous countries (Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, etc.), find privacy newsletters, journals, mailing lists, etc.

The collection is an undertaking of the Interpreting Privacy Principles project (University of New South Wales).

WorldLII is involved in a number of other database projects, in addition to the Privacy Law collection:
  • International Courts & Tribunals Project: "aims to provide a comprehensive search facility for final decisions of all international and multi-national courts and tribunals, whether global or regional"
  • Law Journals Project: "aims to provide a comprehensive search facility for all academic law journals available via WorldLII and other Legal Information Institutes... and the nearly 20,000 law journal articles and academic papers available through the Legal Scholarship Network"
  • Domain Name Decisions Project: "aims to provide a comprehensive search facility for decisions arising out of disputes in relation to Generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) and Country Code Domains"
  • Law Reform Project: "aims to make searchable from one location all of the databases specialising in Law Reform available on any of the Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) that are part of WorldLII"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:21 pm 0 comments links to this post