Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2020 Year in Review from the Court.ca

 This is a follow-up to the January 10, 2020 post about the Supreme Court 2020 Year-in-Review produced by Supreme Advocacy LLP.

TheCourt.ca, the student-run blog at Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto, has published its own 2020: Year in Review:

"In responding to the pandemic, nearly all aspects of society had to stop and re-evaluate their operations. In the legal world, this was most clearly seen through the operation of the courts. In the early days of the pandemic, most courts closed for several months, leading to a significant reduction in the number of cases heard and decisions released this year. The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) only released 45 decisions in 2020, compared to 68 from 2019 and 60 from 2018. The same trend held true at lower levels. The Ontario Court of Appeal released 818 decisions in 2020, compared to 1022 in 2019, and 1050 in 2018, and the British Columbia Court of Appeal released 366 decisions in 2020 compared to 463 in 2019 and 483 in 2018 (...) "

"Virtual hearings also facilitated the open court principle in new ways. This was perhaps best exemplified by the rendering of the verdict in R v Theriault, 2020 ONSC 5725 [Theriault], in June, in which over 20,000 people watched the verdict being read to hear whether the Theriault brothers, two off-duty police officers who pursued and injured Dafonte Miller, a Black teen, would be convicted of assault. Although the virtual nature of the decision allowed more people to access the court system than usual, the decision also frustrated many lawyers and activists alike, and led to renewed questioning of the justice system’s ability to adequately respond to police violence against Black people in Canada."

"Like Theriault, there were a number of other cases that attracted significant public attention in 2020. Undoubtedly, the public responded most strongly to R v Sullivan, 2020 ONCA 333 [Sullivan], in which the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) held that s. 33.1 of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46 [Code], which prevented self-induced intoxication from being a defence to violent crime was unconstitutional. This decision sparked public outrage, including a petition for the Crown to appeal the decision, as observers expressed particular concern over whether alcohol intoxication would now be a viable defence to sexual assault. Some lawyers took to social media, news platforms, and legal publications in an effort to correct the perceived misinformation about the availability of drunkenness as a defence to sexual assault. Others argued that the decision could have some troubling implications for women, reinforcing the perception that the justice system fails to meet the needs of survivors of sexual assault. Ultimately, Sullivan acted as a reminder of the importance of clear and accessible communication about legal decisions, which is too often overlooked in the legal system—a lesson that will need to be carried through 2021 as the SCC prepares to hear the Crown’s appeal in Sullivan."

The article also looks at some of the more significant decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada last year.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:52 pm


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