Ever Hear of “Divorce Trolling”? Me Neither.

10950859361151CDPApparently “divorce trolling” has gotten so bad in the State of Michigan that a new law has been proposed to outlaw the practice, a bill sponsored by Michigan Republican Senator Rick Jones.

You ask “what is divorce trolling?” Good question. According to Senator Jones:

“When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and the children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house or getting a personal protection order.”

The proposed law will make it unlawful for a person to intentionally contact an individual that the person knows to be a party to a divorce action filed with a court, or an immediate family member of that individual with a direct solicitation to provide  a legal service until the expiration of 14 days after the date the proof of service is filed with the Court.

A first violation of this law is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, but if you get caught a second time or more, you’re looking at possible imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000.

I can only guess that divorce lawyers in Michigan are desperately in search of clients. Here in Vancouver it takes weeks to get an appointment with a top lawyer and even then, they may not want your case.

The good senator, a former sheriff, wants to make sure that women and children who flee a violent relationship aren’t further bugged by lawyers during this emotional time. Hard to believe that legislators in Michigan have nothing better to do than enact unenforceable laws.

I can picture it now…a sleazy lawyer lounging in  a criminal courtroom, jotting down names of domestic violence victims so he/she can run to a telephone to offer legal services to their spouse? Ya think?

Passionate Entreaties Against Trinity Law School Persuaded BC Lawyers

10950859361151CDPLet me recap the recent special meeting of the members of the Law Society of British Columbia, a meeting prompted by a motion from Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan who sought to overturn the 20-7 decision of the governors (benchers) of the Law Society, who had approved the admission of future Trinity Law School students as articling students in B.C.

When the meeting began at 12:30 pm on June 10 Law Society President Jan Lindsay announced that just over 1,200 lawyers were present and a quorum was established. Family law lawyer barbara findlay (lower case is how she spells her name) moved the motion and made a passionate speech urging members to vote in favour of the motion.

Her speech was nothing short of brilliant as she referenced her struggles as a lesbian woman grappling with earlier laws that denied gays, lesbians and transgendered persons basic human rights. She did not mince words, she argued that during the time, not that many years ago, when homosexuality was labeled a mental illness, she had spent time in a mental institution, all because she was a lesbian.

Ms. findlay has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years. Recently when Canada passed laws permitting non-resident same-sex spouses to come to Canada to be divorced, if the American state they lived in would not divorce them and if they had married in Canada, she and I collaborated on several of the first cases to be heard in Canada. She had clients seeking this relief, as I did, and we compared professional notes in our efforts to serve our respective clients.

I don’t know if barbara knows I am a practicing Christian, but I know she knows that I would never skirt my duty to my clients or to the rule of law because of my religious beliefs. After all, the Bible tells us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”, the ultimate statement on the intersection of Christianity and secular authority. When Jesus spoke these words the lawyers and Pharisees “marveled” at his wisdom.

Other lawyers speaking in favour of the motion also focused on the historical travesties visited upon gays and lesbians, one even referenced the Holocaust. A criminal lawyer told a tale of a gay client who stabbed a woman 99 times and linked it to his Pentecostal upbringing.

A bencher who had voted against Trinity published an article before the June 10 debate comparing the segregation of African-Americans in America’s southern states to his opinion of the inevitable result of Trinity’s community covenant which disallows sexual relations between unmarried spouses or married same-sex spouses.

Lawyers arguing against the motion, seeking to endorse the bencher’s earlier decision, could not match the often inflammatory rhetoric of their impassioned colleagues.

These lawyers argued the law. They reminded the members that B.C’s Human Rights Code specifically exempts religious groups. They confirmed that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to a private educational institution, its purview of protection is against fundamentally unfair governmental action.

They relied on the Supreme Court of Canada’s earlier decision in Trinity Western University v. B.C. College of Teachers where the Teacher’s College tried to block Trinity-educated teachers from becoming members and teachers in B.C. and failed.

They implored their colleagues to recognize the myriad of legal opinions from some of Canada’s brightest legal minds, and the opinion of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, yes, even that bastion of liberal thinking, all of whom supported Trinity Western’s position.

There is an expression that is common amongst lawyers: “if the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law is against you, argue the facts”.

It seems that many of B.C.’s lawyers embraced the well-spun facts, and ignored the law.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Era of the “Green Rush”: Is Legalized Marijuana a Fiscal Bonanza?

As of January of 2014 there are still only two states of twenty American states that have legalized medical marijuana that also permit recreational use as well; Colorado and Washington. These two states, in many ways, will set the stage for other states that are hesitant to embrace legalized recreational marijuana.

Early reports from Colorado indicate that state is generating a successful tax revenue stream since the so-called “green rush”, however, not everyone is sold on the idea of marijuana being widely available to adults, and more available to teenagers.

The marijuana “green rush” is about the thousands of inventors, investors and John and Jane Doe Public buying into the marijuana industry. In states where marijuana is not regulated the revenue that is generated is through the underground marijuana market which provides no fiscal benefit to government coffers. With a fully regulated system, states could see millions of dollars in new revenue, not to mention increased sales from consumers purchasing new inventions and devices created to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. [1]

This boost in the Colorado economy can also help create jobs and new sources of revenue, a significant motive for legislators in other states to consider. In 2012, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy made predictions on the possible financial impact that recreational marijuana could make saying, “the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boom for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado’s budget.” [1]

Predictions on the potential revenue to be earned in Colorado is on target as sales began in January of 2014. During the first week of retail sales, marijuana dispensaries earned and exceeded the $5 million mark. [2] The state has projected annual sales to reach around $600 million, and estimates $70 million in tax revenue.[2]

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still a hot topic in which supporters and opponents have battled back and forth in regards to the pros and con, especially the message it sends to adolescents and young teens. Critics of Amendment 64 are fearful of the potential greater access that legalized marijuana could have on teens. (Lyman, 2014) [3]

For years, lawmakers have claimed marijuana is not only a harmful drug but one that can lead to a harder drug use over time. There have been serious flaws in both these theories as no study has concluded that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, studies have found the opposite, concluding that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco and has statistically less health endangering consequences. [1]

Many parents are also on board with marijuana regulation and agree it would be better if their teens were getting the drug from a safer source such as a dispensary, if they choose to use marijuana in the first place. Regulatemarijuana.org is a website dedicated to campaigns that support marijuana regulation and is supported by parents, and even former police officers in Colorado.

Dr. Erika Joye, a nationally certified school psychologist working with the campaigns quotes, “Marijuana prohibition is the worst possible policy when it comes to keeping marijuana out of the hands of teens. If we do not regulate marijuana across the board, we are guaranteeing that sales will be entirely uncontrolled and that those selling it will not ask for ID. We are also forcing consumers into an underground market where they are likely to be exposed to other, more harmful products.” [4]

It is clear that Colorado and Washington are setting the stage for the rest of the country, with the New York Times predicting that Oregon and Alaska will be next.

Sources:
[1]Ferner, M. (2012, August 28). Why marijuana should be legalized: ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol’ campaign discusses why pot prohibition has been a failure. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/why-marijuana-should-be-legalized_n_1833751.html
[2]Ferner, M. (2014, January 8). Colorado recreational marijuana sales exceed $5 million in first week. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

[3]Lyman , R. (2014, Feb 26). Pivotal point is seen as more states consider legalizing marijuana . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/us/momentum-is-seen-as-more-states-consider-legalizing-marijuana.html?_r=0

[4]Unknown. Moms and dads for marijuana regulation post yes on 64 billboard . (2012, June 28). Retrieved from http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/news/moms-and-dads-marijuana-regulation-post-yes-64-billboard

This article is a guest post by BRENDA ABBOTT, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Saint Jude’s offers the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. Brenda enjoys doing research and writing articles, spending time with her family, and is currently beginning to write her first book.

Should US White Supremacy Group Forfeit Bequest in Canadian Will?

GEO_edited-1In an intriguing case from New Brunswick a court will decide whether a bequest in Robert McCorkill’s will to an American Neo-Nazi group should be declared void because of the racist views of the organization.

National Alliance, a white supremacy group in West Virginia, was gifted a collection of valuable coins from ancient Rome and Greece, an antique Iranian sword, and other artifacts and investments said to be worth a minimum of $250,000 and as much as $1 million dollars.

Robert McCorkill, who died in 2004 in New Brunswick, lived primarily in Saskatchewan and Ontario during his lifetime. He was a geologist and a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, who had spent time at National Alliance’s headquarters.

The challenge to his Will was brought by his sister, Isabelle McCorkill, who maintains that it’s not about the money but a reflection of her moral duty to intervene in what she describes as an offensive and illegal bequest.

The Attorney-General of New Brunswick agrees with her, as do B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who were granted intervener status and made submissions at the hearing.

In their arguments against upholding the will, the interveners argued that the National Alliance’s profile had declined with the death of its founder ten years before, and that the bequest would provide funds to the organization to resurrect itself and its mandate to deny the Holocaust, and promote racial cleansing and genocide.

However, the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) argued that the will should stand as representing Mr. McCorkill’s testamentary wishes which are paramount and should not be subject to court intervention simply because the intended beneficiary espouses a message that is unpopular or even contrary to the Criminal Code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

CAFE also argued that it was not up to a judge to determine the worthiness of a beneficiary and to do so would open a Pandora’s box, illustrating their point by querying whether a bequest to the Hell’s Angels or to a drug dealer or even to Greenpeace could be subject to attack.

They also noted that the National Alliance is a lawful corporation in good standing and had no criminal convictions either in Canada or the United States.

A very thorny question and one that will require wisdom. Is such a gift an affront to Canadian public policy and should the Court interfere with testamentary wishes? How do you think the Court will rule?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why Trinity Western Law School is Good For Canada

BarristerElaine Craig, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Law School wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on December 18 concerning the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s Law School. As a Vancouver lawyer and arbitrator and a committed Christian I have listened to the critics rage on since TWU made their application to the Federation of Law Societies to obtain the necessary approval.

The good news is that the Federation approved TRU’s application, quickly followed by the assent of British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education. With these obstacles out of the way, TWU Law School will now move forward, much to the chagrin of Ms. Craig and others who have decried the establishment of a faith-based law school.

In her article Ms. Craig scolds the Federation for refusing to act in the interests of “equality and justice” by virtue of TWU’s Covenant which states that students, staff and faculty must “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”.

What she and others of her ilk ignore is that freedom of religion co-exists with the right to equality. However, in the case of private institutions, religious freedom trumps equality.

Section 41 of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code provides a specific exemption for non-profit religious organizations where the organization’s primary purpose is to promote the interests and welfare of an identified group, characterized by a common religion.

Ms. Craig also repeats the tired refrain that TWU’s Covenant is evidence of their anti-gay stance, when she knows the prohibition of sex outside of marriage applies equally to heterosexual couples.

In Ms. Craig’s world there is no room for divergent opinions and the accommodation of different beliefs, even though tolerance of opposing views is the centerpiece of a democracy. In her view, the curtailment of religious freedom is necessary in order to promote the beliefs of another group. Ironically, Ms. Craig is a strong proponent of human rights, so long as the rights are not of the religious variety.

The basic mission of religious law schools, of which there are many in the United States, is to educate students to be lawyers in democracies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. How can Christian ethics and morals be considered inappropriate?

TWU will undoubtedly lead the way in Canada “integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice”. (Taken from the mission statement of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a Catholic school in Florida)

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Human Trafficking Allegations Against BC Woman Proven False

GAL & PAL #2jpgI can only imagine the relief and joy West Vancouver businesswoman, Mumtaz Ladha, must have experienced after Madam Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon of the British Columbia Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges in relation to the allegations that she enticed a young African woman to come to Canada to work as her unpaid slave.

And to those who may think that the acquittal was simply because these kinds of charges are notoriously difficult to prove, Judge Fenlon laid waste to that theory, declaring that Ms. Ladha’s generosity was exploited by the young Tanzanian woman, who took advantage of the situation in an attempt to remain in Canada.

The judge said:

“I wish to emphasize that this is not a case in which I am left with only a reasonable doubt about whether the offences occurred….

I am left, rather, with the conviction that the allegations made by (the complainant) are improbable. On the evidence before me, it appears far more likely that the complainant took advantage of Mr. Ladha’s generosity in order to come to Canada and then took advantage of an opportunity she saw to remain in this country, showing a callous disregard for her benefactor and the truth in the process.”

What is appalling is that Ms. Ladha’s legal ordeal took four years to resolve. For four years, she lived with the stigma and shame of allegations that painted a false picture of her as a cruel, wealthy, woman capable of concocting a plan to coerce a naïve young woman into servitude.

While the judge focused on the alleged victim’s lack of credibility, she also noted that when Ms. Ladha was first faced with the allegations she defended her accuser to investigators exclaiming that she was “an innocent child who must have been pushed to do this.”

It is always heartening to see the justice system work, now if we can just get it to work a little faster.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Top Five Lawyer Movies

GAL & PAL #2jpgPeople love movies with suspenseful courtroom scenes where the accused is suddenly exonerated by a surprise witness. Doesn’t happen much in real life, but it reminds me that Hollywood used to make great legal movies Here’s my TOP FIVE list:

1. My Cousin Vinny (1992)

When two New Jersey Italian-Americans are charged with murder in Alabama, they need to find a lawyer, but the only lawyer they know is their cousin Vinny, who failed his bar exam six times. In this laugh-a minute comedy Vinny is played by Joe Peschi, while Marisa Tomei, plays his bubble-headed fiancee. Tomei received an Oscar for her role.

2. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

This Agatha Christie play was turned into a movie starring Marlene Dietrich. It is a terrific movie about a man falsely accused of murder. I have a soft spot in my heart for this film since several years ago, I played Marlene Dietrich in an Arts Club production at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver, in several scenes where she disguises herself to dupe a lawyer. Many Oscar nominations for this movie.

3. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

This film portrays the real-life trial of four judges appointed by Hitler who were charged with crimes against humanity after World War II and tried at the Nuremberg Court. Nominated for many Oscars, and the recipient of three, it was one of the first Holocaust movies. It starred Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Montgomery Cliff. A new version starring Alex Baldwin was made for TV in 2000. It is also an excellent flick.

4. And Justice For All (1979)

Another riveting courtroom drama, this one starring Al Pacino shouting indignantly : “You’re out-of-order! You’re out-of-order. This whole courtroom is out-of-order! They’re out-of-order!” The story begins with Al Pacino’s character, a brash idealistic lawyer, in jail for contempt of court after he punches Judge Fleming during a heated criminal trial. The story is complex but the Judge Fleming thread is picked up again when Fleming is charged with rape and wants Al Pacino to defend him. The two loathe each other and therein lies the compelling drama.

5. A Few Good Men (1992)

In a Hollywood “tour de force” Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Tom Cruise star in this movie about a military tribunal convened to judge two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine. Tom Cruise plays the role of a young lawyer who has never been in a courtroom. The tension is palpable as Cruise cross-examines defence witness Col. Jessop played by Jack Nicholson. Who can forget Cruise’s taunt to Jessop “I want the truth!” and the shocking retort “You can’t handle the truth!” A stunning movie.

There are more to add to this list, but I can’t think of any movie made this decade that compares with my TOP FIVE. I suggest you run to your video store if you have missed any of these stellar films. More to come from me, but what about you? What are your favorites?