And Now the End is Near- 2014 Highlights

BarristerFor me, 2014 was fulfilling, both personally and professionally. On the work side, I arbitrated some interesting family law cases, handled several Hague Convention child abduction cases: one that saw the successful reunion of father and child after an abduction from Portugal to Canada, and the other an appeal from an order that a child be returned to Montana.

Personally, I found time to workout with my incredible trainer, Janice; enjoy neighbourhood cook-outs and pool parties; sing in my choir; brainstorm ideas for a book on women in leadership, and enjoy the beauty of California and B.C’s Okanagan.

Meanwhile my contribution to the blogosphere continued throughout the year, with the following highlights:

1. Shared parenting: MP Maurice Vellacott’s bill on shared parenting crashed and burned when the Liberals and most of the Conservatives voted against it in the earliest stages of second reading.

Despite it being a part of Harper’s election platform, only a few brave backbenchers supported the bill. In retrospect it is likely that the focus on a strict equality of parenting time, instead of an emphasis on shared parenting that could see one parent with less than 50% depending on the work and school schedules of parents and child(ren), led to its early demise.

2. New Prostitution Law: On December 6, 2014 the Conservative government brought into effect their new law, based on the Nordic model adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland and other European countries.

After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s previous law in 2013, which did not criminalize prostitution, but made it illegal to solicit for prostitution, operate a common bawdy house, or live off the avails of prostitution, Justice Minister McKay’s new bill was reviled in many quarters.

The new law criminalizes prostitution for the purchaser of sexual services, while women, girls, and boys who sell sex are no longer subject to legal sanctions. They are treated as exploited victims, with the goal of helping them escape the sordid life of prostitution with its inherent danger.

3. Conscious Uncoupling: Amid mockery and snide remarks, Gwyneth Paltrow introduced “conscious uncoupling” to the world of divorce, as a softer and gentler way to separate and divorce. The details of this model remain elusive but months after its debut, it has found little favour in the real world.

4. Trinity Law School: Conflict and consternation abound when Trinity Western University’s governmental approval to open a Christian law school was announced. British Columbia lawyers railed against the governors/benchers of the Law Society who voted 21 to 6 to permit Trinity law graduates to article in B.C.

The majority of B.C. lawyers who voted at a special meeting, denounced the governors’ decision to permit Trinity students to article in B.C., alleging that Trinity’s community covenant that only permits sexual relations between married, opposite sex couples amounted to sexual discrimination and a breach of human rights.

The Law Society eventually capitulated and adopted the views of Trinity’s critics. The matter is now before the Court in B.C. and in other courts across Canada where the same position prevailed.

5. Madam Justice Lori Douglas: After several years of missteps, rancour, judicial resignations, and the interference of the Federal Court, Judge Douglas finally put an end to the Canadian Judicial Council’s inquiry into the collection of nude photographs of her placed on the internet by her husband, the late Jack King, a well-regarded family law lawyer in Winnipeg, by announcing her resignation from the bench.

The entire exercise highlighted the flaws of Canada’s system of judicial discipline and Judge Douglas’ resignation was welcome relief from the embarrassing sideshow the inquiry had become.

Here’s looking to 2015 with great anticipation for a new year full of juridical intrigue, legal entanglements, and matrimonial mishaps.

Happy New Year!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge Douglas’ Lawyer Cries Uncle

They say if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, an appropriate admonishment to Judge Douglas’ lawyer, Sheila Block, who is now desperate to call a stop to the judicial inquiry.

So what are Ms. Block’s options? Can she call in sick? No, she can only rely on an age-old legal ploy to extricate her client from the debacle that is called the Judge Douglas Judicial Inquiry.

There are times when proceedings in court or in a similar judicial hearing become untenable, and you believe your client is being prejudiced by the unfolding events. For example, in one case I argued the central theme of the case revolved around off-shore bank accounts. The presiding judge interrupted my argument to suggest that only people who have something to hide would use off-shore bank accounts.

The judge’s jaded view of such accounts led me to believe that she may decide the case based on her ignorance of the world of multi-national corporations and high stakes business dealings. I then made an argument that the judge should remove herself from the case on the basis of the legal maxim called “a reasonable apprehension of bias”. Interestingly, there are hundreds of case where an allegation of bias has been asserted against a sitting judge, most of them unsuccessful, as was mine. Face it, why would a judge admit they were biased?

This is the argument that is being made on behalf of Judge Douglas, however, the allegations of bias flow from the vigorous cross-examination of Judge Douglas’ better-half by Vancouver lawyer George McIntosh, who is counsel for the Inquiry panel.

Ms. Block complains that Mr. McIntosh’s questioning of Jack King is overly aggressive and shows “animus and bias”. From the media descriptions of Mr. McIntosh’s cross-examination it appears that Jack King is easy pickin’s as he tries to convince the panel that Judge Douglas had never seen the photos.

You can only imagine the snickering in the hearing room as Mr. McIntosh toyed with Mr. King, suggesting to him that it strained credulity that the good judge would pose for pictures, but never ask to see them and was unaware they were posted online.

Judge Douglas desperately needs a saviour and apparently believed her husband could play that role convincingly, but it isn’t working. The truth is Mr. King’s testimony is another nail in her coffin. And the panel has not even dealt with the “main event”, namely, why did Judge Douglas deliberately conceal the pornographic photos and the events relating to Alex Chapman, “Dark Cavern” and drinks at Earl’s?

I guess I’d want to get out of there too.