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We Need to Help Family Litigants – Now

When the Bonkalo Report was released in February, I felt optimistic that its central recommendation – to allow licensed, trained paralegals to work on some types of family files – would be met with perhaps resignation but also broad acceptance by the Family Bar, given the enormous numbers of family litigants who are without any type of legal assistance whatsoever. No one – not even perennially optimistic me! – imagined that the Family Bar would immediately embrace every detail of [...]

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“This Case is About A2J – and About Insiders and Outsiders”

The Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Pintea v Johns (heard April 18, 2017) was delivered from the bench by Justice Karakatsanis. But even before a decision was rendered, it was very apparent that the Court took seriously the challenges that SRL’s face, and the need to adjust and adapt to ensure that they have Access to Justice. Here I offer a brief summary that I hope conveys the tone and flavor of the hearing (which I attended along [...]

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Why I Work With Julie and the National Self-Represented Litigants Project

This week’s guest blog is written by Cynthia Eagan, who has worked with the NSRLP since 2012. Cynthia is a former librarian in the Detroit Public Library system, a literacy expert, and is presently retraining to be a massage therapist. In her blog, Cynthia explains why she feels a connection to self-represented litigants, and how she was drawn to work with NSRLP. Way back when I was in library school, there was a legal skirmish between California’s Nolo Press and [...]

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Case Law Research is like Cheesecake

This week’s guest blog is written by Cynthia Freitag, a Law Clerk and an active member of the Toronto chapter of the National Self-Represented Litigants Network (NSSN). As a self-represented litigant (SRL) you are, in fact, your own lawyer. This means you need to learn how a lawyer carries out legal research, what they research, and why they research, in order to represent yourself the best way you can. This means learning about case law. When lawyers prepare for trial they [...]

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Why Family Lawyers Should Consider Getting Behind the Bonkalo Recommendations

Justice Bonkalo’s long-anticipated report and recommendations on the future of family legal services in Ontario has provoked an outpouring of reaction from the Family Bar. Most of the response has been negative, expressing reservations, alarm and even fear. We should not be surprised by this, given the tenor of the submissions made by a number of leading family law organizations to Justice Bonkalo before she finalized her Report. The opposing voices that defend the status quo – and reject Bonkalo’s [...]

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Part Two: Making it Real – A Legal Education in the Public Interest

Part One of this blog (The End of a Love Affair? Why I Despair About Legal Education) was pretty bleak. It articulated my frustrations with the disconnect between legal education and the realities of legal practice and client service, and our slow steps towards meaningful change. It also clearly resonated with many of you whom I heard from last week. In that earlier piece, I highlighted three fundamental disconnects: Law school classes rarely describe or simulate the work that lawyers actually do. [...]

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The End of a Love Affair? Why I Despair About Legal Education

(Part 2 of this blog is “Making it Real: A Legal Education in the Public Interest”) When I became a law professor more than thirty years ago, I was convinced that legal education was a powerful tool to shape legal practice in the future by instilling a client-focused philosophy, and the skills and ethics that would foster this. Intoxicated by the possibilities of using education to change the adversarial culture of legal practice, I was a law school junkie – dropping [...]

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New Data on SRLs: The Spectacular Rise of the Savvy Self-Represented Litigant

This week we published our latest SRL Intake Report, collating and analyzing the information we received from 73 self-reps who completed the Intake Form posted on the NSRLP website between April 2015 and December 2016. Although the SRLs who have the patience and time to complete the Intake Form (thank you!) comprise a fraction of those who reach out to the Project annually, we have been tracking their encounters with the justice system and sharing it with both the legal [...]

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2017 Could be the Year of the Paralegal – Or, Will #AltFacts Prevail?

I once memorably shared a stage at a public meeting organized by the Ottawa Writer’s Festival on the Access to Justice crisis with the (then) Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. It was a Saturday afternoon, and the hall was packed. After his presentation – in which he sought to play down the A2J crisis (“it’s not really a crisis”), the Treasurer was asked by an audience member why the Society did not permit paralegals (whom the Society [...]

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Robin Camp Latest: Bogus Arguments about what the Public Thinks about His Removal from the Bench (Without Consulting any Actual Members of the Public)

Robin Camp is a federal court judge who, following a series of offensive remarks made in a sexual assault trial, was the subject of a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) and a subsequent inquiry. In November, the CJC recommended his removal from the Bench. In their lengthy brief submitted on January 6th asking, once again (having been rejected in December) for an opportunity to make further (to the week-long hearing in September) oral submissions, Robin Camp’s three lawyers [...]

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