Irish Eyes Smile on CBA’s Dublin Conference
Clemency for Canadian citizens facing the death penalty, the dispute resolution process for Aboriginal students, and the Irish model for self-administered courts highlighted the CBA’s 2009 Canadian Legal Conference in Dublin, Ireland. The 2009 Canadian Legal Conference presented CBA members with an ideal opportunity to connect with leaders in law from Canada and Europe and learn from their experiences.
CBA Council debated a number of issues, including: expanding the scope of the dispute resolution process for Aboriginal students; enabling CBA membership for public sector lawyers in the territories; and Conference representation on the Board of Directors. Council also overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging the Canadian government to restore its policy of unequivocally seeking clemency for all Canadians facing the death penalty abroad.
Photo: Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (right) joins then President Joubert at “Dialogue with Members.”
Appearing via video, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin praised the work of the CBA in defending judges and speaking out to support judicial independence. Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson spoke about the need for constant dialogue among all stakeholders in our system of justice, including the government and the CBA, to improve the legal system for Canadians.
Then CBA President Guy Joubert’s presidential address described the legal profession’s role as stewards of legal knowledge and guardians of the rule of law for future generations.
Keynote speaker Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, placed all of the opening plenary’s themes in the context of the history of Ireland and the ongoing quest for human rights.
Photo: Former Irish President Mary Robinson at the Opening Plenary in Dublin.
A panel of eminent Irish jurists, led by Chief Justice of Ireland John Murray, shared their thoughts and experiences with CBA Council on how Irish courts came to be self-administered.
In the mid-1990s, in the wake of several crises in the running of the courts, the Irish government undertook to reform how its courts were run. Unacceptable delays caused court cases to drag on endlessly.
From the reforms emerged the Courts Service, an independent organization charged with managing the courts, supporting judges and informing the public. Over the last ten years, it has transformed how the courts are run in Ireland. Instead of being answerable only to the minister, courts are now run by an independent board, led by a chief executive who is answerable to the public. Whether the Canadian courts should adopt a similar model remains to be seen.
Continuing Legal Education Highlights
The future of lawyers. The future was on everyone’s mind as attendees listened closely to Richard Susskind, legal futurist and author of the widely read book The End of Lawyers? Speaking to a packed house of lawyers and judges, Professor Susskind, also a special adviser to the CBA, painted a picture of a profession relentlessly transformed by technology that makes legal services much easier to deliver, for much less – thereby complicating efforts by lawyers to maintain income streams they have previously enjoyed.
Counter-terrorism and human rights. A sobering panel discussion on counter-terrorism and human rights was moderated by Professor William Schabas, the director of Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR). Among the panelists was Phil Shiner, one of Britain’s top human rights lawyers, who discussed the appalling track record on torture of the U.S. and U.K. governments. Attendees received a detailed and explicit inventory of alleged acts of torture perpetrated by military and intelligence authorities. Panelists raised concerns about lower standards of what constitutes torture.
Global anti-corruption compliance. One of two CLEs presented by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association featured a panel of experts on anti-corruption compliance, moderated by Christa Wessel, a partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP. Panelists shared their perspectives on international efforts to crack down on the bribery of foreign public officials and the long reach of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and other regional anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws.
Expert witnesses. Achieving credibility with expert witnesses in litigation was the subject of another well-attended CLE. Former CBA President Simon Potter, a partner with McCarthy Tétrault in Montréal, and Bob MacDonald, a chartered accountant with Navigant Consulting, provided concrete tips for how to carefully select and prepare expert witnesses for trial, from the points of view of both litigation counsel and expert witness.
Photo: Richard Susskind (bottom left) on technology and the future of the legal profession.
Lawyers Hourly Rates to Become Extinct???
The 2nd Annual Boughton/BCLI Great Debate is an event where legal topics are argued in a light-hearted way, rather than through the blood lust of litigation. This year’s resolution of “the hourly rate for lawyers compares to the asteroid for dinosaurs” may cause a new Ice Age between the UVic team of BarTalk columnist, Tony Wilson and Dean Donna Greschner and the UBC team of Advocate Deputy Editor, Michael Bain and Dean Mary Anne Bobinski.
The event, hosted by Boughton Law Corporation and the B.C. Law Institute, will be attended by many of B.C.’s top judges and lawyers and emceed by CBC Radio’s Rick Cluff. To obtain your tickets to the October 28th Dinner and Debate at the Law Courts Inn in Vancouver, contact Elizabeth Pinsent of BCLI at 604-822-0142.
Photo: Tony Wilson is served with an injunction by Paul Smith during a lighter moment in 2008’s Boughton Great Debate, with CBC Radio 1’s Rick Cluff looking on.
These articles were published in the October 2009 issue of BarTalk. © 2009 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.