Search Results for ‘ontario law society’

Update: Ontario law society drops mandatory diversity avowal

In a divided vote last month, “The Law Society of Ontario ditched a controversial rule requiring all lawyers to adopt and abide by a statement advocating equality and diversity.” A compromise measure adopted instead “requires lawyers and paralegals to acknowledge, each year on their report to the society, an awareness of their existing professional obligation to abide by human rights legislation.” [Adrian Humphreys, National Post; text of new requirement at LSO; Cosmin Dzsurdzsa, The Post Millennial; CBC Radio; earlier]

Battles continue over lawyer speech codes, in both U.S. and Canada

As I noted last year, the American Bar Association in 2016 adopted as a recommendation its Model Rule 8.4 (g),

which makes it “professional misconduct” for an attorney to engage in “conduct,” including verbal “conduct,” that “the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.” …

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has argued that the ABA rule’s scope “is broad and vague enough to potentially apply to a wide range of political speech, and thus violate the First Amendment.”

The rule would invite charges of professional misconduct against lawyers who express or circulate opinions, jokes, or graphics that they should have known would make a listener uncomfortable based on one or another protected class membership. It would apply in an extremely wide range of contexts “related to the practice of law”, as listed in these April comments:

Activities that seem to fall within the extremely broad scope of proposed Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g) include:

* presenting CLE courses;
* participating in panel discussions that touch on controversial political, religious, and social viewpoints;
* teaching law school classes as faculty, adjunct faculty, or guest lecturers;
* writing law review articles, op-eds, blogposts, or tweets;
* giving media interviews;
* serving on the board of one’s religious congregation, K-12 school, or college;
* providing pro bono legal advice to nonprofits;
* serving at legal aid clinics;
* lobbying on various legal issues;
* testifying before a legislative body;
* writing comment letters to government agencies;
* sitting on the board of a fraternity or sorority;
* volunteering for political parties; and
* advocating through social justice organizations.

While some state codes of lawyer conduct already ban bias and harassment, these have generally been drafted much more narrowly. In Maine, for example, up to now the missteps have to have been committed “knowingly,” in the course of representing a client, and in a manner “prejudicial to the administration of justice” — all three important safeguards against overbreadth.

Model Rule 8.4 (g) has faced rough sledding around the states since it was proposed. According to these comments in October, “seven states have rejected the rule: Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, and Tennessee have rejected the proposal. The Attorneys General of four states have concluded that adopting the rule would violate the First Amendment: Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Only Vermont has adopted the model rule in its entirety.”

As Vermont goes, so goes Maine: the Pine Tree State’s highest court has now adopted a version of the rule, although narrowed in several respects. In particular, the Maine version defines “the practice of law” in a less broad (though still quite broad) way that covers fewer purely social activities; it removes socioeconomic status and marital status from the list of protected classes; and it tries at least to define what sorts of speech it will deem to be bias or harassment. Its definition is still quite unclear in its contours, however, and far broader than the standard approved by the U.S. Supreme Court as to harassment law and speech liability in workplace and university settings.

Let’s hope other states don’t follow Maine’s example: even as narrowed, the rules curtail important rights.

In the mean time, however, there is heartening news from Ontario, Canada, where (as I reported last year) the Law Society had gone all in on rules that go much further than the ABA’s, requiring all lawyers on eventual pain of discipline to draft a personal Statement of Principles (SOP) avowing a dedication to principles of diversity, equality, and inclusion. The Society rejected a proposal “to create an exemption to the new mandatory Statement of Principles for persons who believe the requirement violates their freedom of conscience.”

But its membership revolted. Attorney Lisa Bildy and other SOP objectors led a campaign that, in a seeming miracle, elected 22 of its supporters to the 40 lawyer seats among the benchers (governors) at the Law Society. While the newly elected are not a majority because of the other seats on the body reserved for lay benchers and paralegals, the message was unmistakable (more on the campaign from Bruce PardyMurray KlippensteinTeng Rong, and Dylan McGuinty). Now, in the face of a determined campaign of abuse directed at the incoming benchers (sidelight), the Law Society of Ontario’s governing Convocation will meet June 27 to begin considering whether to repeal, render optional, otherwise change, or retain the Statement of Principles requirements.

The June 27 Law Society meeting, and what follows, deserve a close watch by all of us concerned about the rise of speech codes and forced expression in the professions.

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty; earlier]

In Ontario, a new Test Act?

According to the Ontario bar association, all lawyers “must prepare and submit a personal ‘Statement of Principles’ attesting that we value and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.” Bad idea: “In free countries, law governs actions rather than expressions of beliefs. People can be required to obey the speed limit and pay taxes, but they may not be compelled to declare that the speed limits are properly set or that taxes are a good thing. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that forcing someone to express opinions that they do not have ‘is totalitarian and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada, even for the repression of the most serious crimes.'” [Bruce Pardy, National Post]

“Character” and law licenses

Ontario’s Law Society has rejected a would-be lawyer despite strong academic credentials because of concerns about his character, specifically episodes in which he harassed fellow apartment owners during a condo leadership fight and forged a letter supposedly from an owner. “Character” screening was once a common prerequisite for admission to the American bar, but fell largely into disuse following complaints that it could be subjective and applied unevenly. [Toronto Star]

Campus climate roundup

  • As part of “human rights capstone project” Yale student disrupts professors deemed not progressive enough, including law school’s estimable Akhil Amar. Time for the university to reaffirm the Woodward Report and intellectual freedom [Yale Daily News: Audrey Steinkamp, Matt Kristoffersen followup]
  • “The foundational claim leveled by anti-racism protestors is that violence is ubiquitous on campus…. Violence is not meant to be taken metaphorically…. Threats to life are now commonplace accusations.” [Darel E. Paul, Areo] “What is the difference between firing tenured professors and removing them from required classes?” [Jonathan Adler]
  • “Faculty at universities across the country are facing an echo of the loyalty oath, a mandatory ‘Diversity Statement’ for job applicants…. in reality it’s a political test, and it’s a political test with teeth.” [Abigail Thompson, Notices of the American Mathematical Society via Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed and thence via Bainbridge; more, Jerry Coyne and Joel Fish thread with background on new UC centralized hiring procedures; earlier and more on mandatory diversity statements]
  • Not at all scary or authoritarian for rightists discontented with the political tenor of academia to call for seizing university endowments [for instance, more, a sampling of chatter on Twitter]
  • Emphasis on writing quality and rigor in coursework decried as instruments of European supremacy [Arnold Kling] California Assembly passes bill requiring all undergrads to take ethnic studies course before graduating [Tony Lima critique]
  • Urban Institute report claims higher education has seen rightward political shift. Really? [Phillip W. Magness, American Institute for Economic Research with a skeptical look]

June 27 roundup

  • Judge orders Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to take CLE lessons as sanction for disclosure and discovery missteps [Lowering the Bar, Jonathan Adler]
  • In 7-2 decisions, Supreme Court of Canada finds it “proportionate and reasonable” limitation on religious liberty for Ontario and British Columbia to refuse rights of legal practice to grads of conservative Christian law school which requires students to agree to refrain from sex outside heterosexual marriage [Kathleen Harris, CBC, Caron/TaxProf, Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada, Jonathan Kay/Quillette, earlier on Trinity Western]
  • “Gratiot County, Mich. officials foreclose on 35-acre parcel worth $100k over unpaid $2k tax debt. They sell the property for $42k and keep $2k to cover the tax bill—and keep the other $40k as well. District court: ‘In some legal precincts that sort of behavior is called theft.’ Motion to dismiss denied.” [John Kenneth Ross, “Short Circuit” on Freed v. Thomas, United States District Court, E.D. Michigan]
  • UK: “Obese people should be allowed to turn up for work an hour later, government adviser recommends” [Martin Bagot, Mirror]
  • “Law Schools Need a New Governance Model” [Mark Pulliam, and thanks for mention]
  • “Until 1950, U.S. Weathermen Were Forbidden From Talking About Tornados” [Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura]

Free speech roundup

  • “Utah poised to outlaw mentioning people’s names online with intent to ‘abuse’ or ‘harass’” [Eugene Volokh]
  • In win for Paul Alan Levy, Eugene Volokh & co., filer of fake R.I. lawsuits aimed at search engine takedown agrees to settle [Consumer Law & Policy, earlier]
  • Activists shut down speech at Ontario university by criminal defense lawyer who helped CBC radio host beat sex-assault rap [David Millard Haskell, Toronto Star; Wilfrid Laurier University, Brampton invitation to Danielle Robitaille] More: Richard Reeves and Dimitrios Halikias, Brookings on Middlebury case and the “bad news for free speech.” Related: [walks to window, closes blinds as if somehow to keep Christopher Hitchens from seeing what has happened to Slate]
  • North Carolina law prohibits released sex offenders from using Facebook, other social media. Consistent with First Amendment? [Packingham v. North Carolina at the Supreme Court: Cato amicus brief and Ilya Shapiro/Devin Watkins blog post, Federalist Society preview and oral argument podcasts, Issie Lapowsky/Wired]
  • Featuring Frank Buckley, Robert Corn-Revere, and Flemming Rose, John Samples moderating: “Cato Panel Discusses Free Speech, Media, and Trump” [Campaign Freedom] And while on the topic of libel laws: “TechDirt deserves a vigorous defense.” [Eric Turkewitz, earlier]
  • “Another Convicted Felon Tries To Use The DMCA Process To Erase DOJ Press Releases About His Criminal Acts” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]

August 19 roundup

  • “Photos of Your Meal Could be Copyright Infringement in Germany” [Petapixel]
  • National Labor Relations Board opts to dodge a fight with college football [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • Governor’s commission charged with recommending new redistricting system in Maryland includes possibly recognizable name [Washington Post, Southern Maryland Newspapers; thanks to Jen Fifield for nice profile at Frederick News-Post]
  • Trial bar’s assault on arbitration falls short: California Supreme Court won’t overturn auto dealers’ standard arbitration clause [Cal Biz Lit]
  • Ontario lawyer on trial after prosecutors say sting operation revealed willingness to draft false refugee application [Windsor Star, more]
  • “Vaping shops say FDA regulation could put them out of business” [L.A. Times, The Hill] Meanwhile: “e-cigarettes safer than smoking, says Public Health England” [Guardian]
  • I was honored to be a panelist last month in NYC at the 15th annual Michael R. Diehl Civil Rights Forum, sponsored by the law firm of Fried, Frank, alongside Prof. Marci Hamilton (Cardozo) and Rose Saxe (ACLU) discussing the intersection of religious accommodation and gay rights [Fried, Frank] Also related to that very current topic, the Southern California Law Review has a symposium on “Religious Accommodation in the Age of Civil Rights” [Paul Horwitz, PrawfsBlawg]

Banking and finance roundup

May 30 roundup

  • Both sides agree to drop litigation in Islamic Society of Boston mosque-building controversy (Herald, Globe; earlier here, etc.)

  • Australia’s Slater & Gordon becomes world’s first law firm to list itself on stock exchange (SMH, Ribstein; Regan/MacEwen/Ribstein; more)

  • Colo. bar-restitution fund strained after lawyer who “hoped to save the world” plunders $5 million from clients to fuel strip-club-enhanced lifestyle (Rocky Mountain News)

  • A trend? Another restaurant sues over negative review (Delmonico Grill in Port St. Lucie, Fla. against Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers and reviewer Patricia Smith; Hometown News)(earlier)

  • Ontario appeals court deems bite of West Nile-infected mosquito to be “accident” triggering insurance coverage [Harikari]

  • Nanny may I? Chicago bans actors on stage from smoking as part of theatrical performance (Lambert); Vancouver condo owner faces suit for smoking on her own patio (AHN, Vancouver Sun); Montgomery County, Md. becomes first county to vote to ban trans fats (Gillespie)

  • Nevada bench colleagues intervene with Judge Elizabeth Halverson: it’s just not done to call your clerk “The Antichrist” or ask court staff to give you foot rubs (Morrison, LVRJ). More: Above the Law;

  • Midwifery in crisis: one D.C. birthing center’s struggle to keep its doors open (WaPo)

  • Some advice: if you’re claiming disability benefit, you might not want to enter and win a strongman competition in which you lift the front end of a car (Telegraph, U.K.)

  • Judge rejects Utah lawyer’s claim that CBS should pay him $5,000 for exposing him to Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction (three years ago on Overlawyered)