By Julius Melnitzer | January 10, 2022
JUDGES: LAWYERS STILL SCREWING UP COURTROOM PROCEEDINGS
“The file is in a state of near total disarray”: these are nothing less than the opening words in a recent Federal Court judgment. That’s perhaps not surprising in a case where the applicant was unrepresented. But what is surprising is that Justice Russel Zinn found that counsel for the respondent (albeit not counsel at the hearing), the Attorney General of Canada, “also shoulders blame”. Among other things, most of the documents upon which the AG relied were “not properly in evidence”; correspondence from the AG to the applicant was misleading; and there was no cross-examination of the applicant on the “central point” in the hearing.
In another recent case, counsel did not disclose that the co-accused had direct adverse interests, leading the Ontario Court of Appeal to reverse a drug trafficking conviction. Finally, in July, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that a family law motion “could not proceed as currently advanced by counsel” as “important factual disputes have not been properly presented, nor have they been properly tested.” Although the motion was commenced some two years before the hearing, “obvious and important steps . . . have been skipped”. Indeed, both counsel failed to do “some very simple things which would have avoided this court date being wasted”.
And these screw-ups are undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone wishing to venture a guess on how often counsel’s blunders go unreported? And what that says about our Bar?
Related Article: Junior counsel beat senior counsel as often as seniors beat them
AUSTRALIA, EU HAVE LAWYERS IN THEIR SIGHTS
Lawyers, it turns out, are now clearly in the sights of authorities fighting organized crime. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, for example, reports that lawyers have been grouped with no less than mafia bosses and bikers as among the 160 targets of the next phase of Operation Ironside, a multinational law enforcement collaboration that is tackling organised crime around the world. Meanwhile, the release of the Pandora Papers has prompted the European Commission to consider regulating professional tax advisers on a blocwide basis. Currently, Accountancy Europe reports, each of the 27 member states has differing or no such regulations.
Related Article: Canada’s enforcement void: of tax cheats and money launderers
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: WHO ARE THE BIGGEST WINNERS IN CLASS ACTIONS?
According to the Law Society Gazette, a survey of 1,000 UK adults revealed the belief that lawyers and litigation funders are the most likely beneficiaries of class action. And 90 percent of respondents believed that it was “unfair” for counsel or litigation funders to take more than 10 percent of damages. Still, 71 percent said they would join a class action if the alleged wrongdoing had directly affected them.
Related Article: Australia proposes cap to litigation funders’ profits
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Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or https://legalwriter.net/contact.