BARE BONES BRIEFS: Trump judges, citing university’s failure to condemn antisemitic acts, won’t hire Columbia grads | European Human Rights Court opens floodgates for climate change litigation | Kielburgers’ mother can proceed with defamation claim | Federal Court certifies class action for “mental illness stigmatization” by Canadian Armed Forces | Bennett Jones appoints new office managing partners

By Julius Melnitzer | May 21, 2024


NBC reports that 13 federal judges appointed by Donald Trump chose Holocaust Remembrance Day to announce that they would not hire students who graduated from Columbia University, which they called “an incubator of bigotry” in which “professors and administrators are on the front lines of the campus disruptions [arising from the Israeli-Palestinian war], encouraging the virulent spread of antisemitism and bigotry.” In a letter to Columbia’s president, the judges criticized the university’s “ideological homogeneity” in its response to pro-Palestinian protests that enveloped the campus, leading to a police sweep of Hamilton Hall, which the protestors had occupied. “It has become clear that Columbia applies double standards when it comes to free speech and student misconduct,” the judges wrote. “If Columbia had been faced with a campus uprising of religious conservatives upset because they view abortion as a tragic genocide, we have no doubt that the university’s response would have been profoundly different.”

Related Article: Anti-Israel stance costs law students their jobs


The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Switzerland violated the the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to adequately address climate change. The court reasoned that Article 8 of the Convention, which guarantees respect for private and family life, encompassed individuals’ right “to effective protection by the State authorities from serious adverse effects of climate change on their life, health, well-being and quality of life”. The judgment, which cannot be appealed, ordered the Swiss government to reevaluate and address its climate change goals subject to oversight by the Council of Europe. According to CMS, an international law firm headquartered in Frankfurt, the decision is binding on all 46 nations who are parties to the Convention, including all states in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

Related Article: Why Canadian companies are preparing for a wave of ESG cases coming their way

WE charity family fights off anti-SLAPP motion

Justice Ed Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court has partially dismissed an anti-slapp motion seeking to derail a defamation claim brought by Therersa Kielburger, mother of Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of the WE Organization that discontinued its Canadian operations following widely-publicized allegations that the Liberal government in Ottawa had been in a conflict of interest when it awarded certain public contracts to the charity. Theresa sued journalists Jesse Brown and his media company, Canadaland Inc., as well as another journalist, Isabel Vincent, who was not otherwise associated with Canadaland but was a guest on the impugned podcast. The case centered around an alleged defamatory podcast that repeated false allegations regarding the Kielburgers’ handling of the charity’s money. Morgan concluded that there was “substantial merit” in the claim against Brown and Canadaland, that they did not have a valid defence, and that the public interest in permitting the action to continue against them outweighed the public interest in protecting their right of expression. But while the claim against Vincent might have “some merit”, she appeared to have a valid defence of fair comment and the action could not continue against her.

Related Article: SCC to rule on Anti-Slapp legislation


The Federal Court has certified a class action in which members of the military claim that the Canadian Armed Forces worsened the symptoms of their mental health disorders by stigmatizing them through “perjorative attitudes, behaviours and beliefs” including “discrimination, ostracization, harassment, and abuse”. The CAF’s internal resolution mechanisms, the court concluded, were “an inadequate alternative” to the potential relief afforded by the class action.

Related Article: Federal Court decertifies veterans’ class action for delay on pension benefits


Bennett Jones LLP has appointed Preet Gill, an insolvency and restructuring practitioner and national co-head of complex research and opinions, as Toronto managing partner; Kwang Lim, a corporate and securities lawyer, as managing partner in Vancouver; and Pascale Dionne-Bourassa, a civil and commercial litigator as managing partner in Montreal. Pat Maguire and Barbara Stratton remain in charge of the Calgary and Edmonton offices, respectively.

Related Article: Bennett Jones opens Montreal office

Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or

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