Slow justice is no justice

A New Brunswick judge has been “mildly chastised” by the Canadian Judicial Council for taking so long to render her decisions:

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paulette Garnett was the subject of a complaint by an unknown person to the judicial council last spring, a year after CBC News reported on several of her overdue decisions.

But she will face no disciplinary action for bogging down the judicial system, according to a decision released on Tuesday.

“The judge had been very late in issuing reasons in a number of cases,” the council said in a press release.

“Undue delays in rendering decisions can lessen public confidence in our justice system. … The judge has acknowledged that she needs to do better in future, She is working to ensure that this situation does not happen again.”

Garnett was appointed in 1998 and almost immediately began violating judicial council guidelines, which call for delivering judgments within six months of the conclusion of a hearing.

One of her first cases, a claim for back rent at the Bathurst Supermall made in August of 1998 wasn’t decided on for nearly 13 months.

That became a familiar pattern to lawyers and parties in her courtroom for years to come.

In 2005, she presided over a one-day hearing between Fredericton’s old Elm City Chrysler dealership, its owners and their bank to resolve questionable transactions. She delivered a decision two years and two months later.

In 2012, she took so long to decide whether employees of Fredericton’s Jones Masonry had properly unionized, Gordon Petrie, the company’s lawyer, eventually died.

That’ll show her.

(via @BobTarantino)

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Hamas’ Jewish lawyer

There’s nothing wrong with defending unpopular people in court.  On the contrary, it’s downright admirable.  It’s what the criminal justice system is all about.

But this guy gives off a definite Doug Christie vibe. (Or he would, if Doug Christie stood up for people who’d have him killed because of his religion.)

A Hamas-defending, Israel-slamming Jew, Cohen simultaneously confounds and agitates. He’s known for f-bomb-laced rants against what he calls a “Zionist hijacking” of his religion. He demeans the tax charge to which he pleaded guilty [emphasis added] in April as a government attempt “to silence me.” And he doesn’t necessarily disagree with foes who label him “a traitor.”

“Am I someone who would intentionally, willfully sell government secrets or engage in activity with the intent to hurt America or American citizens? Absolutely not,” Cohen said in an interview with NBC News. “But I am someone who will, just willy-nilly, accept the party line whether it comes out of the White House, the Congress, or nice, safe majoritarian values? No. And if that makes me a traitor, then well f*** it, I’m a traitor.”

U.S. officials will, indeed, remove Cohen from his practice of defending some of those whom the feds deem enemies of the state. The tax case against him will likely cost him his law license.

According to federal prosecutors, Cohen failed to report more than $3 million in income.

[…]

“Hamas represents the kind of commitment and integrity that is so important to me — the leadership in particular, is comprised largely of physicians, engineers, academics, and political scientists,” Cohen said. “So they’re a people that not only do I share a common bond with in terms of their struggle, but they’re folks who I just love hanging out with.”

Book Review: “New Law, New Rules” by George Beaton

[Originally posted, with a few editorial changes, at Canadian Lawyer]

New Law, New Rules, by its very nature, shows how much the practice of law has changed. It is dubbed “a conversation about the future of the legal services industry,” and while Australian consultant George Beaton is billed as the author, it’s really a collaboration from dozens of lawyers, professors and analysts from around the English-speaking world.

The logistics of putting something like this together even ten years ago would have been daunting. However, Beaton and his collaborators compiled enough material for a book after months of stimulating debates and discussions carried out over their blogs, twitter feeds and other social media platforms.

The result is a rather informative and thought-provoking e-book that should make every lawyer reconsider how they’re running their practices. The past decade-and-a-half has seen many alternatives to the traditional law firm arise – virtual firms, where much of the work is done outside of a central office; firms using fixed fees, as an alternative to the traditional billable hour; even companies like LegalZoom (co-founded by Robert Shapiro, best known for his position on O.J. Simpson’s “dream team”) which prepare forms and some online guidance for people who wish to represent themselves.

Beaton uses the term “NewLaw” to describe these developments, and notes that a “NewLaw” firm – Axiom Law, whose employees work remotely to keep overhead low – is on pace to become the world’s largest law firm by 2018 – even though the company would bristle at the phrase “law firm.”

New Law, New Rules explains how companies like Axiom are much more reliant upon technology than the traditional firm, which may be more likely to balk at the cost. And they’ve thrown out the traditional partnership model, instead relying upon outside investors and shareholders. (In Britain, where new legislation has opened the doors to outside ownership of law firms, commentators have invoked the name of that country’s largest supermarket chain to discuss the rise of “Tesco Law.”)

And yet, if the NewLaw business model was so obviously superior to the way traditional “BigLaw” firms are run, the latter would have been run out of town years ago. But the law firm as we’ve always known it isn’t going away any time soon – in fact, several of the contributors to New Law, New Rules passionately defend the “old-fashioned” model.

The larger firms still continue to attract the top graduates from the most highly regarded law schools, and they still have the resources to navigate the most complex international transactions. And after the Great Recession, they’ve proven to be a safe haven for those who aren’t sure they want to try out a newer, more innovative but less established legal service provider.

Still, there’s no doubt that things have changed more in the past few years than they did in the previous few decades. It’s reflected in my own practice – I do quite a bit of my own legal work from my home office or on the road, and the internet has opened a wealth of affordable (or even free) legal resources that let me access texts, journal articles and case law without having to open a book. It used to be that only the larger firms had the largest law libraries; now, the playing field has been leveled.

At the same time, I’ve been reluctant to adopt other NewLaw practices, such as flat fees. I can estimate how much it may cost to handle a hotly contested divorce from start to finish, but until the matter is well under way, I can’t say how cooperative the other party will be, or whether there will be a dramatic change to the parties’ living arrangements (say, a child decided to leave Mom’s house and move in with Dad).

I intend to be in this business for a long time, so I have to do a lot of thinking about how I’m going to conduct my practice in the years to come. New Law, New Rules, available in electronic formats only, from retailers including Amazon and Smashwords, can be a hard, buzzword-heavy read at times, but it helped me see which way the winds are blowing.