As lawyers we have long been accustomed to the rigours of competition in the marketplace- there is a surfeit of lawyers on the street, and we are all jostling for the same clientele – ( that elusive sub-set of the general adult population that has legal trouble and enough coin in their pocket to pay to get out of said trouble), Read More
When I posted a light-hearted piece last month proposing a form of written permission be signed before attempting to snuggle with a new love interest -( just to avoid misunderstandings )- I thought I was engaged in humour of the absurd, but now I discover that such consent forms are actually a ‘thing ‘- and a Dutch legal tech firm is marketing a version ( and here I was giving it away for free-!) not only that, but they are putting it on the blockchain!
The firm is Legalthings One, and their product, which has been announced in the legal forums online, but hasn’t made it onto their website yet, is called “Legal Fling”. Its a smart phone app, that allows users to agree to a variety of consensual bedroom behaviours. With a simple swipe ( much less intrusive than wiping out a pen and paper, in the heat of the moment) the users time stamped consent is recorded and uploaded to the Blockchain.
For the uninitiated, blockchain technology is a type of distributed ledger keeping, where data ( like a legal consent) is securely and simultaneously recorded on a large number of widely dispersed computers, all of which have to “agree” in order to verify the authenticity of a piece of data, making the stored data incredibly secure. Data secured by a blockchain is considered tamper-proof, and can be utterly relied upon.
This new technology is getting a lot of attention in the legal community, where it has obvious applications in such things as verifying the authenticity of a contract, which may have gone through many many revisions by multiple parties. Some pioneers are even advocating doing away with land title offices , in favour of a blockchain land registry, but I have to hand it to our Dutch colleagues, a boudoir blockchain is really thinking outside the box !
Seems my old law school prof. was right – the law of contracts can be fun !
Since law and the administration of justice is at least the notional theme of this blog, I thought it might be apropos to reflect back on some of the more important stories that touched the legal profession in British Columbia during 2017. Read More
As a very young lawyer I had the opportunity to act as junior prosecutor in a jury trial involving a crime which had occurred in the aftermath of a drunken party on a local first Nations Reserve. I was given the task of leading the evidence of a number of peripheral witnesses, all of whom had attended the bash and had observed the actions of the accused during the evening. All of these witnesses were First Nations.
The presiding judge was Mr. Justice Thomas Burger, who had spent much time in First Nations communities. at the first recess counsel were called into the judge’s chambers and I was gently upbraided by the judge, who drew my attention to the fact that I had been addressing the native witnesses by their first name, whereas white witnesses were being addressed by their title and surname. Although the lapse was completely unconscious I was hugely embarrassed to be called out on my patronizing behavior, and chastened, resolved to guard against such bias in the future. I would, in future, treat all participants in the trial process with the respect they deserve, regardless of race. It is a resolution which I hope I have kept over the years.
I was reminded of Mr. justice Burger’s admonitions recently when I chanced upon an article by Lauren Murrow in the August 2017 edition of Wired magazine reporting on the research of Dr. Jennifer Eberhard, a social psychologist at Stanford University, who uses data obtained from police body cam footage to recognize patterns of racial disparity when traffic cops interact with members of the public.
Police Body cam transcripts can now be scanned and analyzed using newly developed software, for both subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the way police interact with blacks or whites. Dr. Eberhardt’s conclusion is that police are more likely to use abrupt and less respectful language when dealing with African Americans than with whites. White drivers were more likely to be addressed as “Sir”, for example, and more formal vocabulary employed. When dealing with black drivers often more colloquial language was used,coupled with a more words of command.
The team at Stanford University has built a computer model which can predict the race of a driver interacting with the traffic cop with 68% accuracy based only on the nuances found in the police officers speech.
Machine learning and transcript analysis software have offered another demonstration of what most of us sense intuitively already; that subtle racism exists in our society and can often be manifested, even unconsciously, by those of us who believe ourselves to be free of prejudice.
Something to think about during this season of ‘goodwill towards all mankind’ and with the season of resolutions just over the horizon.
What will your resolution be?
Whew, I almost forgot an important birthday today. Facebook, which regularly reminds me of all sorts of anniversaries of people I scarcely know, dropped the ball completely, but thankfully, my Google calendar saved the day, highlighting Monday, December 11 as the 86th birthday of the Statute of Westminster. (the 1931 version, not the ones of the same name from 1275 and 1285 )
Unless you are a constitutional law nerd you could be forgiven for wondering why this birthday is important. Well, the Statute of Westminster is in fact one of the pillars of the Canadian Constitution, as important as the British North America Act or the Constitution Act of 1982. By rights, we should probably be celebrating Canada Day today, rather than the 1st of July, since December 11th 1931 was the day that Canada truly became a sovereign, independent nation, ending the paramountcy of acts of the British parliament over our affairs. We can be thankful for the wisdom of the Fathers of Confederation for realizing that a July long weekend makes much more sense for a family BBQ, but still, we should honour the day more than we do.
Of special interest to the legal profession, The Statute gave Canada the option of abolishing the use of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the country’s court of last appeal, but as with most things in the profession, change came at a glacial pace, and it wasn’t until 1949 that we actually got around to it.
A fun factoid for all my fellow closet monarchists – the Statute of Westminster played merry hell with the laws governing succession to the British Throne, which, in July of 2013 had constitutional scholars holding their breath, lest the future Queen of England not be the future Monarch of Canada . The crisis was averted when the Duchess of Cambridge produced a male heir in the person of Prince George of Cambridge, but it was a close call.
OK, so constitutional scholars don’t get out much, and tend to light their hair on fire over fine points of statutory interpretation that put the rest of us to sleep, so let me give you the Cole’s Notes version:
Section 2(2) of the statute gives Canada the sole right to amend the laws of royal succession, as they apply to Canada, meaning that any subsequent changes made to the laws of royal succession of Great Britain would no longer apply to us.
Then, in 2013 the game was afoot as the British Parliament started messing around with those laws of royal succession by enacting the Succession to the Crown Act, which stipulates that the crown no longer goes to the first-born male heir, but simply to the first born, regardless of gender. In doing so, they gave the appropriate tip of the hat to the Statute of Westminster, by declaring that the law expressly exempted Canada.
The immediate result was that, while the UK had adopted the modern doctrine of absolute primogeniture, the law in Canada remained that the monarch of Canada was to be selected using the old-fashioned male preference primogeniture. To enact a change in the Canadian law would have required the unanimous consent of the Provinces, so the Canadian government wimped out and passed the Throne Bill 2013 – literally a one liner that simply said Canada assented to the K UK Succession to the Crown Act.
Experts agree pretty universally that our legislation was completely ineffective, since it purported to assent to an Act which expressly exempted Canada . So, had the order of birth of Prince George and Princes Charlotte been reversed, Charlotte would have become Queen of England , while George became King of Canada. No wonder the academics were holding their breaths waiting for Kate to deliver !
Now, you have to admit, any legislation with the ability to crate such havoc deserves to be properly recognized on its birthday, so maybe we should give consideration to making State of Westminster Day a national holiday – the weather is lousy for barbecuing, but maybe we could combine the holiday with Black Friday and really have a party !
Those of us who dabble from time to time in the conveying of real estate in BC are gnashing our teeth once again as the pointy headed bureaucrats in Victoria have just announced a wee amendment to the mandatory Property Transfer Tax Return, that might just send our clients to jail. Read More
Pink Larsen becomes the only law firm that we are aware of to dedicate a senior, full time lawyer to work only on cases for the public good