Lots of our clients say this to us. Something about the law appealed to them. Maybe they were playground advocates – sticking up for the rights of other children who were being bullied. Maybe they had the experience of participating in a “moot court” during high school: attending at the court house, wearing the robes and making the arguments. Or maybe they just really enjoyed law programs on television: Suits, with Meghan Markle (who has since then gone on to fill another role); or the old Canadian Street Legal, which 20 years later is about to get a reboot.
The law interfuses so much of what we experience as citizens. How many news articles – whether in print or on line – focus around legal issues? Immigration and refugee concerns. Our heightened awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace with the #MeToo movement. The legalization of marijuana.
And the law regulates so much of what we do in our everyday lives. How we buy or sell our houses. How we prepare a valid will. How we manage property and support issues after breakdown of a marriage or common law relationship, and make arrangements for our children in their best interests. How we deal with loss of a job. Or a problem with a tenant.
We know that the law is important. But (even for lawyers) it seems to be getting more and more complicated. Although we think that the law should be clear, that it should map with our understanding of justice and fairness. Since taking office February 5, 2018 Canada’s new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, has helped promote several new projects to help make our law more accessible.
One of these projects is the new Supreme Court Cases in Brief listings.
These are short, well-written summaries of recently-decided matters. Why did the prior wife get the entire benefit of a $250,000 life insurance policy, even though before his death the husband had named his new partner as the “irrevocable” beneficiary? Read the case in brief for Moore v. Sweet. And why can’t judges in criminal cases order mandatory victim surcharges any more? Take a look at the R. v. Boudreault case in brief. If you want to know more, it’s also easy to find the full reasons for judgment on the Supreme Court website. And if you’d rather watch than read, our Canadian Supreme Court began televising proceedings in 2000: many of these webcasts are archived. It’s reassuring to experience in action the core civility at the heart of the hearing process, which feels so Canadian – at our very best.
Sometimes people grumble about lawyers, but when you need a lawyer you want one who can sort through the legal issues and facts, which can be a daunting task. And whether you need a lawyer or not, many people are fascinated by the law and how cases are decided. Maybe you are one of the people who would have liked to practice law, but didn’t get the chance. We can be grateful our Supreme Court of Canada is working hard to make law more transparent, more comprehensible and more accessible for all of us.
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