NEWSLETTER – January 2014
Heather Michelin, President
Allen Mendelsohn and Larry Markowitz, Editor(s)
Dear Honourable Judges and Colleagues,
Happy New Year to you all. I hope that 2014 brings you health, joy and happiness. I am thrilled that our upcoming lecture on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 will feature the Society’s Director of Communications, Me Allen Mendelsohn. The evening is our annual Student Dinner when we host stagiaires and law students, and present The Lord Reading Law Society’s academic prizes to the deserving winners. The award winners, as well as representatives from each of the law schools will be present at the dinner lecture.
The Society’s future will be shaped by today’s young lawyers, stagiaires and law students. They bring a fresh perspective to the practice of law, and to the Society. As many of you can attest , the years pass very quickly while practicing law, and the importance of taking time to connect with peers, to enhance your knowledge and to expand your network should not be underestimated. The Society offers a unique opportunity to accomplish those goals, and we strive to do so in a warm and inviting manner. With this in mind, I invite each lawyer attending our upcoming dinner to personally welcome the next generation of LRLS members by taking some time to meet and speak with some of the law students and stagiaires who will join us on February 4th.
We are pleased to announce the following dates for the rest of our current season, when we will be welcoming the following speakers:
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 – Me Doug Mitchell
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 – Me Pierre Marc Johnson, G.O.Q., FRSC
Monday, June 9, 2014 -The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada, will address the Society at which time the Society’s Human Rights Award will be bestowed upon the Honourable Morris Fish.
Finally, I would like to extend the Society’s sincere thanks to the Canadian Bar Insurance Association (CBIA) for their generous sponsorship of the Student Dinner.
The Municipal Court: Not Just a Place to Fight Parking Tickets – Justice with a Heart
At our annual Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture on November 12th, 2013, the Lord Reading Law Society was privileged to have at its podium four judges, including two chief justices!
Our featured guest speaker was Society member and Chief Justice Morton S. Minc of the Municipal Court of Montreal. Accompanying Mr. Justice Minc on the evening’s distinguished panel were his colleagues, the Honourable Nathalie Haccoun and the Honourable Richard Starck. Their topic was: “The Municipal Court of Montréal – Past, Present and Future”.
Our featured panel was introduced by the Chief Justice of Québec, the Honourable Nicole Duval Hesler of the Québec Court of Appeal, who gave us a primer on the jurisdiction of the Municipal Court and then, foreshadowing the focus of the evening’s presentation, remarked that the Municipal Court serves our city by improving the social fabric of Montreal.
The Municipal Court hears a wide variety of cases and has implemented several important social programs that reflect the needs of urban society. It has 32 full-time judges, of whom one-third are women. There are 14 courtrooms at its main Gosford Street courthouse, with an additional seven courtrooms in a variety of satellite locations throughout the city, some of which offer evening sessions.
Despite being in existence since 1851, the Municipal Court is not well-known among the general public. It turns out this is not simply the place one goes to fight a parking ticket!
Besides dealing with traffic tickets and the like, the Municipal Court has jurisdiction over penal and criminal matters that are subject to a fine of $2,000 or less, or to a prison term of six months or less. These matters include driving while impaired and unlawful assembly. Other topics include noise infractions, pollution, environmental offenses and zoning disputes. The court hears some 60,000 cases a year, of which 20,000 deal with criminal matters. Judges of the Court also preside over some 5,000 bail hearings each year.
Since 2009, when Mr. Justice Minc’s was named chief justice, the Court has instituted a number of progressive outside-the-box programs to lower rates of recidivism, thereby reducing the burden on society caused by repeat offenders. The Municipal Court of Montreal is not merely a place where justice is meted out by judges and legal counselors; it is also a place where counselors of other sorts are available to help defendants (and victims) get their lives in order. Parties who appear before the Municipal Court are often our city’s least fortunate citizens.
Being a judge of the Municipal Court requires patience. Besides English and French, proceedings can occur in over 100 languages and dialects (numerous interpreters are on staff). There is also a regular stream of defendants who are homeless and have mental health issues.
In addition, many defendants represent themselves and are thus unfamiliar with courtroom etiquette. Madam Justice Haccoun laughed while recalling that she has been referred to by at least one nervous litigant as “Your Royal Highness”! Sometimes, she remarked, just listening to a litigant will yield a positive result.
To reduce recidivism and ultimately help society, the Court has collaborated with social workers to institute a number of programs to help litigants straighten out their lives. All of these programs are voluntary. Defendants are not obliged to participate. However, many choose to do so and the results have generally been positive.
These innovative programs cover such areas as:
- Repeat drunk driving
- Mental health
- Women who shoplift
- Spousal abuse
- Elder abuse
- Conciliation programs to settle disputes between landlords and tenants & between neighbours
- And further programs are in the works.
Mr. Justice Starck highlighted the program to prevent repeat spousal abuse. Typically, a team comprised of the judge, the prosecutor and a social worker will focus on both the defendant and the alleged victim to ensure there is no repeat of the violence. Such cases are heard in a dedicated courtroom, in which it is ensured that the alleged victim is isolated from the alleged aggressor. The defendant will be encouraged to submit to anger management programs and other counseling. In many cases, by agreeing to such treatment, the defendant can avoid a trial and jail time, while society avoids having a repeat offender in its midst.
During the question period, Mr. Justice Minc summed-up his Court’s novel approach when he stated that, not only is his tribune a court of justice, but it is also a progressive team of problem-solvers. Indeed, the progressive programs introduced by Mr. Justice Minc and his colleagues are bearing fruit, resulting in reduced rates of recidivism. No longer is the Municipal Court a revolving door between the streets and the jailhouse.
In thanking our guest speakers, Nancy Cleman pointed out that the system of incorporating alternative justice into the Municipal Court is a success. The fact that other cities are copying Montreal’s approach is a testament to that success.
Université de Montréal JLSA Shabbat Dinner
The Jewish Law Students Association (JLSA) of the University of Montreal is hosting its annual shabbat dinner on January 31st at the Chevra Kadisha Synagogue.
Last year, the event was a huge success with 250 participants and the honourable judge Michel Shore as the guest speaker. This year, the honourable Lucien Bouchard will be speaking. We believe the Shabbat dinner will be a positive experience that promotes cultural diversity, and encourages interaction between law students and lawyers in a social environment.
Tickets cost $20 and may be purchased online. We invite everyone at the Lord Reading Law Society to attend.
JLSA, Université de Montréal
News from the Mishpuchah
- To Marissa Frishman and Zev Zelman on the birth of their daughter Lily
- To Society member The Honourable Michel A. Pinsonnault, on his appointment to the Superior Court of Québec
- To Society member Peter Kalichman on the loss of his father Nathan
- To Society member Richard Uditsky on the loss of his wife Evelyn
- To Sheldon Merling on the loss of his wife Roslyn