Legal Feeds Blog
- LSUC rules registered sex offender is of 'good character'
A former lawyer from Florida, who spent two years in prison for a child pornography charge, is one step closer to acquiring a licence to practise law in Ontario.
|The Law Society of Upper Canada’s hearing tribunal has determined that Ronald Davidovic has proven he took the necessary steps to rehabilitate himself.|
Davidovic was imprisoned in a federal penitentiary and registered as a sex offender after he pleaded guilty to a count of “receiving material containing the visual depiction of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” according to the decision.
In 2004, police executed a search warrant at Davidovic’s home and seized his computers. He subsequently admitted to police and to his wife at the time that he had viewed child pornography since 1998. He was originally sentenced to five years in prison, but his sentence was later reduced.
He was also originally charged with a count of possessing child porn, but that was dropped when he pleaded guilty to the other charge.
Benchers Raj Anand and Jan Richardson, who served on the panel, decided to grant Davidovic’s application.
“The applicant's conduct in the years preceding 2004 was reprehensible, but it is not an automatic or permanent bar to his admission, given the evidence and positions of the parties, and in light of the applicant’s determination to be an ethical and productive lawyer,” said Anand and Richardson. Bencher Paul Cooper held the lone dissenting opinion on the split three-member panel.
The tribunal used what is called the five “Armstrong factors” in determining whether Davidovic was in present good character. These factors include the nature and duration of the misconduct, whether the applicant is remorseful, the rehabilitative efforts that have been taken and their success, as well as the applicant’s conduct since the misconduct and the amount of time that has passed since.
Anand and Richardson determined that Davidovic had made repeated statements of remorse and that the risk he would reoffend was very low.
They also noted that there is no evidence of recurrence or subsequent bad behaviour on Davidovic’s part in the 13 years since he was charged.
“The applicant’s attempts to rehabilitate himself have gone beyond steps that might be regarded as inward-looking: treatment, counselling and self-assessment,” Anand and Richardson said.
Davidovic says he was very excited and pleased with the decision.
“I’m very fortunate to have an opportunity to be able to practise my chosen profession again,” he said in a phone interview from Florida.
“I’m pleased that the country of Canada, or at least the law society, recognizes that an individual can rehabilitate themselves and I hope that this decision gives hopes to others that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if they do what they’re supposed to do, there is a possibility to return to a meaningful life after having been convicted of an offence.”
Davidovic provided the tribunal with a number of reports to support his application, which were written by a reverend who served as his therapist, a social worker who conducted a court-ordered treatment program and a doctor who conducted a psychological evaluation and risk assessment of Davidovic in 2013. The tribunal also received transcripts of recent interviews an LSUC investigator conducted with those who wrote the reports.
The law society’s counsel in the matter, Amanda Worley, did not oppose Davidovic’s application after he provided testimony.
In his dissenting opinion, Cooper found that Davidovic had failed to prove he was rehabilitated.
He found the reports from the social worker and the reverend were dated, anecdotal and not scientific and that testimony given by Davidovic lacked reliability.
“The lack of proper diagnosis together with the risk of re-offending in this case illustrates the applicants’ failure to satisfy his burden,” Cooper said in his dissent.
“He chose to provide dated reports, none of which addressed the simple and present context needed to explain whether paraphilia remains a concern.”
Cooper said he also remained unconvinced that Davidovic “fully comprehends victim empathy or remorse.”
“The seriousness of Mr. Davidovic’s misconduct cannot be bootstrapped by conditions when residual concerns linger about his present good character,” Cooper said.
“The Law Society, as the regulator, has an obligation to maintain high ethical standards in the public interest and to maintain the public’s confidence in the legal profession and its ability to self-govern and regulate. The practice of Law in Ontario is a privilege, not a right.”
Davidovic says Cooper’s opinion reflects the bencher’s own personal bias toward the offence.
“I think it’s inconsistent with the empirical evidence that’s out there on these types of offences,” he says.
Toronto lawyer Lee Akazaki, who was not involved in the proceedings, says the decision was born out of the ambiguity the bar has in its definition of good character. He says the standard for lawyers is much higher than that applied to a non-lawyer who has come out of incarceration rehabilitated.
“Character is something that is intrinsic within us. It’s not like a psychological condition and it’s not like a management of impulses such as anger. Character very much has to do with one’s ethical centre in the deliberation in one’s thinking,” he says.
Akazaki adds that it is difficult to come to the conclusion that Davidovic has sufficiently met the good character requirement, given the facts of the case and the nature of the crime committed.
“Just on the basis of the facts, he established on the evidence that he’s probably a reformed citizen, a rehabilitated citizen, but whether he has the good character requirement to be a member of the bar altogether, I don’t think the facts show he has the good character requirement,” he says.
“It’s difficult in this type of case to see how somebody with this particular background and the type of crime he committed can ever satisfy that requirement.”
In 2004, Davidovic petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for a disciplinary resignation and was granted permission to resign from the Florida bar with leave to appeal in five years. He did not reapply in Florida, but in 2015, he applied to the LSUC for a licence to practise in Ontario, as he plans to move to Toronto where he has family.
Davidovic says he chose to apply in Ontario because there are all sorts of impediments in Florida that make it difficult to live day to day for someone convicted of such an offence.
Before his conviction, Davidovic had practised in estate and financial planning in his early career before going on to act as general counsel for a large telecommunications company.
He says he plans to pursue criminal law in Ontario, as he has a unique perspective that will give him more empathy for those who have made mistakes in their lives.
Davidovic is still an applicant in the licensing process.
A spokeswoman for the law society said it is policy not to interpret or comment on decisions made by the tribunal hearing panel.
Updated March 24, 2017: A previous version of this story stated that the Law Society of Upper Canada’s hearing tribunal granted a licence to Ronald Davidovic. The tribunal decided that Davidovic was of good character, a requirement of the licensing process. He is still an applicant in the licensing process and has not yet been granted a licence to practise law in Ontario. Legal Feeds regrets any confusion caused.
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March 20 – British Columbia – Attorney General of Canada on behalf of Republic of India v. Badesha
Charter of Rights (criminal): The respondents are the uncle and mother, respectively, of the victim. They are alleged to have planned a long-distance “honour killing” in India from Canada because the victim had married a rickshaw driver, whom the respondents considered unsuitable. The respondents are alleged to have hired hitmen who tracked the couple down in the state of Punjab, killed the victim and severely beat the victim’s husband. Indian authorities charged several Indian nationals connected to the murder, three of whom have been convicted, as well as the respondents.
India sought the respondents’ extradition for prosecution on the offence of conspiracy to commit murder. The respondents, who require medical care in custody, placed before the Minister the record of human rights violations in India’s prison system. The Minister issued a surrender order conditional on receipt of formal assurances from India, including assurances regarding the death penalty, fair trial and the respondents’ health and safety in Indian custody.
Read the British Columbia appellate court’s decisions here.
Related news stories:
Supreme Court to hear 'honour killing' extradition case; CBC News
Supreme Court will hear extradition case for two B.C. people charged in India; CTV
March 21 – Newfoundland and Labrador – R. v. S.B.
Criminal law: The respondent was acquitted of several counts of assault, including with a weapon, against the complainant, who was then his girlfriend and later his wife, and of one count of assault against the complainant’s daughter. Before the trial, the respondent applied pursuant to s. 276 of the Criminal Code to cross-examine the complainant on her prior sexual activity. The trial judge allowed the application in part. The Crown appealed the acquittal on the basis that the trial judge erred in allowing the application in part and in refusing to permit the Crown to lead evidence to rebut the allegations of recent fabrication that arose during the cross-examination. The majority of the Court of Appeal held that the trial judge erred in admitting certain evidence in relation to the complainant’s prior sexual activity and in excluding evidence related to recent fabrication, but that the verdict should not be set aside.
Read the Newfoundland and Labrador appellate court’s decision here.
March 22 – Yukon – First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v. Yukon
Aboriginal law: The Nacho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nations have traditional territory in the Peel Watershed, which covers an area representing 14 per cent of the Yukon. Terms of an agreement between First Nations and the territorial and federal governments established a process for the development of land use plans in various regions, including the Peel Watershed. That process began in 2004 and led to the creation of a commission’s recommended plan in late 2009. The process broke down in 2012 when Yukon changed the plan over the objections of the First Nations, and the Nacho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and others commenced an action against Yukon.
The trial judge held that Yukon had breached the final agreements when it changed the land use plan for the Peel Watershed, quashed Yukon’s final land use plan, and ordered the process be remitted to the point in time at which Yukon came to engage in final consultation with the First Nations. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s order quashing the government plan, but ordered that the matter be remitted to the point at which Yukon had received the commission’s recommended plan.
Read the Yukon appellate court decision here.
Related news story:
Council of Yukon First Nations backs groups applying to Supreme Court over Peel dispute; CBC News
Related law firm briefs:
The Peel Watershed Appeal: Back to Square One; Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v. Yukon 2015 YKCA 18 – Case Summary; Mandell Pinder LLP
March 23 – Ontario – Marakah v. R.
Charter of Rights (criminal): The appellant was convicted of several firearms offences. Before trial, he challenged the search and seizure of his accomplice’s cellphone to which he had sent text messages. The application judge concluded that the appellant could not challenge the search of that phone because he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the text messages, finding that the expectation ends once the text message reaches its intended destination. Ontario’s Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal with one judge dissenting.
Read the Ontario appellate court decision here.
Related news stories:
Sent text messages not private: ruling; Law Times
Ontario Court of Appeal rules that text conversations are not private; Mobile Syrup
Cases highlight legal debate over texting privacy rights; Law Times
March 23 – Ontario – Jones v. R.
Charter of Rights (criminal): During a police investigation in Ottawa into the possession and trafficking of firearms, police obtained a production order pursuant for records and text messages from a cellphone number associated with Jafari Waldron, and obtained historical text messaging information from Telus. In an exchange via cellphone about the potential sale of a handgun, one of the phones was found to be associated with Waldron and one allegedly used by the appellant. Both phones were listed under other names. The appellant was convicted for firearms and drug trafficking.
Read the Ontario appellate court decision here.
- Judge stays charge, slams Crown for delays in workplace fatality case
|Norm Keith says prosecutors at the Ministry of Labour and other government departments have not been paying attention to corporations who are in the process of being prosecuted simply because they assumed maybe that Jordan didn’t apply.|
“The defendant’s trial has clearly been unreasonably delayed whether the analysis is under the Jordan framework or that of Morin. The Crown principally due to its ongoing failure to provide timely disclosure and its overall complacency about the pace of the litigation is responsible for the vast majority of the delay with the rest accounted for by institutional time constraints,” Wilkie wrote.
Justice Wilkie also stated: “In my view it is apparent from the court’s summary of the chronology of the trial itself, that the Crown made no efforts to manage the case so as to improve the pace of litigation but in fact through lack of focus and inaction further contributed to the delay.”
While there have been a couple of other stays issued under Jordan, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP lawyer Norm Keith predicts there may be more to come.
“I think prosecutors at the Ministry of Labour and other government departments have not been paying attention to corporations who are in the process of being prosecuted simply because they assumed maybe that Jordan didn’t apply, but this case definitively asks does Jordan supersede CIP [R. v. CIP Inc.], which sets a higher test for prejudice for a corporation than an individual.
“CIP basically said you can’t presume prejudice just because of a long delay under s. 11(b) — you have to prove as the corporate defendant that you have suffered irremediable prejudice,” says Keith, who represented Stephenson’s Rental in the case.
And in his decision, Wilkie states: “. . . at the heart of Jordan is the objective to change the culture of delay in the justice system as a whole and to require all trials to function as efficiently as possible. In this sense they have signaled that when section 11(b) is breached it is not just the particular defendant who is prejudiced but the justice system and by extension the community as a whole. There is no basis for concluding that this objective applies only to trials of individuals.”
The charge against Stephenson’s Rental Services, issued under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, arose from a workplace fatality that occurred at the General Motors plant in St. Catharines, Ont. on Nov. 18, 2011. The worker was an employee of Procon Niagara, contracted by GM to do work at its plant. At the time of the incident that caused his death, the person was operating an electric-powered elevated work platform also known as an articulating boom lift, which had been rented by Procon from Stephenson’s Rental Services. The allegation was that the equipment provided by Stephenson’s was mechanically defective and not in proper working order.
At the time the delay application was heard in January 2017, the case had been in the system for more than 55 months and the trial was more than two years old. But that was not the first time there had been an assertion by Keith that the proceedings breached his client’s right to trial without reasonable delay.
There was a 30-month delay from the laying of the charge in June 2012 to the beginning of trial in December 2014. Keith brought an 11(b) application returnable on the trial date.
The two-and-a-half years leading to the trial included a 19-month period involving 13 appearances before the trial was set including one, where with no explanation, no one appeared for the Crown.
Keith says the Crown was arguing it was a complicated case with expert witness material involved. However, the judge pointed out the Crown had taken too long to turn its mind to the expert witness material.
“There is no question that the expert disclosure did take the Crown by surprise, but only because they had to that point, well into the trial, at least 2 years after he had been retained by the Ministry to provide critical expert testimony, inexplicably in my view, failed to turn their mind to it,” said Wilkie.
Keith admits he himself was responsible for a about nine days of the delay in August 2015 due to a scheduling issue, but other than that, the judge said when it came to the defence, “there was no waiver and no tactic calculated to cause delay.”
It then took about a year from the time the expert first gave evidence to get him back on the witness stand.
“Even the witness himself seemed surprised that he had never been asked to produce his work product beforehand or to bring supporting documentation with him to court,” Wilkie stated in his decision. “And of course when alerted to the issue, the Crown readily agreed that the defence was entitled to disclosure of the material and conceded the case would have to be adjourned to enable the defence to receive and review it.”
Given the way the case unfolded, it seems like a more “unique matter”, says Jeremy Warning, partner with Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP in Toronto.
“Typically you don’t see protracted disclosure issues like it appears occurred in the Stephensons case where the defence had been chasing material, it appears, for quite some time and then on the eve of trial is disclosed a fairly voluminous amount of documents and materials to review,” says Warning.
In terms of the facts set out, Warning says the case is “different from what one normally sees” with Ministry of Labour cases.
“It’s unfortunate that this case didn’t proceed as expeditiously as the law says it should because a stay of proceedings has denied a verdict on the merits — I’m not suggesting there had been an offence — but the merits were never determined and never will be determined,” says Warning.
“In terms of the administration of justice there is some erosion of the judicial process in the fact the charges had to be stayed but one has to balance the societal interest in achieving a verdict on the merits against the individual interest of the defendant to have a trial in a reasonable time when they can fairly challenge the evidence advanced by the prosecution. That’s an equally compelling consideration.”
The net delay was at least 60 months — 41 months above the presumptive ceiling.
As Jordan was decided the first week of July 2016 and the Stephenson’s case started in December 2014, the Crown had argued the Jordan 18-month rule didn’t apply.
But the judge disagreed, even noting that the Region of Niagara was not one where a culture of long delays was the norm.
“Ultimately, the right to trial within a reasonable period of time of the accused, be it individual or corporate, is superseding the social interest of a trial going to final decision,” says Keith.
Crown officials say they are “carefully reviewing” the Court’s decision to determine if there will be an appeal. “The matter remains before the court during the appeal period, and in order to preserve the fairness of the process, we will not comment on the case, specifically,” said spokesperson Janet Deline.
“Without commenting on the merits of the decision, we do want to assure families and loved ones that we continually review our processes to ensure we do everything we can to protect workers and ensure just results.”
In a case such as this, a corporation facing conviction could face a fine in the range of $100,000 up to $500,000.
Update: March 29, 2017: Comments added from Jeremy Warning of Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, and Ministry of Labour.
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- ‘The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they’re short of money, don’t believe it’
|Sharon Shore says a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruling shows a judge’s ‘frustration with the current system and a problem that we know exists as far as access to justice.’|
In the case, a 32-year-old woman, Noora Abdulaali, alleged she had been assaulted by her former husband, and harassed after leaving him.
The 43-year-old man, Kadhim Salih, said he feared his former wife would fabricate allegations against him.
The couple had no shared property and no children, noted Pazaratz.
“The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they’re short of money, don’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true. Not if they’re funding cases like this,” Pazaratz said the ruling.
Abdulaali was represented by duty counsel paid by Legal Aid Ontario, while Salih was represented with his own lawyer, paid for by Legal Aid Ontario.
Pazaratz was critical of the case for multiple reasons, and said it was “hardly worth a written endorsement.” However, as Pazaratz explained in the ruling, it blossomed into an ongoing battle after Abdulaali pursued a restraining order against Salih.
The two, who now live in separate cities, were unable to agree on a court order that they would stay away from each other — even if binding on both of them.
“Many taxpayers can’t afford their own lawyers, and don’t qualify for free assistance through Legal Aid. So they end up representing themselves in court. Or facing financial reality and settling without going to court,” he says, in the ruling.
“But when you pay no taxes and Legal Aid gives you a free lawyer, there’s no incentive to be sensible. Why worry about the cost when some unsuspecting taxpayer out there is footing the bill?
Ultimately, Pazaratz suggested the parties and counsel involved have a discussion to see if they could reach a “sensible resolution” — and if not, that he “would formally request that the Area Director of Legal Aid Ontario attend. . .to justify the obscene expenditure of tax money on a simple case with such an obvious solution.”
“I made a fuss. I told them to stop wasting money. So they settled,” said Pazaratz.
“But why do we have a system in which so much tax money gets wasted, unless someone takes the time to make a fuss?”
For its part, Legal Aid Ontario said in an email statement it could not go into the details of the case.
“Legal Aid Ontario offers support to all kinds of vulnerable people,” said spokesman Graeme Burk.
“The privacy rules governing our actions means we cannot comment on the specifics of this case. However, our role has been, and continues to be, helping our clients access justice and navigate the legal system.”
Sharon Shore, partner at Epstein Cole LLP and chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Family Law Section, says “what we’re hearing is [Pazaratz’s] frustration with the current system and a problem that we know exists as far as access to justice.”
“He’s placing the blame on Legal Aid Ontario, but I don’t know that it’s really limited to that issue,” she says. “. . .There is an ongoing problem that a lot of judges and certainly the bar have been working on, as far as what do you do with the self-represented individuals, what do you do with the court system that is lacking in resources.”
Shore says Pazaratz “didn’t need to write” the decision, as it was a consent order.
“He was clearly frustrated and sending a message. It makes you stand up, it makes you listen to it, but I’m not sure that it’s fair to place it entirely on Legal Aid,” she says.
“I think it’s a frustration with the system.”
Jonathan Richardson, with Augustine Bater Binks LLP in Ottawa, said the ruling is “one of the bluntest decisions I have ever read.”
“It shows the difficulties present in the legal aid system and the balancing act legal aid lawyers have to maintain,” he says. However, he adds, “it is fair to point out that the presence of legal aid has not made this particular dispute any worse.”
“Given the circumstances described, it is likely the same steps would have been taken and the same court costs incurred if both parties were self-represented. . .what the case does speak to is the need for early intervention and triage in family law cases so that cases such as these can be worked out of the system at an early stage and without the need to use up court resources which could be better focused elsewhere,” he says.
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In Brendan Paterson v. Her Majesty the Queen, the majority of the Supreme Court found that warrantless entry into Brendan Paterson’s apartment “was not justified by ‘exigent circumstances’ making it ‘impracticable’ to obtain a warrant” within the meaning of s. 11(7) of the Controlled Drug and Substances Act.
“Even where exigent circumstances are present, however, they are not, on their own, sufficient to justify a warrantless search of a residence under s. 11(7),” Justice Russell Brown wrote for the majority. “In order for a warrantless entry to satisfy s. 11(7), the Crown must show that the entry was compelled by urgency, calling for immediate police action to preserve evidence, officer safety or public safety.”
In November 2007 RCMP in Langley, B.C. received a 911 call from a woman who was crying and apparently injured. Arriving at her boyfriend’s apartment, they satisfied themselves that no one in the home needed help, having learned that the 911 caller had already been taken to hospital.
However, when the caller’s boyfriend, the appellant Paterson, opened the door, police noticed an odour of marijuana. Paterson eventually acknowledged having marijuana “roaches” (butts) in his residence. Police officers then told Paterson that they would have to seize the roaches, but that they would treat this as a “no case” seizure, meaning they intended to seize the roaches without charging him. They then prevented Paterson from closing the door to his apartment, and followed him inside, where they noticed a bulletproof vest, a firearm and drugs.
Police then arrested Paterson and obtained a telewarrant to search his apartment, which led to the discovery of other guns and drugs, and to criminal charges. British Columbia’s appellate court upheld Paterson’s convictions at trial and rejected Paterson’s argument that the common law confessions rule should have precluded the admission of his statement about the roaches at the voir dire, as the Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his statement was voluntarily made.
“The confessions rule should not be expanded to apply to statements tendered in the context of a voir dire under the Charter,” the majority of the court found. “Admitting a statement by an accused for the purpose of assessing the constitutionality of state action, as opposed to the purpose of determining the accused’s guilt, does not engage the rationale for the confessions rule.”
The court also found no “exigent circumstances” to justify the warrantless entry. “Here, the police had a practicable option: to arrest P and obtain a warrant to enter the residence and seize the roaches,” Justice Brown wrote. “If the situation was not serious enough to arrest and apply for a warrant, then it cannot have been serious enough to intrude into a private residence without a warrant. Further, concern for officer safety did not drive the decision to proceed with warrantless entry; rather, warrantless entry gave rise to concern for officer safety.”
The evidence obtained as result of the entry and search of Paterson’s apartment therefore needed to be excluded, the majority of the court found.
In dissenting reasons Justice Michael Moldaver, also writing for Justice Clément Gascon, agreed with the majority on the voluntariness issue, and that the police entry into Paterson’s apartment was unlawful and in breach of his s. 8 privacy rights. But the firearms and drugs seized by the police from the apartment were properly admitted into evidence, he wrote, and the appeal should be dismissed.
“In these circumstances, it is the exclusion of reliable and crucial evidence implicating P in very serious gun and drug offences that is far more likely to cause the public to lose faith and confidence in our criminal justice system,” the minority of the court found.
The decision is important in presenting an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Crown must prove a statement is voluntary in order to rely on it in a constitutional application before it can be considered in Charter voir dires, Toronto criminal lawyer Daniel Brown told Legal Feeds.
“The Crown must always prove statement is voluntary to use at trial, but not as evidence to be heard at a pretrial or voir dire hearing,” Brown says.
According to this decision, “it isn’t a concern whether a statement is reliable at the pretrial stage; the truthfulness of the statement is less important than whether the officer had good reason to rely on it. So, the voluntariness rule isn’t engaged at that stage of the proceeding.”
Brown also notes that “the pendulum seems to be swinging back to the exclusion of evidence [in cases] where police act negligently,” such as this one, even if they are seen to be acting in good faith. “The Supreme Court is saying that negligence is almost as bad as deliberately violating Charter rights.
Also, “the pendulum seems to be swinging back to excluding evidence even where the charges are serious,” he adds, noting the recent decision in Jordan v. R. in where the SCC decided that admitting guns and drugs into evidence would do more harm to the justice system than excluding them.
The decision “helps clarify the scope of what is meant by ‘exigent circumstances’ in future,” says Brown; “what’s meant by good faith and bad faith in the context of a Charter violation; what the remedy should be when the charges are serious, involving firearms, etc., in an area where there seems to be a lot of inconsistent application of this principle.
“Every case will be decided on its own facts, but this decision indicates that even in the absence of bad faith on the part of police officers, it can still result in exclusion of evidence for serious offences.”
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- Quebec law schools only ones in Canada that don’t require LSAT
|Osgoode Hall Law School dean Lorne Sossin says the LSAT remains an important way for law schools to compare applicants.|
Harvard’s initiative, which will allow students to take an alternative standardized test, is currently in a pilot stage. The law school says the goal of the pilot is to make law school applications more accessible by allowing applicants to pay for only one test instead of two when applying to both graduate and law school.
“If you’re looking at the leading trend in admissions in Canada, it’s not going to be a reaction to the Harvard move,” says Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. “I think here we’re moving away from a more formulaic approach, keeping the LSAT in mind, and toward a more holistic assessment. [The LSAT] is an important component because it gives that comparative dimension.”
Sossin adds that, in Canada, most of the costs incurred by applicants are from optional LSAT preparatory courses rather than paying to take the test itself. To help ease this gap, Osgoode Hall provides the Access to Law and Learning program — a free course to help high-potential candidates with financial need prep for the LSAT.
All Canadian law schools except those in Quebec require applicants to write the LSAT. Quebec law schools don’t require it because it is only offered in English. However, according to Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University Faculty of Law in Montreal, if a candidate does write the test, the results must be shared with the university, even if they perform poorly and even if it’s not required for admission.
Law school deans from across the country indicated to Legal Feeds that, although GPA and LSAT can level out the playing field between undergraduate programs with different marking standards and provide a stable measure of comparison among all applicants, it’s equally if not more important to evaluate applicants holistically. This means looking at their previous professional, volunteer and life experiences, leadership skills, background and personal statements. The drawback of this method is that it’s time consuming and requires additional staff.
“I think it’s fair to say that many [Canadian] schools have sought to expand the extent to which the whole background of the person is taken into account,” says Jeremy Webber, dean of University of Victoria Faculty of Law, adding that relying on numbers alone provides too narrow of an assessment. “Law school interacts with all segments of society, just about every issue in society, and so it’s really good to have people in law school who have a range of backgrounds.”
Although groups such as the Canadian Law Admissions Services and Statistical Information group and the Ontario Law Schools Admissions Services Working Group will be meeting in 2017 to discuss issues in law school admissions, Queen’s Law dean Jane Emrich says neither group has yet discussed changes to the LSAT requirement.
In a statement, Emrich also said that “most law schools would need to amend their admissions policies through their relevant faculty boards in order to make such a change,” such as using the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT.
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