Trials of an Event Law-aison

The trials of a second-year law student at the University of Alberta.

Visits From Judges

Jonathan Ip - Saturday, November 20, 2010

In October, the law school hosted a talk by Justice Thomas Cromwell of the Supreme Court of Canada. His topic was on "Sound Judgment: The Lawyer's Most Important Attribute." It was a speech sprinkled with humourous anecdotes and thoughts. For example, he joked, and I paraphrase, that it is important to have four friends on the Supreme Court otherwise the job as a judge in the highest Canadian Court is "just literature". For those who don't know, it takes at least five judges to have a majority judgment on the Supreme Court of Canada. It was pretty neat to hear somebody who writes some of the judgments for the cases you read in school, and you try to sort of draw comparisons between how and what they talk about to the things they write for the Court.

The U of A's Health Law Institute hosted a presentation about Vancouver's InSite which featured three speakers: one was a researcher from InSite, and the other two were legal scholars. Prior to this I did not know too much about the background for the InSite case at the BC Court of Appeal other than the conflict between the federal and provincial governments, but during that talk I learned how constitutional issues applied to that case. In particular, the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments with respect to health care and the criminal law powers were at dispute. These were exactly the types of issues we tackled in our constitutional law course and it was nice to see it being applied to current events. There was also another talk by Justice Michael Kirby, a former justice of the Australian High Court, titled "The Public Benefit of Human Rights." Interestingly, he spoke mostly about using the law to tackle the AIDS epidemic. Retired Justice Frank Iacobucci of the Supreme Court of Canada also visited and spoke about "Canada's Response to Terrorism," but I was busy and could not attend that one.

I shadowed at a downtown law firm last week and they took us on a tour of the Provincial Courts. The lawyers and staff were nice and the office was on multiple floors with a great view of the city. I have previously been to the Courts because I am doing Student Legal Services' Criminal Law Project so I occasionally represent people there. It's a good experience volunteering at SLS, and speaking (albeit briefly) in front of a judge in a courtroom was somewhat intimidating at first.

For our daily (or monthly) science reference: osmosis! Our criminal law prof gave a stern warning to those people in our class who do not pre-read cases before lecture and those who skip class (I guess those who skipped would've missed out on that lecture, but I could've sworn more people showed up the next day). He said that you learn the law by "osmosis," that is, by continually immersing yourself in law by reading the cases, the textbook and attending lecture. I think he's referred to "learning by osmosis" at least three or four times since classes started in September.


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