Monday, April 20, 2009

Fun with Quicklaw: 4:20 edition

Today, April 20, marks the observance of a widely publicized secret holiday. Marijuana enthusiasts the world over will congregate to sample the hobbit's leaf and listen to some Marley. Maybe some Floyd, if there's time. There might not be time.

The origin of the holiday is shrouded in scented mystery. According to the 'pedia, it has something to do with the hour at which misguided youth get out of detention, and are again free to get themselves into trouble. In actuality, the origin is irrelevant. Stoners don't care. Over-thinking it will kill your buzz, 'cause then you realize it's also Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the Columbine massacre, and it's hard to stay mellow thinking about stuff like that.

On Twitter, noted film director and marijuana enthusiast Kevin "Silent Bob" Smith began enthusiastically trumpeting the day's celebratory activities at a particularly un-weed-like hour: "8:45 on 4.20. All I've got today is conference call, so... LET THE BLAZIN' BEGIN! First up, strain called NY Diesel."

Silent Bob keeps it mellow. Something else that's mellow? Schadenfreude!

A quick search for '4:20 AND marijuana' leads to R. v. Smith, [2005] B.C.J. No. 176.

On November 8, 2000, police arrested Leon Edward Smith on campus at the University of Victoria, and charged him with weed possession with intent to traffick.
Smith, while not actually a student, per se, was nonetheless the president of a club called Hempology 101, which gathered on campus for open air meetings every Tuesday at 4:20 in the afternoon. Smith set up some signs, passed out some weed pamphlets, and then proselytized to his assembled listeners for half an hour or so. Then, a little puff, puff, pass with a fist full of joints.
Smith was arrested with 7.8 grams of weed. He had a lot of excuses:
  1. he brought some of the weed, yeah, but he got the other bag at the gathering, and didn't know what was in it;
  2. man, his back was hurtin' from playing rugby, and he needed that weed, 'cause it relaxed him; and
  3. weed kept him from alcoholism and depression.
A retired university professor's testimony regarding the health benefits of weed was initially allowed, but ultimately given no weight, since Smith forgot to present evidence that he actually had any actual medical need in the first place.

He did profess to consider himself a political activist devoted to spreading the word about weed's medicinal uses. However, the Court was unimpressed by freedom of conscience and expression arguments under the Charter, since he wasn't arrested for his beliefs or the expression of his views, but rather for smoking and passing around an illegal drug.
It's the difference between saying stupid things, and actually being stupid.

So what have we learned?
  • Marijuana, or marihuana? When writing a judgment in the British Columbia Provincial Court (Criminal Division), there is no need to choose! Alternating the spelling makes it fun for the reader, and also increases the chances of your case being discovered in legal database searches.
  • Saying you play rugby negates all possible credibility as a stoner.
  • Just 'cause you think you're a political activist, doesn't mean the laws don't apply to you. Nor does getting arrested make you a political martyr. You're probably just a d-bag.
  • Hempology 101 is not offered by the University of Victoria. No, not even in the philosophy department. It wouldn't look good on your transcript anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inaugural Email Post

Blogging just got harder on the thumbs. Thanks, Blogger!
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Orson's Swell

Watched Citizen Kane last night.  I guess it's the greatest movie of all time.

You know what it could've used, though?
A speedboat chase.

Of course, that's a lot like saying that a meal could've used some bacon.  Always true.

If he'd made a movie about eating bacon on a speedboat, Mr. Welles would've had a real hit on his hands.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Boring Class Bingo

Civil procedure can be less than scintillating. Not every landmark decision is written by a xenophobic Texan with a penchant for workplace sexual aggression. However, there is a cure for this malaise, provided your class is small enough, and not made up entirely of traitorous saboteurs: BINGO!

Your grandmother would be psyched. If you threw in a slot machine, she'd be signing up for the LSAT right now. Hell, you had her at "xenophobic Texan."

The rules:
  • The regular rules. They haven't changed since you last played.
  • Players must submit a nominal entry fee (the pot) before receiving a card.
  • Players may not actively alter the course of a lecture in order to fill in squares.
  • Upon completion of a line of squares, the player must raise his or her hand, and work the word "bingo" into a legal question:
Naturally, there must be a wide variety of categories in order to create a challenging and long-lasting game, and to ensure that there aren't a dozen simultaneous winners.

Potential squares:
  • The professor uses a latin phrase.
  • Infrequent class participants participate.
  • The professor makes up a hypothetical in which a company designs, manufactures, markets or sells widgets. (What are widgets? Is it so difficult to come up with a product that actually exists? Screwdrivers. Microchips. There's two, right off the top of my head. Pistols. Syringes. Those two are from looking out the window. It's that easy.)
  • Your class's frequent-sneezer sneezes, startling those around him.
  • The professor adjusts his or her pants. (This may be one- or two-handed, depending on professorial obesity.)
  • The small-bladdered student leaves class in the middle, or the chronically late one enters.
  • Somebody misuses a word.
  • The class covers a case involving a rail yard, or a steel plant. (Those are some seriously litigious locales.)
  • A cell phone rings.
  • The professor quotes one of Lord Denning's dry witticisms.
  • Roger says "Gee," "Well," or "Gosh". (He will.)
  • The professor strolls to the back of the class, prompting a flurry of facebook minimization.
  • The FREE square!
There will be widespread laughter when somebody is victorious, which creates the risk that the game will be discovered, and the fun will have to end. The trick is to convince the professor that he or she is really bringing jurisdictional and venue issues to life. If you can do that convincingly, you've truly won the game.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's, Justice Cosgrove! Clean Out Your Desk

Cross-posted from Law is Cool

The Canadian Judicial Council released its report yesterday that Justice Paul Cosgrove "failed in the execution of the duties of his judicial office" and recommended that Parliament strip him of his position as superior court judge.

In spite of Cosgrove's public apology for the debacle, and repudiation of his own ruling, the CJC report noted that "public confidence in his ability to discharge [his judicial] duties in future has been irrevocably lost."

The recommendation related to Cosgrove's conduct while presiding over the first-degree murder trial of Julia Elliott in 1997. Cosgrove found that police and Crown officials violated the Charter rights of the accused on over 150 occasions, and ordered her release. In 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Cosgrove J.'s findings were without merit and ordered Elliott to be retried. She pleaded guilty in 2005. Attorney General Michael Bryant complained to the CJC thereafter.

The CJC canvassed the misconduct giving rise to the ruling of abuse of process, which included:

  • giving rise to an apprehension of bias;
  • repeated and unwarranted interference in the activities of the Crown and the RCMP;
  • unfounded threats of arrest or citation for contempt;
  • rude, abusive or intemperate language; and
  • arbitrarily suppressing a federal immigration warrant.

The disgraced judge's fate now lies with federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and his recommendation to Parliament.

In December, Cosgrove will turn 75, the age when judges are required to retire. Should Parliament break with longstanding tradition and take swift action against him before then, Cosgrove stands to lose his $170,000 annual pension.

Cosgrove sat on the bench for 25 years. Prior to his appointment in 1984, he served as public works commissioner and as the mayor of Scarborough.

This would mark the first time Parliament has removed a judge from office. In 1996, Justice Jean Bienvenue narrowly avoided that honour by resigning before the axe could fall.

Chances to kick a superior court judge while he's down come seldom, and The Other Half would hate to pass up that chance in favour of such a fleeting virtue as decorum -- why, if the undoing of Cosgrove J. has taught us anything, it's that 25 years of decorum can be dashed by a mere 150 unfounded determinations of police misconduct. As such, the following are some helpful suggestions to sitting judges, derived from Cosgrove J.'s ongoing misfortune:

  1. So your peers in the Canadian judiciary feel you've undermined confidence in the justice system and brought shame upon the silk robe; discretion is the better part of valour! Apologize early and often.
  2. When levying baseless threats and accusations of misconduct against the police and Crown, ask yourself: how much is too much?
  3. It is never too late to cultivate a personal relationship with the Attorney General. After all, political connections got you the job in the first place!