62 episodes

Scholar and activist Julie Macfarlane talks with visionaries, social justice warriors, and legal system “disrupters” about their motivations and how their experiences have changed them – for better or for worse.

Jumping Off the Ivory Tower with Prof JulieMac National Self-Represented Litigants Project

    • Society & Culture

Scholar and activist Julie Macfarlane talks with visionaries, social justice warriors, and legal system “disrupters” about their motivations and how their experiences have changed them – for better or for worse.

    Living Black Lives

    Living Black Lives

    Today’s episode is dedicated to the personal experiences of two good friends of NSRLP who speak to what it meant for them to grow up as Black people in predominantly white communities in Canada. Moya McAlister is NSRLP’s Communication Manager, and she grew up between Toronto (for the most part) and Trinidad, where she spent vacations with family. Moya describes how this brought special challenges for her, and the ways that she has tried to manage these first as a child, and now as an adult community activist and professional. Anthony Morgan also talks about his experiences as a young person, and now as an adult raising a young child, and the impact that centuries of Black slavery in Canada still has on Canadian culture. Anthony currently heads the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit for the City of Toronto, but he has had a long history as a racial justice educator, commentator on racism and race issues, and as a lawyer on anti-Black racism issues, including a spell at the African Canadian Legal Clinic (now the Black Legal Action Centre, see below).

    What Can You Do? We turned to three other guests to give us some ideas on things you can do to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement:

    Hussein Aly is a widely-respected criminal defence lawyer in Toronto with Rusonik and Partners, and he is offering free online seminars (hosted by the Black Muslim Initiative and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association) on how to interact with police at peaceful protests.

    Anna Sallah is a research assistant with the NSRLP and a masters student at the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor. Anna has studied and worked in Ghana and in South Africa, and her family live in Minneapolis. She has suggestions for using social media to create awareness, show support for Black friends and colleagues, and ask for action. Anna also describes why it is important to support local Black businesses.

    Hope Moon grew up in a small white Ontario community where she came as a baby from China. She is now a student at the University of King’s College Halifax, where she is the VP External of the Students’ Union. Hope describes her project to set up a Facebook group to facilitate more open and honest talking among her friends and peers about anti-Black racism. She points out that while this may create some (necessary?) discomfort, it is important we don't get stuck in a place of shame and ignorance, but go on learning together.

    Places to donate

    Black Legal Action Centre – a non-profit community legal clinic that provides free legal services for low or no income Black residents of Ontario.

    The Sentencing and Parole Project – a non-profit that prepares enhanced pre-sentence reports for marginalized Black people to give judges and parole boards info they need to make informed decisions around sentencing and parole.

    See our website for links and further resources: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/living-black-lives/

    In Other News: Guest news correspondent Jordan Furlong considers the fairness and unintended consequences of “Zoom justice”; systemic racism in the justice system, baked in at many levels; how the law harms public health; and how the legal system can be redesigned to work for everyone, and the groundswell of support for that redesign. Thank you so much Jordan for your wonderful contributions to the podcast – we can’t wait to have you back again!

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Brauntë Petric; Other News produced and hosted by Jordan Furlong; promotion by Moya McAlister and the NSRLP team.

    • 46 min
    "Jealous Guards": The Legal Profession and Future Legal Services

    "Jealous Guards": The Legal Profession and Future Legal Services

    Richard Susskind (Professor, University of Glasgow, O.B.E., and author of 7 books) has spent the last 25 years speaking up about the need to modernize legal services, and the increasingly acute need to democratize public access to both justice and justice assistance. In his conversation with Julie, who has worked on many of the same issues, Richard discusses the future of online dispute resolution, the need for the diversification of legal services and online assistance far beyond lawyers, the need for the legal profession to bring "added value" to clients rather than acting as the "gatekeepers" of legal services, and the impact of the pandemic on both our assumptions and our experiences of what "works" to promote Access to Justice. Please also stay tuned to the end of the episode for our other news segment – Jordan Furlong challenges white people to take a stand for anti-racism, and commit to taking action, particularly within the justice system. We are currently preparing our season finale (June 23), devoted to the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to help – please tune in.

    Our guest news correspondent, Jordan Furlong, discusses how the murder of George Floyd has led to protests and demonstrations around the world, the potential for lasting change coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement, his own self-examination, and the necessity for everyone to closely examine their privileges, biases, and assumptions, and recognize the ways in which they have supported systemic racism; Jordan challenges white people to “show up” by educating themselves, and then taking action; he particularly addresses white privilege and over-representation within the legal profession, and reminds us that the justice system does not work for a vast majority of Canadians, particularly Black Canadians, and other people of colour. Please see the link below for a list of reading material and resources.

    For related links and more on this episode visit our website: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/jealous-guards-the-legal-profession-and-future-legal-services/

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Brauntë Petric; Other News produced and hosted by Jordan Furlong; promotion by Moya McAlister and the NSRLP team.

    • 39 min
    Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

    Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

    Each year NSRLP "graduates" law student research assistants (RAs) who have worked with us over the previous three years. These prospective lawyers have had an "immersion program" in working with members of the public who are representing themselves, an experience that we hear year after year is formative in shaping their path into legal practice. This year's graduates are Ali Tejani (social media wizard, and our "In Other News" correspondent), Megan Campbell (manager of the SRL Case Law Database), Kaila Scarrow (co-investigator and co-author of our report on access to court transcripts, along with many other pieces), and Rebecca Flynn (researcher/editor of our latest A2J Annotated Bibliography, and Case Law Database researcher). Julie's conversation with them spans their hopes for the future of legal services, their thoughts about entering an evolving profession, and how COVID is going to change everything. (Make sure to listen to the end for “in other news” with guest host Jordan Furlong!)

    In other news, with Jordan Furlong (legal markets analyst and recent podcast guest): the State Bar of California has agreed to move ahead with a “regulatory sandbox” to try out innovative legal services; Los Angeles County Superior Court launching free online tool to help parents negotiate child custody disputes and visitation issues without having to come to court; and finally, a Globe & Mail op-ed from a graduating Osgoode Hall law student reflects on the benefits of online legal education.

    For related links and more on this episode visit our website: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/comfortable-being-uncomfortable/

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Brauntë Petric; Other News produced and hosted by Jordan Furlong; promotion by Moya McAlister and the NSRLP team.

    • 46 min
    Vexatious in Alberta: A Victory for Self-Reps

    Vexatious in Alberta: A Victory for Self-Reps

    This week Julie talks to lawyers Colin Feasby (Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP) and Brynne Harding (Bennett Jones), who jointly represented NSRLP pro bono in our recent intervention in Jonsson v Lymer at the Alberta Court of Appeal. This was a landmark case for self-reps, addressing the issue of vexatiousness, and just how careful courts should be when deciding to designate a litigant “vexatious” and restrict their future court access. Those designated as “vexatious” litigants are almost always self-represented litigants, and Julie, Colin, and Brynne discuss the unique situation in Alberta, where the vague and extremely broad doctrine of “inherent jurisdiction” has increasingly been used to designate SRLs as “vexatious” over the last few years, and to place multiple restrictions on them. The Lymer decision has poured (a lot of) cold water on this approach to “vexatiousness”, and Colin and Brynne discuss with Julie what this means for Alberta, and the rest of Canada.

    In other news: NSRLP continues to update our COVID-19 resources, and we have recently added a new page on wills and powers of attorney; we’re looking for access to justice all-stars who are doing great work during the pandemic – nominations can be sent to @representingyourself@gmail.com; we have two new blogs up, looking at the future of the legal system post-COVID, from both Julie and BC Chief Justice Robert Bauman; the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General announced that it will be shifting some of its traditional investments toward innovation and new technology; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner and federal Justice Minister David Lametti have created an Action Committee on court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and finally, NSRLP is asking you to spread the word (and give if you can!) about our vital fundraising campaign, #Justice4All.

    For related links and more on this episode visit our website: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/vexatious-in-alberta-a-victory-for-self-reps/

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Braunte Petric; Other News produced and hosted by Ali Tejani; promotion by Moya McAlister and Ali Tejani.

    • 41 min
    That was Then and This is Now

    That was Then and This is Now

    This week’s episode features an interview about A2J issues with Mr. Justice Choudhury of the High Court of England and Wales, also President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Justice Choudhury is also Akhlaq (“Aki”), Julie’s lodger in North London in the late 1980s, when he was a law student at the University of London, and she was starting her career as a professor at another law school; they have remained good friends ever since.

    Julie and Aki discuss his journey from law student (and part-time milkman) to his current position – and just how unlikely all this seemed back then. In particular, Aki talks about how it was then impossible to imagine himself, born in Scotland and of Bengali descent, as a judge (and the numbers are not a lot better today, he points out). Aki also describes how, as a judge, he goes about ensuring that self-represented litigants (called pro se litigants in England) can be heard and treated fairly.

    In a COVID-aware postscript, Aki describes what it’s like to now hear cases by videoconference, and raises some concerns about some potential, and not yet fully understood, disadvantages for SRLs and others in that setting.

    In other news: NSRLP has added to our list of COVID-19 resources since our last podcast, including a list of free online legal educational content and a resource around what “urgent” means for cases currently being heard; we're also proud to announce that Julie will be a member of British Columbia’s new Cross Jurisdictional Technical Advisory Group, helping the Ministry of the Attorney General respond to the impact of COVID-19 on the justice system; and finally, Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella recently spoke about designing a whole new way to deliver justice to ordinary people, BC Attorney General David Eby has pondered how this crisis has been eye-opening for those who previously have had access to the justice system, and a major decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal recently reflected on the "role of the trial judge & counsel where one party is self-represented" – the case discusses the appalling treatment of an SRL during a "mocking & belittling cross-examination" while "the trial judge did nothing.”

    For related links and more on this episode visit our website: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/that-was-then-and-this-is-now/

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Sikandar Saleem; Other News produced and hosted by Ali Tejani; promotion by Moya McAlister and Ali Tejani.

    • 39 min
    Still Open For Business

    Still Open For Business

    Today’s episode features Julie’s conversation with Shannon Salter, Chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia, which is Canada’s first online tribunal (and one of the first in the world). Shannon talks about how building a tribunal system based on the needs of its users is the first step in “human centred design”, and how greater use of technology may be one – but only one – of the outcomes of using “human design” in the justice system. Is this the future after COVID-19?

    In other news: NSRLP continues to update and publish helpful resources in the context of COVID-19; in Slaw Julie discussed what this pandemic can teach us about improving access to justice more generally; the Ontario government has announced $1.3 million in funding for justice sector technology and a further $2.7 million to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes while COVID-19 persists; and former Chief Justice McLachlin recently reflected on justice in the time of social distancing, sharing some insights on this wake-up call.

    For related links and more on this episode visit our website: https://representingyourselfcanada.com/still-open-for-business/

    Jumping Off the Ivory Tower is produced and hosted by Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall; production and editing by Sikandar Saleem; Other News produced and hosted by Ali Tejani; promotion by Moya McAlister and Ali Tejani.

    • 36 min

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