Link Round-Up: Feb. 25, 2016


‘Link Round-Up’ gives you a glimpse into the articles that got the most airtime around the Loom Analytics water cooler this week. Published each Thursday, article topics include access to justice, big data, legal technology, and what’s happening in the Canadian legal landscape.

  • Justice Eugene “Tex” Ewaschuk made news this week as The Toronto Star reports that several high-profile murder trials may need to be re-tried:

    “At issue is the centuries-old method used in Canadian courtrooms to select a jury when the Crown or defence makes a ‘challenge for cause,’ which often means determining whether the jurors are able to judge the accused without bias.

    Prior to 2008, the only way to do that was to select two names from the jury pool, who become known as the ‘triers.’ They then listen to a prospective juror being asked whether they can decide the case without bias and then approve them to sit on the jury based on the response.”

    Once the initial two triers have selected a jury member, that selected juror replaces one of the original triers. This process of selecting a juror and switching out a trier is referred to as the “rotating trier” method, and is repeated until 12 jurors are selected. The ‘static trier’ method — two people who pick the entire jury — can be used only if the defence requests it. 

    The trial lawyer in the infamous Christopher Husbands case — that involved the 2012 Eaton Centre shooting which killed Ahmed Hassan and Nixon Nirmalendran — requested that Justice Ewaschuk allow the rotating trier method, but he imposed the static trier method instead. That decision is being used as one of the case’s grounds for appeal.

    The Star also reports that Justice Ewaschuk also imposed the static trier method on at least two other murder trials: Devon Vivian and Anthony Grant who were both convicted in a 2007 Toronto drive-by shooting, and Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah who was convicted in the 2013 stabbing of his ex-girlfriend.

    The Husbands case is scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal while the Vivian and Grant cases were heard last month. Owusu-Ansah has filed a notice of appeal.

  • Apple made huge headlines last week when it announced that it would oppose a court order to build a backdoor to circumvent the iPhone’s security features. Apple cites that this would set a dangerous precedent for the government to breach users’ privacy.

    Yesterday, in his first interview since the announcement, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that writing software to enable the FBI to unlock an iPhone is the “software equivalent of cancer.”

    Apple has until Friday to file their legal response to the judge’s order.

  • Have you ever wondered if it would make more sense to write “strictly speaking” over its Latin counterpart ‘sensu stricto’? Over on SlawTips, Neil Guthrie writes on the accessibility of legal language in his Lose the Latin piece:

    “If you’re acting for the Vatican or writing for an audience of learned monks, Latin is fine. Otherwise, use it only when it’s absolutely unavoidable or so widely understood that it doesn’t look like a dead, foreign language.”

    As Neil Guthrie points out, borrowing esoteric and arcane language makes it much more difficult for the layperson to navigate the legal system “since our clients don’t generally converse in Latin.” He adds, “Better to stick to the language you and your readers know than to try looking all edjumicated.”

  • Speaking of access to justice, Ilene Seidman, commenting on the justice gap, notes that cross-training law students in legal tech, process management, and business presents one way for legal educators to address the problem of access to justice and lack of work for young attorneys:

    “It may sound faddish to spout the names of legal process technologies (e-discovery, automated documents, decision trees, for example), but the fact is that technological efficiencies are continuing to shake the legal marketplace. It makes sense for law schools to train students to be the drivers of change rather than passive recipients.”

  • In big data news, BlueDot, a social enterprise corporation, is using big data to predict the spread of the Zika virus. Using predictive modelling, Dr. Kamran Khan and his team at BlueDot try to determine where, when, and how an infectious disease will spread — as Dr. Khan says, “Skating to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”

    In late January, the World Health Organization estimated that up to 4 million people could be infected with the Zika virus this year. By this point Dr. Khan and his team had already started gathering information on global flight itineraries, temperature maps, population densities and other data points relevant to the Zika-transmitting mosquitos. After mapping this data and publishing their findings, their risk map showed that Florida citizens were at risk for contracting the virus due to the huge volume of Brazilian travellers and the right climate for Zika-spreading mosquitos.

    What’s next for the Zika virus is unknown, and there are a lot of questions and uncertainty. However, Dr. Khan notes that BlueDot must, “‘work to answer those questions in a timely way so they can make better decisions in the face of imperfect information and uncertainty.’”