Link Round-Up: Mar. 3, 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.

  • Over on Lawyerist, Lauren Foster writes that as emoji usage continues to soar, judges must decide how they want to handle this new visual evidence as it makes its way into American courtrooms.
    Emojis, the playful emoticons introduced in the iPhone keyboard in 2011, are sparking a discussion on the meaning behind symbols:“The law used to be a discussion of the meaning of words, but today, words are being replaced at every turn by visuals. With the availability of data and analytics, measuring the usage of the succinctly shareable and expressive emoji is a boon to the lawyer’s interpretive arsenal” says Foster. She also notes that Instagram recently allowed users to hashtag emojis, making the symbol searchable on the platform. From a courtroom perspective, the ability to “turn emoji interpretation from an art into a science” could prove invaluable. Emojis carry commonly accepted cultural meanings, making it harder for future defendants to argue otherwise:

    “For example, imagine that a defendant’s text message of the eggplant emoji arises in a case of domestic abuse. The defendant wants to argue that he was referring to a vegetarian dish he planned to make for dinner later. The plaintiff disagrees, asserting that she received the eggplant in a sexually threatening manner.

    As always, both sides can introduce evidence of past conduct, prior text exchanges, etc., to bolster their interpretation of the meaning. But the Instagram data has the potential to dramatically shift the calculus away from the parties’ dueling subjective meanings to a societally objective one: The eggplant emoji is so frequently associated with photos of male genitalia that Instagram blocks users from hashtagging it. This evidence would make the defendant’s interpretation seem less likely.”

    Welcome to the future (of evidentiary emojis)!

  • The late Chief Justice Constance Glube, the first female chief justice of a Canadian court, is being remembered as a feminist hero in the legal profession:

    “Hailed by colleagues as a trailblazer in a male-dominated profession, the retired chief justice of Nova Scotia, who died Feb. 15 in Halifax at 84, leaves a double legacy. She was a respected jurist who left her mark on the Canadian justice system, and a woman who inspired subsequent generations of women to seek positions of power. ‘Bertha Wilson, the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, once said that being the first woman to do anything meant that no other woman had to be the first,’ said Pierrette Sévigny, retired judge of the Quebec Superior Court. ‘Constance Glube’s appointment opened many possibilities for female judges; if a woman could be the chief justice, any appointment thereafter would not be such an event.’”

  • In a decision that got the attention of the ABA Journal, Alberta Justice S. L. Martin ruled that a patient met the criteria for a constitutional exemption to the law prohibiting physician-assisted death. The Calgary Herald reports that the patient, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, was a retired psychologist who was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. With the help of two physicians, she ended her life in Vancouver on Monday.In the decision, the patient is quoted as having said, “I do not wish to have continued suffering and to die of this illness by choking. I feel that my time has come to go in peace.” The Supreme Court struck down the Criminal Code ban on physician-assisted death last year, and gave the federal government a year to draft new legislative framework. In the meantime, the Supreme Court said Canadians who are intolerably suffering are entitled to a constitutional exemption from the ban and could ask a provincial or territorial judge for physician-assisted death.
  • In a case involving the media and the RCMP, Vice Media argues that forcing a news outlet to hand over materials to the police that it used for stories could “set a dangerous precedent for media freedoms.” The case involves a court-order for Vice journalist Ben Makuch to turn over all materials he used to produce a news story about suspected terrorist Farah Mohamed Shirdon. Iain MacKinnon, lawyer for Vice Media takes exception to this: “The effect on journalists could be crippling. It could prevent them from doing their jobs.” However, the Crown countered that, “media freedoms, while important, are not absolute, and have to be weighed against the public interest in seeing serious crimes investigated and prosecuted.” The Crown also argued that Shirdon voluntarily spoke to Vice knowing that his comments would be published: “‘There is no expectation of confidentiality.’” The case is currently being heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto.