Link Round-Up: March 10, 2017
'Link Round-Up’ gives you a glimpse into the articles that got the most airtime around the Loom Analytics water cooler this week. Published every Friday, article topics include access to justice, big data, legal technology, and what’s happening in the Canadian legal landscape.
- The CBC reports that the Canadian federal government is working to clean up the Criminal Code, stripping laws that have been overturned, deemed unconstitutional, or simply have become outdated since the last (and only) major overhaul way back in the 1950s. Despite no longer being enforceable, these "zombie" provisions, including one outlawing abortion, remain on the books. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould made an official announcement on the matter on March 8th, speaking from Parliament Hill.
- “Manitoba Justice Vic Toews has overturned a precedent-setting decision that dismissed a traffic ticket because it took too long for the case to get to trial.” Using R. v Jordan as evidence that 18 months is not an unreasonable time to wait for a court date, Justice Toews overturned the original decision by Justice Mary Kate Harvie. The date of the alleged infraction was 18 months to the day of the court date. However, the day the ticket was issued was 18 months less eight days before the court date.
- For all you prospective law students out there, Harvard Law School has announced that beginning this fall, it will accept the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in lieu of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). A study conducted by Harvard earlier in the year found that GRE scores are equally valid as a predictor of first-year grades. As of now, Harvard is only the second law school in America to accept the GRE, the first being the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law.
- Facebook Messenger-based chatbot DoNotPay, which functioned as a 'robot lawyer' for people needing free help to overturn parking fines, is now being used to help refugees with their immigration applications in Canada and the US, as well as asylum support applications in the United Kingdom. By asking users questions in plain language, the bot works to figure out whether a refugee is eligible for asylum protection and helps them fill out the appropriate paperwork. The creator, Stanford student Joshua Browder, has consulted with lawyers in each country it is available, as well as successful asylum seekers. The response from some, like immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn, has been positive:
'As an immigration attorney, I can see the major benefits that leveraging sophisticated chatbot technology will have in the asylum application process. It will be easier for applicants to submit their applications and it will empower legal aid organisations to assist a larger numbers of clients. Asylum seekers want to follow the laws and do everything properly, and this technology will help them do so."
However, Reid F. Trautz, director of the Practice & Professionalism Center at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has raised some concerns:
“Those seeking asylum may not get the correct advice they need upfront, he added. And if there is conflict between what an asylum seeker says using the bot and what he/she says later on, there could be some concerns raised by the government.
‘It’s not about filling out the form,’ Trautz advised. ‘It’s about putting the right information into that form.’”