Visiting Osgoode professor plans to emphasize pro bono legal work

From chair of Legal Aid Ontario to visiting professor of public interest law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School seems like a natural progression for Janet Leiper, wrote The Lawyer’s Weekly July 6. Even as a law student back in the early ’80s, she was drawn to the plight of the poor and underprivileged. Leiper told The Lawyers Weekly she thinks Osgoode is playing a significant leadership role by introducing pro bono to all its law students at this early stage in their legal training. “I’m looking forward to being part of the groundbreaking work in the area of public interest law and education,” she said.

She said the study of public interest law will help students understand their role as lawyers in a democratic system and to envision the possibilities waiting for them when they leave law school. “I have been a supporter of pro bono law and have had a relationship with Pro Bono Law Ontario,” said Leiper. “There are also pro bono initiatives within government, and it’s a growing area of interest in the profession. There is a tremendous need for pro bono legal work out there.”

Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan told The Lawyers Weekly, “We are absolutely delighted Janet will be joining the faculty, particularly because what she will be doing is heading up a public interest initiative we have started this year as part of our strategic plan. All Osgoode students starting this fall will be required to do some pro bono work.

“It’s obviously a very important initiative. Pro bono is not being emphasized enough in our firms,” said Monahan. “Our lawyers in Canada don’t seem to have the same commitment to pro bono that they have in the US. One American lawyer said it was common there for most lawyers to spend 10 to 20 per cent of their time at pro bono. I was amazed at that. We developed our program because we have to get law students involved before they start in practice. It’s tremendously satisfying, but if you don’t get them when they’re young, they don’t get the opportunity to experience that.”

Mother Nature pours on the summer sizzle

When a person exercises, he or she generates more heat, wrote the Toronto Star July 10. On a hot day, the heart has to pump hard to get rid of this extra warmth. But with blood flowing to the skin to help cool the body, there’s not as much to feed the working muscles, limiting how much the person can exercise. Physical training, however, increases blood volume, which means an athlete has more blood to be shunted both to the skin and the muscles.

"Physical fitness is one of the most important adaptations to tolerating the heat," says physiologist Enzo Cafarelli, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences in the Faculty of Health.

Three years after legal confusion over marijuana possession, arrests almost double

Toronto police arrested nearly 2,500 people on marijuana-possession charges in 2006, a 35-per cent increase from the previous year and almost double the number of arrests three years ago, wrote the Toronto Star July 10. Alan Young, a criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who has led efforts to reform Canada’s marijuana laws, says a jump in arrests for marijuana possession is "not surprising."

"I noticed after the confusion of 2003 and 2004 [when proposed decriminalization legislation was dropped], there seemed to be a concerted effort by police to reassert their authority," said Young. "I guess the numbers are showing up now." Young said the increase in arrests could also be tied to a rise in marijuana use.

Killers don’t have to pull the trigger

Murder charges don’t always begin and end with those who pull the trigger, wrote the Hamilton Spectator July 10. It’s a circumstance highlighted in the case of two Alberta men charged during the weekend with first-degree murder in the deaths of four Mounties even though police say neither one was on the farm near Mayerthorpe at the time of the shootings in 2005. The RCMP said the two men are accused of aiding and abetting gunman James Roszko, but won’t say how.

One expert believes the police have their work cut out for them to prove the accused actually assisted or encouraged Roszko in killing the Mounties. But Alan Young, a professor of criminal law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said there aren’t a lot of variations on what the accused could have done.

"It really boils down to abetting, which is a form of encouragement where, for example, the two people say, ‘This is a good plan. This is a good idea. You should do it.’ Or going the next step and aiding, which is providing some sort of assistance whether it be driving someone to the scene of the crime, providing them the gun or any other form of assistance that makes it easier to commit the crime," he said. He added that if the accused lured the police to the farm, that would make the charges stick.

On air

  • Native dancer and actor Michael Greyeyes, a professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, was profiled on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning” July 9.