Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Legal Information Online Update

* Family Class Sponsorship: Defaulting on an Undertaking brochures available for download in English, Chinese, Punjabi, Vietnamese, Spanish and Persian. BC Ministry of Community Services, March 2007

* New Resource: Vancouver's Battered Women’s Support Services Legal Advocacy Resource Room for women preparing to represent themselves in court on family law matters.

* New fact sheets published by the Scow Institute of Aboriginal legal information:

- Aboriginal Courts in Canada (PDF 5pp) April 2008

- Aboriginal Peoples and Intellectual Property Rights (PDF 7pp) January 2008

- Comparative Governance Structures Among Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (PDF 6pp) January 2008

- Elderlaw: Relationships and Relevance to the Needs of Aboriginal Elders (PDF 4pp) January 2008

- Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve in Canada (PDF 5pp) March 2008

- Review of Changes to the Law Related to Forestry and Aboriginal Rights and Title Updates in the law 2005 - April 2008 (PDF 11pp) 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

More on Self-Represented Litigants

Community Legal Information Association of Prince Edward Island released a study in June 2008 titled A Study of Self Represented Litigants in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island (pdf, 87 pages).

Although the sample size of self represented litigants [people going to court on their own] was small, their comments indicate the kinds of information that would help them. The following answers were in response to the question "What, if any, additional information would you have found useful to help you represent yourself?" [p.51]

* Access to cases of a similar nature.
* The main thing I needed help with was how a trial/hearing goes. The etiquette and format. For instance, I wanted to call a witness to support that my son had stayed with me for longer than stated by my ex. I didn’t know that she should not be in the court to hear other evidence.
* I would have liked help with the order of events in court. (e.g. opening and closing statements, cross examination etc.).
* A glossary of legal jargon utilized by the judge.
* Potential outcomes in the case.
* How to proceed when a party misrepresents the truth under oath.
* Outline of court procedure.
* I needed to know more about the consequences of not going to court. Now I feel that I should have gone even though everyone advised me not to go.
* More on actual procedures and how to word applications, motions and variations.

There are resources in BC than can help with these questions, such as the LawMatters list of recommended titles for public libraries, the Electronic Law Library , the Courthouse Library , the BC Supreme Court Self-Help Information Centre , Lawyer Referral Service and Supreme Court Duty Counsel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Legal Information Online Update

* "Voices from the Field" Needs Mapping - Self-help Services in Rural and Remote Communities Final Report (pdf, 110 pages) Gayla Reid and John Malcolmson. Released by the Law Courts Education Society on July 2, this report summarizes the ideas of many community members, including public librarians. The report also makes recommendations for self-help services that will assist rural and remote users to resolve their civil and family justice issues.

* Video Tutorials provided by the BC Courthouse Library Society. Six short videos assist viewers with Researching Legislation and Finding Precedents.

* Pivot Legal Tenant's Rights Card for Vancouver's Downtown Eastside residents.

* Legal Services Society's LawLine Frequently Asked Questions ; also see useful information about LawLine .

* Courts of BC: Your Guide to the BC Court System provides a Teacher's Guide, Student Handouts and a Glossary .

* Small Claims Court of BC has a new website with a short video, links to forms and glossary.

* A Layman's Guide to ICBC Part 7 Benefits. Provided by the firm of Murphy Battista, this guide outlines the process to apply for car accident benefits and the type and amount of benefits available to an injured person and/or to the family of an accident victim.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Law

Libraries may be experiencing more and more patrons requesting legal information to help them prepare for their court case. The June 2008 issue of the Canadian Bar Association's National magazine features an article titled "A Nightmare in Family Court" which discusses the issue of people who choose to represent themselves in family court matters. A section titled "Do-it-yourself law" states:

“There is a not insignificant group that simply doesn’t want to have a lawyer represent them and choose to make their own case,” says Robyn Elliott, a partner with MacDonald Elliott Legal Services in Halifax and chair of the CBA’s National Family Law Section. “These people feel very comfortable getting legal information from the Internet, including websites such as that run by the Department of Justice.” Elliott says that “individuals today generally feel more empowered and have more ability to do research. A surprising number of people arriving at my office already have researched and printed out the tables for child support.”

The article points out that approximately 60% of access and custody cases at the Ontario Court of Justice are started by people without a lawyer. However, this does not mention whether these people were able to use some brief legal advice from a service such as family duty counsel, pro bono free clinics or, in some provinces, a legal advice phone service such as BC's LawLine.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sample Family Law Titles

A public librarian recently asked about the contents of some of the family law titles on the recommended titles list for medium size libraries in Law Books for Libraries. The following annotations may prove useful, and sample questions are given to illustrate how you could use each title to find some helpful information:

Annotated Family Practice 2007-2008 published by Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
For patrons who cannot find their family law question in any of the Self Counsel Press titles, the Annotated Family Practice contains easy to understand annotations of the relevant family law statutes, rules and regulations, and can be useful to find family law cases.

Sample question: I’m asking for an interim custody order, and I’ve heard that the court often considers something called ‘status quo’. Where could I look up what that means?

British Columbia Family Practice Manual published by CLE
For more in depth procedural information, you can direct a patron to this title, which helps the lay litigant understand the processes involved in building and conducting a family law case and finding applicable cases. It contains forms, precedents, and checklists, and covers divorce, custody, access, guardianship, support, child protection and adoption.

Sample question: I think my ex-husband’s income has increased substantially since our child support order was put in place several years ago. What are some ways his income and assets could be traced?

Desk Order Divorce published by CLE
This title is an excellent step-by-step ‘hand-holding’ guide for patrons who are seeking an uncontested divorce, where the other party is in agreement. It is written for legal support staff, and includes annotated forms, precedents and relevant legislation.

Sample question: Is there something that could show me how to say on my divorce application that our marriage has ended because of admitted adultery?

Cohabitation: The Law In Canada published by Thomson Carswell
This guide for the legal aspects of living common-law is written for practicing lawyers in family law but is easy to read. It covers property rights, support, death, cohabitation agreements, children, pensions, tax, and same-sex cohabitation.

Sample question: I’m researching the history of same sex law in Canada, and looking for a BC case involving the disputed settling of an estate after one of the same sex common law partners died. Where could I find that case?