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Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Ah, those darling damsels in distress.

Go-to-Jail

I can’t get enough of them. Then there are days when I wish they’d think first. Just for once! 🙂

When I do work as a public defender, many of the people I represent are girls between the ages of 12 and 17.

juvenile-court

Some are kids who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Others are kids who make rotten choices when it comes to friends.

NRP-car

Some girls are devastated having spent a night in jail.

Some think it’s cool that they’ve spent some time in a juvenile detention centre.

juvie-bars

And for a few sad cases, they don’t mind being in custody because the group home they’re housed in is a heck of a lot better than life at home. These girls are in no hurry to leave.

On the odd occasion, a brush with the law does the job and the kids straighten themselves up. Too few. Too far between.

For all of their nonsense, I really do enjoy helping these young people. I just wish they’d smarten up.

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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I don’t know exactly what it is but there is something about 2013 in that I am hearing more and more horror stories involving ex-spouses.

pod-girl

A very dear friend of mine calls ex-husbands ‘wusbands!’ I love that expression!

psycho-bitch-1(Friend: “My ex is crazy. No really. I’m serious. She’s actually crazy!”)

Whether it’s husbands complaining about ex-wives or vice versa, there sure seems to me a lot more of it than usual.
reverse

Whether the people are just splitting up, in the middle of the divorce process or even if the divorce is finalized and they are still dealing with the ex for custody and access reasons, the complaints are oddly similar.  “They’re unreasonable.  They’re crazy. They’re evil!”

genitals-wallet(Thanks to Robin Williams for that joke!)

I don’t know why I’m hearing more of the “my ex is Evil Incarnate” shtick lately but such complaints are definitely on the rise!

I hope this is just an abnormal blip and not the Way of the Future.

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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Those who are familiar with my professional life know that I defend the downtrodden and, in particular, rescue Damsels in Distress.

By Damsels in Distress, I mean young ladies primarily but not exclusively between the ages of 12 and 29 who have gotten involved with the wrong end of the criminal justice system.

They need assistance. They need legal advice. They need someone to come to their aid when they are being tormented by The Forces of Evil (i.e. police, prosecutors, probation officers, etc.)

courthouse-1(Our local courthouse – Damsel in Distress central!)

And sometimes, they need lunch, bless their little cotton socks.

On more than a few occasions, I have had the opportunity to have them join me when I visit the local cafe (i.e. ‘my office’).

For the first time, two have agreed to grace the pages of my blog.

Two of my favourite Damsels in Distress are BD and JT.

DiD 002a(At my ‘office’: BD – pouting somewhat, and JT – somewhat content)

I have to say right off the bat that neither of these charming young ladies has a criminal record. They were neither convicted nor found guilty of committing any kind of offence whatsoever. They did get into a wee bit of trouble but the matter against them was withdrawn.

Neither are they what I would call ‘regulars’ or ‘frequent flyers’ in our court system.

They are, in short, a couple of sweetie-pies.

DiD 001b(BD perks up after learning she’ll not be at one of Her Majesty’s guest houses)

BD and JT are the kinds of girls who sometimes find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Luckily for them, when something in their lives goes horribly wrong, they can (and do) contact me to help them out.

And it’s absolutely my pleasure to do so!

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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As a public defender, there are people I represent… and people I don’t usually get to represent.

I don’t often get to advise the 1%, for example. The Upper Crust doesn’t go slumming down in my part of the courthouse, let’s say.

These are the people for whom I do not act.

Donald Trump

Honestly. It’s rare that a multi-millionaire comes to a public defender and asks for help.

It has happened to me, actually, but not often.

A millionaire caught bringing things into the country without declaring them gets charged under customs and excise legislation. He has a ton of money. He’s going to plead guilty anyway. He can afford the fine. And he doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a lawyer for getting the same result he would receive with a public defender.

bank-vault

That’s chutzpah. And that is the exception.

Mostly, these types exist high above my level of operation. They are aloof. They are indifferent, by and large, to what goes on beneath them.

Sadly, it is precisely this type of person who can make my life hell for me because when he gets into politics, he tends to enact short-sighted (and boneheaded) criminal legislation.

Monopoly-Man-Rich-Guy

These provisions aren’t intended to get criminals and keep them in jail. They are intended to get votes and keep politicians in office.

But other than that, I have no contact on a professional level with that element of society.

aa-kendo-kanji-red

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A few weeks ago, I signed up with a program called Partners in Torah.

It is run by that fabulous adult Jewish education organization, Aish HaTorah. [1]

The premise is quite simple. People who, for various reasons, cannot get together with a study partner to learn Torah, Jewish history, Hebrew, Talmud, Halacha (Jewish law), and so on, can get connected with an appropriate person and, together, they study on the phone for 30 to 60 minutes a week.

(I saw this at Aish HaTorah’s Village Shul in Toronto)

As per their website…

Partners in Torah’s signature phone study program offers Jewish adults of all backgrounds across North America a cost-free learning opportunity to discover Judaism – its culture, history, and traditions – at their pace and their schedule. Jewish men and women with an interest in acquiring specific skills or who simply want to build on their Jewish knowledge-base, are matched, one-to-one, with a carefully selected personal Torah trainer or “mentor” for up to an hour a week of over-the-phone study and discussion. Participants can choose any topic including Hebrew, Jewish philosophy, or history. In its decade and a half of operation, Partners in Torah has engaged more than 40,000 intellectually curious Jews across North America, and today supports some 4,000 weekly study partnerships (over 8,000 individuals!).

I emailed Partners in Torah and very shortly thereafter received a phone call from a charming young lady who asked me several questions confirming my status as a Jew, a bit of my background, what I was interested in studying and why, etc.

I told her that while I spend about half of my week in a Orthodox neighbourhood in Toronto, the other half of my week I practice as a criminal defence lawyer down in the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario. Not exactly The Heart of the Old World and certainly not a bastion of Torah Study. In fact, you can count all the Orthodox Jewish men in the entire region on one hand. So I was very keen on being able to learn with someone as opposed to studying on my own (not the ideal method, by any means).

I also indicated to the young lady that I wasn’t all that interested in Talmudic civil law. If a wall crumbles and collapses and a person gets injured, trust me, I could not care less who is liable to pay damages. I went to law school for three years. I hated tort law then and nothing since has improved my outlook on the topic. Bunch of ambulance chasers, if you ask me.

(A page from the Mishnah Berurah, this one dealing with the laws of Passover)

I told her that what I was interested in was the practical day-to-day application of Jewish law. When asked to be more specific, I suggested studying the Mishnah Berurah (the Chofetz Chaim‘s commentary on the Shulchan Aruch [2]), especially Hilchos Shabbos (Sabbath Laws).

Surprisingly, she said, “I know just the person for you!” She then set me up with one of their volunteers, a guy in New Jersey.

He and I emailed back and forth a few times, and spoke on the phone the next day regarding what I was interested in learning and what would be a mutually convenient time for us to learn.

We agreed to study together Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 pm.

The first study session went really well, I thought. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I am looking forward to the next study session!

As the poster above says, “There’s happy. And then there’s ‘I have my very own Partner in Torah’ happy!”

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[1] For those of you who follow this blog even semi-regularly, you will probably recognize the name Aish HaTorah as also being the international organization that runs, among other things, the Jerusalem Fellowships program which my daughter Exhibit One, attended in August 2011 and which my son, Exhibit Two, will attend this coming May 2012 in Jerusalem.

[2] Mishna Berurah (“Clarified Teachings”) is an important and widely used commentary, consisting of six volumes, on the Orach Chayim section of Yosef Karo‘s digested compilation of practical Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch. It combines his own elucidations and differing opinions with those of otherAharonim (post-medieval authorities.)

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Back home after spending five fun-filled days in Toronto.

Attended the semi-annual plenary session of the County & District Law Presidents Association (CDLPA). Interesting and informative. I also got to reconnect with colleagues from across the province. Especially fun were the representatives from my neck o’ the woods, specifically Hamilton, Haldimand, Norfolk and Welland counties.

In addition to the regular CDLPA work over three days, I did manage to get some free time, during which my dearly beloved friend SG and I strolled around the University of Toronto campus [1], taking advantage of the lovely late fall weather.

It was particularly enjoyable for me as I was able to share with her certain spots on campus that had special meaning for me over the years. Those locations were shown in their best light considering that even in the middle of November, the autumn leaves were still falling. Just perfect.

After the conference, I headed north and spent the weekend in The Heart of the Old World [2], spending Shabbes (the Jewish Sabbath) with friends. SG and I had Friday night dinner at our Rabbi’s house and Shabbes lunch the next day at the home our dear friends.

I got to spend Sunday afternoon and evening with my daughter, Exhibit One, who was not feeling well. SG and I sprang into action, cooking chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin) and generally pampering the poor sick darling. Dropped my daughter off at her apartment in Toronto and came back last night quickly and easily without any traffic jams or unnecessary delays.

All in all, a wonderful time professionally, romantically, emotionally and spiritually.

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[1] I’ve written about this particular part of the downtown campus of the University of Toronto in a previous blog article, Premature Waking: In My Solitude.

[2] I’ve also written about this particular part of Jewish Toronto in a previous blog article, The Heart of the Old World: My Toronto Jewish Neighbourhood.

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