Thursday, 17 July 2014

Murder on Bay Street!

Although the title of this post would probably make a great Hollywood Blockbuster, (notwithstanding that a car-chase scene through Toronto’s notorious traffic would be kind of lame), the title in fact alludes to the convergence of criminal law and civil law in several files being worked on at McCague Borlack.

I thought my criminal law days were behind me. How wrong I was.

Coming to MB as I did, with two summer experiences working for a criminal defence lawyer, I thought my criminal law days were behind me. How wrong I was. It is true of course that the wheelhouse of MB is civil litigation and that strictly criminal law cases are not the norm at the firm. However, just because a file is not directly a criminal matter does mean that the Criminal Code or other such pieces of legislation are of no use at the firm. Quite to the contrary.

In my 3rd week at the firm, just as I was getting accustomed to the pulse of the place and finally had mapped my route to the soda machine, I was informed by one of my supervising lawyers that I was to attend at a preliminary hearing (“prelim” in lawyer speak) in a high profile murder, for 3 consecutive days. For those who are not aware a prelim is a stage in criminal proceedings where material is presented to a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to set a matter down for trial in Ontario Superior Court. As it turns out our client is involved in a civil suit in relation to this murder and therefore we needed to learn as much as possible from the criminal proceedings in order to mount a strong defence for our client in the civil suit.

The experience of watching senior criminal defense counsel and Crown Attorney’s examine and cross-examine witnesses in such a high profile case was truly an invaluable experience. I particularly enjoyed watching the different styles exhibited by the various counsel when questioning a recalcitrant witness or when catering to the judge’s wishes. I also should not forget to mention the relatively late starting time of 10:00 AM, allowing me time to catch up on much needed sleep!

image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos by Simon Howden
Beyond murder cases, which I (thankfully) admit are a rarity, criminal matters crop up in several other instances. As an example, I am working on a multi-million dollar civil claim that was the result of a serious motor vehicle accident. The police, who were called on scene, eventually compiled an extensive report and laid several criminal charges. Part of mounting a good defence for the client in cases like this one, includes reviewing these reports and following up on the criminal charges. However, these materials are typically not available to the public in full unless a court orders them to be. Therefore, I am currently in the process of drafting motion materials for what is known as a Wagg Application, which will hopefully grant us access to the information we need in order to mount the best defence possible for our client.

These experiences and others have taught me that the work this firm does is multifaceted and that working in a civil litigation firm does not mean that all other areas of life and law are off limits. On the contrary, working at a litigation boutique allows one exposure to most every aspect of life and law, and I am confident will provide me with a stimulating and interesting career.
Aryeh S.

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