BC Trials to Take Place in Digital Small Claims Court Now

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In an attempt to increase citizens’ access to justice and make small claims faster, cheaper and easier, the province has launched its online Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The new online tribunal is the first in Canada where these types of disputes (contracts, debts, personal injury, personal property and consumer issues for values under $5000) can be filed, negotiated, and resolved almost all online, with simple explainers of options and procedures.

B.C. has already been letting condo owners settle strata disputes online since last year.

The Ministry of Justice also raised the jurisdiction of B.C. small claims to $35,000, up from $25,000.

Elementary Schools Cancel High Jump Due to ‘Risk’ Factor

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Two school boards in Sault St. Marie are citing the Ontario Physical Education Safety Guidelines, which classifies high jump as a “higher risk activity,” as the reason they are cutting the sport out of elementary schools immediately.

Other sports so far included in the “higher risk activity” category: wrestling, alpine skiing, and snowboarding.

According to the school boards’ joint statement, “It was felt that the changed classification and the need to maintain student safety as a priority means this event is best suited for development at the secondary level where there is greater access to trained staff and proper equipment at sites.”

“We felt it best to maintain high jump at the secondary level and to have our younger students compete in events that are most appropriate for their stage of development and which can showcase their abilities with less risk involved,” added Lucia Reece, Algoma District School Board director.

Innocent Man Jailed for Rape Has Been Released, and His Lying Ex Is Now Jailed

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The man was jailed after his ex-spouse charged him with choking and trying to rape her.

The story she and her attorney told the judges in the original 2015 trial was that her ex broke into her apartment, threw her on her bed, choked her, threatened to kill her, and attempted to rape her multiple times, and they presented as evidence injuries to her neck. The man was charged and sent to prison.

19 days later, the woman came forward with the truth: that she made it up.

The 34-year-old Ontario woman was then charged with mischief for the lie (mischief in Canada has maximum punishment of 14 years). Her lawyer suggested a punishment of a conditional sentence, citing that she had changed since she made the claim, that she had recently completed anger management, and that she was making progress in drug recovery. They also presented a letter to the court written by her daughter asking that her mother not be sent to jail and an unsigned letter from her ex asking the same.

However, because the woman had a previous criminal record and had been in jail several times, the court said, it gave her jail time: 60 days.

The court justice said of the sentence, “When you go to a police officer and pretend to be a victim, the police officer begins investigating the case, but that takes that officer away from investigating real cases. … (Your story) was calculated. You inflicted injuries to your neck. You said they were caused by someone. You gave a sworn statement to police. You knew (the ex-spouse) was arrested and in custody …

“One day went by. Two days went by. A week went by. Nineteen days went by knowing an innocent man was in jail.”

Teens Now Have to Get Business Licences to Mow Lawns

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In a city in Alabama called Gardendale, youths who go out to mow lawns this year have been threatened by officials and landscaping companies that they have to get a business licence before starting, which brings in $110 for the city for each licence.

Adults who also cut lawns over the summer have made complaints about teens making money cutting a few lawns, and the mayor of the town, Stan Hogeland, said that people must have a business licence when operating within the city, and that he would like to have something added to the books that would be more appropriate for teens making summer cash, like “maybe a temporary licence … that targets teenagers.” He said that going after teens was not a priority, and that he wanted to find a way to deal with the situation favorably.

Swiss Court Fines Man for Liking Defamatory Comment

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The original post on Facebook was about whether animal rights groups should be allowed to take part in vegan street festivals, and it became discussed heatedly.

Several people were fined by the courts for making comments it deemed defamatory, and one man was fined for “liking” some comments which accused an animal rights activist of racism and antisemitism.

That activist was Erwin Kessler, who brought the lawsuit against the participants.

According to the court, “the defendant clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own,” when he hit the “like” button.

Chinese Still Executing Prisoners for Their Organs, Human Rights Lawyers Say

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China has been harvesting organs from prisoners, including prisoners of conscience (those jailed for nothing more than practicing a religion that is not state-sponsored), for years, and despite saying they have reformed the practice in 2015, China is still doing it, according to human rights workers David Matas and Ethan Gutmann.

According to the lawyer and investigator, China “obviously has got a lot of people sitting around waiting to be killed for a transplant, and they’re just picking the right person to be killed depending on who the patient is.”

Chinese businesses profit from transplant tourism — people coming from other countries to get quick organ transplants — as well as meeting local needs. There aren’t enough organs volunteered to meet demand, so China takes them from prisoners. Prison officials coordinate with doctors in China to make this happen.

According to authorities around the world who keep track of people going to China for transplants, the numbers have markedly reduced, indicating that China has made serious efforts, but it has not stopped.

China executes thousands of people per year — around 3 times the amount of the rest of the world combined, although stats are hard to get because China blocks publication of them (it’s currently a state crime), even though Amnesty International and other groups keep track of all executions in all countries.

Many of those executed come from populations China doesn’t like very much, like religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Assange’s Sex Charges Dropped

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Julian Assange has been holed up in a room in London for years after being given refuge by Equador in their London embassy building. In 2010, he was charged with sex crimes in Sweden — a couple of women he was involved with at the time made complaints not long after Wikileaks published video and other documents of American military activities in the Middle East — and Assange fled to England. British courts in 2012 ruled Assange should be given up to Sweden, and Assange violated his bail to flee to the embassy.

He has lived indoors since then, only making public appearances from a balcony or via the internet.

The case has been repeatedly reviewed by Swedish courts, and now they have found that in the interests of proportionality it is not worth continuing. Essentially, authorities made the decision because all legal options had been exhausted and because the prosecutor wasn’t working harder to pursue the matter.

The Swedish public prosecutor wrote in a statement, “In view of this, and that to continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal appearance in court, there is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.”

The validity of the charges have always been questioned. There have been claims the charges were politically motivated because the U.S. government was very upset with the recent leaks.

The women in question are ones who each met Assange at conferences he was a speaker at and had consensual sex. Later on, the two women discussed Assange, and afterwards laid charges for forms of non-consensual sex (alleged to have happened in addition to the consensual sex). One of the charges was molestation, one was for unlawful coercion, and one was rape, according to Swedish law (the alleged acts had to do with not wearing condoms although the woman said he must and sex while the partner was sleeping). Originally, Swedish prosecutors didn’t think there was evidence of rape and that the molestation charge would still go forward but it wasn’t serious enough for a warrant. The lawyer for the 2 women made an appeal to a special department and after police interviewed Assange, the director of prosecution reopened the case for rape.

Over time, the molestation and unlawful coersion charge was dropped because Swedish authorities ran out of time to question Assange, and the UN found Assange was being arbitrarily detained and should be compensated for “deprivation of liberty.” The rape charge was the only one remaining until now, although Assange may still be found in contempt of court for violating his bail and fleeing.

British authorities have said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy. The expectation is that he would then be extradited to the U.S.

Tough Legal Question: The President’s Statements VS Acts

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A debate is taking place in legal circles, matching the contentious findings of the various judges that have been dealing with figuring out how Trump’s executive orders are related to his earlier statements.

During the campaign trail, Trump said he would institute a Muslim ban. Most legal experts would consider such a ban to be a violation of the Constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion. Now that Trump is trying to enact a travel ban from several countries where Muslims are the majority, the claim that travel from the countries poses a risk to the U.S. is not enough.

His first attempt at the travel ban was struck down in court because of his earlier statements. Those arguing against the ban said that because Trump had earlier said he wanted a Muslim ban, no matter what he says now about a travel ban, the ban is actually a ban against Muslims, even if it has no language in it mentioning religious affiliation. Trump’s second attempt at travel restrictions is facing similar challenges.

Another aspect of the debate is the question of what would be enough to satisfy those arguing against Trump that he no longer wanted a Muslim ban, and just wanted to increase security. In the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this week, Judge Robert King asked, “What if the President repudiated his statements in the campaign and post-election about the Muslim ban? What if he repudiated them all?”

The lawyer for the International Refugee Assistance Project, Omar Jadwat, responded that it would be “a significant fact” but that it “would not change the result.”

Judge Dennis Shedd then followed up, “What if he says he’s sorry every day for a year? Would that do it for you?”

Jadwat responded, “… Here’s the issue, your honor. What the establishment clause prohibits is targeting and denigrating religion. At a minimum, that’s what it prohibits. And the question is, would reasonable people see what he was doing in total as achieving that effect?”

“You say reasonable people would say he doesn’t really mean it when he says he’s sorry?”

“Your honor, I think it’s possible that saying sorry is not enough.”

Other hypotheticals were posed by the court, such as whether another candidate had won the election and they tried to instute the travel ban, or if Trump had said he hated Muslims earlier in life (in college), or if there was a clear threat from a religious group. The questions circle the main issue: Are executive orders to be judged based just on national security, or does the religious liberty clause jurisprudence come into play as well?

Leaked Doc Reveals UK Plans for Wider Internet Surveillance

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No more end-to-end encryption is one of the consequences of a new law proposed in a draft in the UK.

The authors of the draft want to force internet providers to monitor all communications in near realtime, as well as install backdoor equipment to break encryption, so providers can be required to turn over communications to authorities “in an intelligible form” (non-encrypted) within one working day.

In the UK, law already requires internet providers to store all browsing data for 1 year.

It isn’t yet known how the requirement for a backdoor will work, since many messaging and other apps use end-to-end encryption for security, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Wire, and iMessage, and these apps are based outside of the UK.

Guatemalan Indigenous Land Rights Activist Wins the Goldman Environmental Prize

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For standing up to the government and nickel miners expanding into the land of his 270-member farming and fishing village, Rodrigo Tot, 60, won the largest award going for grassroots environmental activists.

“An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community,” summarized Goldman Prize.

2017 winners: mark! Lopez (sic) of the U.S.; Uroš Macerl, Slovenia; Prafulla Samantara, India; Wendy Bowman, Australia; Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Tot.

Lawyer Found Guilty of Contempt for Livestreaming Trial on Facebook

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Attorney Nicholas Somberg was found guilty of contempt of court by Roseville District Judge Marco Santia for livestreaming a trial in which a Michagan man tried to fight a fine received for warming his car up in his driveway one cold morning.

In the trial over the ticket, the city’s attorney argued that the law was put in place due to a public safety issue. Two cars similarly left open and running in driveways were stolen and one led to high speed chase. The other had 2 kids in it when it was stolen.

During that trial, two TV news cameras were livestreaming.

Somberg acknowkedged that his associate sitting behind him was livestreaming, but had only done so after asking the local media if it was permissible.

The judge said Somberg did not fill out a permission slip for the filming.

Arkansas Executions

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For 12 years, the death chamber has been empty in the state, but this week a single execution and then a double execution were held there.

Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, both on death row for over 20 years for murder and rape, were killed most recently.

There is a rush in Arkansas because one of their injection drugs, Midazolam, passes its expiry in May, and the drug makers are trying to block the state from getting more due to concerns about how the drugs are obtained and used.