Law Times

July 22, 2013

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Page 16 July 22, 2013 Law Times • u The u Bizarre Briefs InsIde story By Viola James CHARGES PENDING OVER STOLEN SKULL MUSEUM VIENNA — Some people collect model trains; others allegedly collect skulls. According to Reuters, charges are pending against an Austrian for disturbing the peace of the dead after police found 56 skulls and 55 other bones at a museum he had created in his home. Police in the province of Burgenland said the relics were taken without authorization from a church cemetery and had now been returned. The 47-year-old man, whose name wasn't immediately released pending any charges, came to the attention of the police when he tried to sell three skulls and two thigh bones at a flea market, police said. A police spokesman said he had never encountered such a case in his 37 years on the force and knew neither why the man had collected the bones nor why he had tried to sell some of them. "But there's nothing new under the sun," he said. FIRING ATTRACTIVE WORKER NOT DISCRIMINATION: COURT DES MOINES, Iowa — So it seems asking an employee about her orgasms isn't discrimination, according to an Iowa court. In its second decision in the matter, the Iowa Supreme Court found an Iowa dentist didn't discriminate against a female assistant he fired for being "too attractive." In December, the all-male court ruled Dr. James Knight didn't discriminate in firing dental hygienist Melissa Nelson after more than 10 years of service because he found her too attractive and his wife saw her as a threat. According to Reuters, Nelson had argued she wouldn't have lost her job if she were a man and her attorney, Paige Fiedler, argued in seeking a second hearing that their decision was a setback for gender equality in the workplace. More recently, the justices decided to reconsider the case. "We ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act," Justice Edward Mansfield wrote. Knight had hired Nelson in 1999 and on several occasions in the 18 months before he fired her in early 2010, he complained that her clothing was too tight, revealing, and distracting, the decision said. She denied wearing anything inappropriate. Nelson and Knight began texting each other in 2009, the opinion said. Most messages related to work or were otherwise innocuous but some were more suggestive, including one in which Knight asked Nelson how often she had an orgasm, the opinion said. Nelson didn't answer that text. "The fact of the matter is Nelson was terminated because of the activities of her consensual personal relationship with her employer, not because of her gender," Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in a separate special concurrence. In late 2009, Knight's wife, Jeanne Knight, learned that her husband had been texting with Nelson while he was on an out-of-state vacation with their children and she insisted he fire her, saying "she was a big threat to our marriage," the opinion said. Knight read Nelson a statement when he fired her that said in part that their relationship had become a detriment to both of their families. Fiedler said she was "beyond distressed at the lack of awareness and understanding this decision demonstrates. "Women already have to balance on the very fine line of being respected, professional, and well-liked in the workplace without having their perceived charm or attractiveness garner unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and discrimination," said Fiedler in a statement. Todd Pettys, associate dean for faculty at the University of Iowa College of Law, said it was unclear why the court decided to rehear the case given that the justices didn't change their positions from December to July. LT "I don't care if you are a celebrity bencher at the law society. This court is not going to pay you a $20,000 appearance fee." NEW PARTNER AT DICKINSON WRIGHT University of Toronto adjunct law professor Vivian Bercovici has joined Dickinson Wright LLP's Toronto office as a partner, the law firm announced last week. Bercovici, who practises in areas including corporate governance, risk management, and insurance, is also a Vivian Bercovici chief negotiator on various claims made by First Nations. "She is familiar with managing the challenges encountered by regulated industries through her previous role as vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary at one of Canada's largest property and casualty insurers," the firm said in a press release. Among her pursuits, Bercovici also sits on the board of directors of CBC/Radio-Canada. BILINGUAL COURT SIGNAGE INTRODUCED The Ontario government says it's making the courts easier to navigate by installing bilingual and more accessible signage in some areas. Consistent and clear signs have gone up in courthouses in Ottawa, Toronto, Barrie, and Kenora, Ont., according to the Ministry of the Attorney General. The new bilingual signs also feature braille and tactile text. "We are committed to improving access to justice for all Ontarians. Clear, easy-to-understand signs in courthouses ensure that when people enter a courthouse, there is no confusion about where they need to go or how to get there," said Attorney General John Gerretsen. The changes are part of the government's response to recommendations made by the Civil Justice Reform Project. LAO REFUGEE PILOT PROJECT LAUNCHED Starting this week, two Toronto legal clinics will offer refugee services as a part of a pilot agreement with Legal Aid Ontario. The project will see the Centre Francophone de Toronto and Rexdale Community Legal Clinic offer services to refugees who don't have lawyers. "This innovative communitybased initiative is an important milestone in LAO's efforts to diversify its refugee services model, support community-based client legal services, and deliver cost-effective, efficient, quality legal representation," LAO said last week. For one year, both clinics will prepare basis-of-claim forms for refugees and file them with the refugee protection division. They'll also represent claimants at hearings. MACKAY APPOINTMENT LAUDED Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a "smart cabinet shuffle" in moving people like Peter MacKay into senior ministries like the Department of Justice, according to a Toronto lawyer. "I think it's a move in the right direction," said Jeremy Richler, a Toronto corporate, immigration, real estate, and estate planning lawyer who regularly writes on political issues and identifies with the Liberal party. "Having been a Crown prosecutor, I think he's in a good position to do it," said Richler of MacKay. He noted MacKay should help put a more moderate face on the justice file as a key figure from the Progressive Conservative wing of the governing party. "His law-and-order agenda is very important to him, but I think it's been very poorly communicated," said Richler in reference to Harper. Shortly after the announcement last Monday, MacKay tweeted: "As a former Crown prosecutor and defence counsel, I am honoured to have been given the justice portfolio. I look forward to the job ahead." Other key changes of interest to the legal profession include MacKay's switch with former justice minister Rob Nicholson in the defence portfolio; former ambassador Chris Alexander's appointment to the immigration file as Jason Kenney becomes minister of employment and social development; and Quebec MP Steven Blaney's move to Public Safety Canada. LT The title insurer that puts you front row, centre Putting the legal community front and centre has made us the #1 choice with Canadian lawyers for over a decade. Stewart Title does not support programs that reduce or eliminate the lawyer's role in real estate transactions. For more information call (888) 667-5151 or visit Untitled-2 1 7/19/11 12:31:45 PM

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