Day: October 1, 2014

Osgoode Digital Commons

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From the CALL Listserv, by Louis Mirando, Chief Law Librarian, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University:

The Osgoode Hall Law School Library is pleased to announce the official launch of the Osgoode Digital Commons, the Osgoode Hall Law School’s official, open-access institutional repository. The launch was part of the Osgoode Research Celebration held today as the first official event of the Osgoode @125 celebrations to mark the School’s 125th anniversary.

With the launch of its Digital Commons, Osgoode has become the first law school in Canada to provide free online access to its legal scholarship. The Osgoode Digital Commons is part of the Library’s and the law school’s commitment to better preserve, organize and disseminate legal research and legal information — including full-text (PDF) copies of scholarly articles published by Osgoode faculty, journals published by the School, graduate theses, digitization projects undertaken by the Library, a gallery of books published by Osgoode faculty, and an archive of videos produced by the School. And this is just the start of an ongoing project to build a comprehensive archive of Osgoode research, all full-text and open-access.


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By Jenneth Hogan

DRACONIAN  [L. draco / a snake or dragon (from the Greek Draco, referring to an Athenian who imposed a severe code of laws upon the populace)]
A cruel or severe law, ruling or decision. Any edict, order, judgment or law which is unreasonably or excessively harsh or severe.

latin1oct14This term dates back to a time in ancient Greece when laws were unwritten. Blood feuds and oral laws were passed and enforced by the social pyramid’s elite of nobles and rich men, the lower class were not made aware of the laws until they were broken, and punishment was often carried out by way of vendetta.  Around 621 BC the system made a change when the aristocratic rulers decided that maybe, just maybe, they should write their laws down in a plainly stated form so that even a poor man could avoid breaking them. Guess who was commissioned to write Athens’s code of law? That’s right, Draco. And no, I’m not talking about the Harry Potter kind, folks.

Draco, a legislator and prominent tyrant, delivered a comprehensive and thorough legal system, written on plates and placed publicly in the Athenian Agora for all to abide by. These laws were first written in blood, rather than ink, and their harshness and inhumanity caused quite a bit of controversy. Even the most trivial criminal offenses, like stealing a piece of fruit or sleeping in a public place, were punishable by death while other petty crimes could cause you to lose your land and your free citizenship and end up a slave. Not to worry though, Draco got what was coming to him.

Despite the excessively harsh nature of his laws, Athenian citizens saw Draco as the man who represented divine justice and for that they were immensely grateful. During a visit to the island of Aegina, to be honored in front of a large crowd at a theatrical event, he was covered in so many caps, cloaks and other articles the audience continuously threw at him that he suffocated to death. Draco was literally “killed by appreciation and kindness.”



Emanuel, Lazar. Latin for Lawyers: The Language of the Law (New York: Aspen Publishers, 1999).

First Ever Citation Guide for the Courts of Saskatchewan, part 2

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By Ann Marie Melvie, Librarian, Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan
and Joanne V. Colledge-Miller, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP


As we mentioned in the first post of our series, the Citation Guide for the Courts of Saskatchewan stresses the importance of the neutral citation and mandates that if one is available for the decision cited, it must be used.

Why are neutral citations so important? Well, first of all, they are citations assigned by the courts and clearly identify for the reader where the decision is from and how old it is. Additionally, any decision with a neutral citation has had paragraph numbers added by the court, again making it easier to pinpoint to a specific portion of the decision that can be universally accessed by anyone.

The neutral citation contains three parts: the year of the decision; the tribunal identifier, which readily identifies both the jurisdiction and the level of court; and the ordinal number of the decision. The ordinal number is nothing more than a consecutive number assigned by the requisite court for each decision it issues each year.

As you can see from these examples, neutral citations have no punctuation in them and use no lower case letters: 2014 SCC 5; 2012 SKPC 104; 2009 SKQB 195.

Because the neutral citation is assigned by the court issuing the decision, it allows counsel and litigants to cite to and retrieve decisions without having to rely on a citation that is specific to a case law report or database. It is a permanent means of identifying cases, independent of individual products or particular publishers. With the neutral citation in hand, the case can be found electronically, regardless of the database used. This is especially important from an access to justice perspective, as it allows self-represented litigants to readily access these decisions for free, either using CanLII or the court’s judgment database.

Since 1999, Canadian courts have gradually adopted the neutral citation. The Supreme Court of Canada adopted its use in 2000, while here in Saskatchewan, the Court of Queen’s Bench started using it in 1999; the Court of Appeal in 2000; and the Provincial Court in 2002. Appendix A of the Guide contains a list of the dates various courts across the country started using the neutral citation.

For the first time, the Courts of Saskatchewan are requiring that any cases cited before them list the neutral citation and that this neutral citation be identified first before any other cite. If a decision is very recent, the neutral citation might be all that is available. Once the judgment is published in a print report, the print report should be used as a second and parallel citation. If a neutral citation is not available, then only one print report needs to be cited.

Don’t be fooled by some database identifiers that can look like neutral citations. For example, 1987 CanLII 4923 has some of the characteristics of a neutral citation, but it is not one. Not surprisingly, it is a CanLII citation.

Other database identifiers that might be confusing are those assigned by WestlawNext Canada (e.g., 2014 CarswellSask 571) or Quicklaw (e.g., [2014] S.J. No. 477). Again, these are not neutral citations. They are electronic database identifiers assigned to the decision by the publisher. As soon as you see “Carswell” in the citation, it is a WestlawNext Canada cite. And when you see an abbreviation for number (“No.”) in the citation, you can be pretty sure it is a Quicklaw database identifier. As a quick rule of thumb, a neutral citation only contains numbers and capital letters with no other punctuation.

So, again, what does this mean for you?

It means you must always provide the neutral citation when one is available and list it immediately after the case name.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

This is part 2 of a 7-part series on the Citation Guide for the Courts of SaskatchewanPart 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Ann Marie Melvie is the Librarian at the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan, having served in this position since 2001. She received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan and her diploma as a Library Technician from SIAST.

Joanne V. Colledge-Miller is currently an associate at MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation and class actions.