Day: September 9, 2015
June 15, 2015 marked the 800th anniversary of King John affixing his seal to a charter on the fields at Runnymede. This document has come to be known as the “Magna Carta” or the “Major Charter” and is recognized as the cornerstone of the rule of law and human rights law. In it, King John promised, among other things, that:
- A free man cannot be detained or imprisoned without due legal process
- A free man will be tried by his peers
- A son can inherit land from his father held of the King, upon the payment of fees associated with such
- The property rights of minors who inherit land held of the King will be respected
- Earls and barons can only be fined by other earls and barons, and only in proportion to the measure of the offence
- A free man’s land cannot be seized to pay his debts owing to the Crown unless his personal property is insufficient to discharge the debt
- Common pleas (court sessions) will be held at fixed locations instead of being held at the King’s Court
- Two judiciaries (judges) shall visit each county four times each year
- A widow is entitled to the return of her dower upon the death of her husband
- A widow cannot be forced to remarry against her will provided she promises she will obtain the King’s permission prior to remarrying
- If a free man dies intestate, his personal property shall be distributed to his nearest kinfolk and friends;
- A bailiff must have credible witnesses before charging a free man of an offence
- The persons who work in the judicial system – judiciaries, bailiffs, constables and sheriffs – must know the law and be known to follow it.
From this list one can see the connection to the rule of law and human rights law.
However, at the time it was sealed it was a document of limited application. The King’s promises were made to the barons, earls, free men, and to their widows and heirs in certain circumstances. Thus, the lives of most English persons were unaffected by the King’s actions. These persons remained unprotected. Also, the Charter was annulled by papal bull issued by Pope Innocent III on August 24, 1215. The Charter should have died then, but did not.
Instead, the barons kept fighting. King John died. The regency government of his young son, King Henry III, modified and reissued this Charter in 1216. They tried to appease the barons, but were unsuccessful. Another version was agreed to in 1217. This is when the Charter came to be known as the Magna Carta. This occurred because King Henry III sealed a lesser charter – the “Charter of the Forest” – in which he promised all freeman access to and use of common forests or lands – to gather wood, pasture livestock, and grow crops. The two charters needed distinct names. Because the first one was longer, it came to be called the Magna Carta. Read the rest of this entry »
Volunteer Profile – Kevin Miller
Kevin Miller started volunteering with CLASSIC in Saskatoon during his first year of Law School. Working at CLASSIC’s Legal Advice Clinic helped instill in him the importance of the legal community being involved in, and facilitating, access to justice. He went on in his second year of Law School to become comanager of CLASSIC’s Legal Advice Clinic.
Kevin Miller is employed by Miller Thomson LLP in Regina, and is presently most engaged in organizing and participating in the Small Claims Clinic, a partnership between Miller Thomson and Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan. The clinic allows people who may not be able to afford a lawyer access to legal advice with respect to their small claims matter. Kevin has additionally worked on a number of files through PBLS, a reality made possible by Miller Thomson’s commitment to pro-bono work through the PBLS Pro Bono Pledge.
Kevin additionally sits as a board member at Carmichael Outreach, a charity which seeks to assist residents of Regina who are struggling with addictions, poverty, health issues, or overwhelming life crisis’. He also enjoyed himself immensely volunteering at Carmichael Outreach’s “Kids Camp” held at Lumsden Beach Camp in 2014. Kevin got to flex some of his skills which are not particularly useful in his day to day work, but which were finely honed over years of being a camp counsellor and camp director (ie. nature walks, leading songs, and insisting on bedtime).
When asked what advice he would have for young lawyers interested in pro bono work, he said “Get involved early and often. Talk to the partners in your firm, and see if they’ve signed the Pro Bono Pledge. PBLS is very helpful, and can find you something to do which will fit with your skills and schedule. There is no excuse not to get involved.” Thank you for all of your volunteer efforts, Kevin!
Originally published in Bencher’s Digest, volume 28, issue 3 (August 2015)