Tip of the Week

The Conflict of Laws – What are the Sources? (Tip of the Week)

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By Ken Fox

Conflict of laws, also known as private international law, is a topic concerning the rules governing what happens when two or more legal systems clash in a private dispute. Pitel & Rafferty’s text on Conflict of Laws identifies three key questions: (1) whether a court has jurisdiction, (2) what law the court will apply, and (3) whether a judgment from another jurisdiction will be enforced. Unlike public international law, conflict of laws is not the same everywhere, but is particular to each jurisdiction.

As such, some people have asked about developing a Saskatchewan-specific resource for conflict of laws. While most of the issues discussed the textbooks are internationally-based, there are some areas, such as estates law and family property law, where inter-provincial jurisdictional issues become critical. So a Saskatchewan-based resource might be a good idea – we’ll look into it!

Nationally, the most often-cited text is Castel & Walker’s Canadian Conflict of Laws. The current (6th) edition is a two-volume looseleaf published by LexisNexis, which is available at our libraries in Regina and Saskatoon. For a more concise text, try the aforementioned Pitel and Rafferty, a volume in Irwin’s Essentials of Canadian Law series, which are available to Saskatchewan lawyers online through the Members Section of our website. Also available through the Members Section, and our shelves, is the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest volume on Conflict of Laws, which is cross-referenced to related case law in the Canadian Abridgment.

Internationally, the library maintains the current edition of the classic Dicey Morris and Collins book on The Conflict of Laws, published by Sweet & Maxwell in London. At a glance, I wasn’t sure how relevant this text is to Canadian legal disputes (unless they involve the British jurisdiction specifically), but it has been cited by Canadian courts over 400 times in CanLii, including in recent decisions by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada, so apparently it still carries some authority.

If you have any questions about the above, or have any recommendations about sources we should acquire or develop, please add your comments below, or otherwise contact us.

Subject Resource Guide – Tax Law (Tip of the Week)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The Tax Law Subject Resource Guide is now available online at the at Research Resources  area of the Law Society website.

Subject resource guides provide the titles of key texts, ebooks, CPD materials, journals, legal encyclopedias, and provincial and federal legislation for a particular area of the law.  They are guides to finding the best resources for an area of the law.  The guides are intended to be used by those starting new legal research projects and to ensure that obvious resources are not missed.

Other subject guides available at Research Resources include:

The Law Society Library will continue to develop subject resource lists in every area of legal practice on a regular basis.

Subject Resource Guide – Insurance Law (Tip of the Week)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The Insurance Law Subject Resource Guide is now available online at the at Research Resources  area of the Law Society website.

Subject resource guides provide the titles of key texts, ebooks, CPD materials, journals, legal encyclopedias, and provincial and federal legislation for a particular area of the law.  They are guides to finding the best resources for an area of the law.  The guides are intended to be used by those starting new legal research projects and to ensure that obvious resources are not missed.

Other subject guides available at Research Resources include:

The Law Society Library will continue to develop subject resource lists in every area of legal practice on a regular basis.

 

Subject Resource Guide – Family Law (Tip of the Week)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The Family Law Subject Resource Guide is now available online at the at Research Resources  area of the Law Society website.

Subject resource guides provide the titles of key texts, ebooks, CPD materials, journals, legal encyclopedias, and provincial and federal legislation for a particular area of the law.  They are guides to finding the best resources for an area of the law.  The guides are intended to be used by those starting new legal research projects and to ensure that obvious resources are not missed.

Other subject guides available at Research Resources include:

The Law Society Library will continue to develop subject resource lists in every area of legal practice on a regular basis.

Subject Resource Guide – Employment and Labour Law (Tip of the Week)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The Employment and Labour Law Subject Resource Guide is now available online at the at Research Resources  area of the Law Society website.

Subject resource guides provide the titles of key texts, ebooks, CPD materials, journals, legal encyclopedias, and provincial and federal legislation for a particular area of the law.  They are guides to finding the best resources for an area of the law.  The guides are intended to be used by those starting new legal research projects and to ensure that obvious resources are not missed.

Other subject guides available at Research Resources include:

The Law Society Library will continue to develop subject resource lists in every area of legal practice on a regular basis.

 

Database Video Tutorials (Tip of the Week)

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tutorialsBy Alan Kilpatrick

The Law Society Library team has created a series of helpful tutorial videos to aid members in searching CanLII and the Saskatchewan Cases Search.  You can watch the videos by clicking on the Library Tutorials button on the left side of the library homepage.

The short digestible videos demonstrate how to search each resource in key ways:

CanLII Tutorial Videos Saskatchewan Cases Search Tutorial Videos
  1. A Basic “How-To” (5:57)
  2. Searching for a Case with a Common Name (3:08)
  3. Noting Up a Case with CanLII (2:22)
  4. Searching for Case Law (2:04)
  5. Searching for Legislation (2:44)
  1. What is the Saskatchewan Cases Search? (1:46)
  2. Finding a Particular Case (2:32)
  3. Finding a Case of Unknown Name (2:39)
  4. Noting Up a Case (2:45)
  5. Noting Up a Statute (4:56)

The Law Society library will continue to develop new tutorial videos for other online resources.  Please let us know what you think about these videos and if you have any suggestions.

If you have any questions, ask a Law Society Librarian! We are pleased to provide high-quality legal research services to Saskatchewan members in person, on the telephone, or by email.

 

AskLibnEmail reference@lawsociety.sk.ca
Call 306-569-8020 in Regina
Toll-free 1-877-989-4999
Fax 306-569-0155

Rangefindr – You’re Doing it Wrong! (Tip of the Week)

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By Ken Fox

rangefindrRangefindr is a fabulous source for searching sentencing ranges in Canada. If you are a Saskatchewan lawyer, I am happy to say that you have access through our Members Section. Otherwise, if you are a criminal lawyer I highly recommend you speak to your firm librarian or whoever is in charge of licensing online resources.

I have had several people tell me that Rangefindr is difficult to use, and in particular that any search returns only a paucity of hits. So I came here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with Rangefindr – you’re just doing it wrong! There, don’t you feel better now? The problem isn’t with Rangefindr, it’s just your shoddy searching technique.

Basically, you’re checking too many boxes. No matter how sophisticated a search engine is, it is limited by the encoding of its data. Rangefindr offers you hundreds of search parameters, but these are only useful to the extent that the individual documents are coded for each parameter.

For example, say the accused in your case was amenable to counselling, and while looking through the various parameters under “Accused” in Rangefindr you see the check box “Amenable to counselling” – so naturally, you check it, right?

Wrong.

Ask yourself, what percentage of Canadian sentencing decisions where the accused was amenable to counselling actually say so in the decision? And further ask, given the granularity of Rangefindr’s data, how likely is it that the coder will have re-entered that particular piece of information into the record? In order for using that check box to return a positive result, both of the above contingencies must have been met.

Let’s further develop our example. Say the accused was male, 45, charged with driving impaired, had no previous charges, and was considered by many to have a “good character,” but was also known to be a heavy drinker.

Begin with the charge – click on “OFFENCES” in the left-hand pane. This part is easy – scroll through the offences, find “Drive impaired” and click on the heading (the words, not the box), and the little box will turn black. Now look at the square at the bottom right of the screen (inside the black rectangle) – it should say “PLEASE SELECT MORE TAGS TO NARROW YOUR SEARCH.” Keep an eye on this square.

Now, let’s click on the second item in the left-pane menu, ACCUSED. And scroll through the many parameters. For the purpose of this exercise, go ahead and click on all that apply, and WATCH what happens in the square in the bottom right corner. When I click Addiction/Alcohol, I see the number 64 – that means there are 64 relevant hits in the database. Now try “Amenable to counselling” – we are down to 3! What happened? Try de-selecting “Amenable” and click “Good character” – 1 hit. In fact, ANY combination of two or more of these criteria quickly brings the results to zero. Is it because there have been no reported Canadian decisions that resemble our case? I hardly think so.

With Rangefindr, the first question you need to ask is: what are the key aspects of this case – the parameters that you are nearly 100% sure would be (1) mentioned prominently in the decision, and (2) coded into the database. Secondly, ask yourself – Self, of the remaining criteria, those vulnerable to being left out of the data entry process, which are most critical to my argument?

Less is more.

After the offence itself, what is the MOST important fact of the case? And which factors are most likely to be included in the record? Let’s say the fact that the accused had no prior record is an important factor. Select “Record” in the left-hand menu, and then click on “No previous custodial sentence.” Our number has dropped to 6 – that’s with no other parameters but the charge. Is this a reliable result? Yes, in the positive sense that we have 6 cases where the accused had no prior record – but NOT in the negative sense. The search has probably screened out many relevant cases where the accused had no criminal record, but where that piece of information did not make it into the database.

For the present example, the correct strategy is to select the offence, then click on your other important criteria one at a time to get cases where the courts considered each of the relevant factors. If you select more than a couple of boxes, you are overlying on contingencies of the data entry process.

The same applies to criteria under COMPLAINANT, CONDITIONS, DETAILS OF CASE, DETAILS OF OFFENCE, JUDGEMENT, PRE-SENTENCE, and RECORD. Only select additional parameters carefully, while keeping an eye on that results box.

A more general strategy would be to first select the charge, then one further key parameter. If the number of results is still high, select the next most important factor, and work your way down – but always check what effect each parameter has on the results, watch for dramatic drops in the number of decisions, and reflect on whether each factor is likely to eliminate good results.

For further questions or research assistance, please contact the library, or leave a comment below.