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Applied Misandry 101

September 30, 2012 permalink

The University of Windsor provides a legal clinic staffed by law students. It provides free legal assistance to persons accused in domestic abuse cases. The catch? You have to be female to benefit.



Matt Gurney: University-run legal aid forgets justice applies to men too

University of Windsor

More than 40 years ago in Ontario, University of Windsor law students began volunteering their time to assist those in need of legal counsel, if the accused met certain financial criteria. The program continues today, under the banner of Community Legal Aid. Not that those first student defenders would likely recognize their creation in its current, grotesquely prejudiced form.

Each year, Community Legal Aid has 100-120 law students working in teams under more experienced students. It is led by two review counsel. They don’t take on high stakes cases — they are, after all, not yet lawyers. But it still gives the students real-life experience handling real-life cases, while providing a service to those in need.

Not all in need, however. Community Legal Aid will no longer take on any domestic abuse cases, it announced in an email, “unless the alleged offender is a woman.” In that case, it will work to find a lawyer who will take the case for free, or failing that, take the case itself. Men are on their own.

This astonishing decision, reported by the Windsor Star, has been swiftly condemned by the local legal defence community. But Community Legal Aid isn’t backing down. Camille Cameron, dean of the law school, told the Windsor Star that the students can’t be expected to take on every case that comes to them, and pointed out that similar programs run at other schools don’t take on domestic abuse cases. “We are talking about a student legal aid clinic at a university. We’re not talking about a private law firm, or even a legal aid office,” she told the paper.

No one would be upset if Ms. Cameron said domestic violence cases were too complicated for law students to handle. But that isn’t what has been decided. The student legal aid clinic may not be a private law firm or even a legal aid office, but it still feels up to the challenge of helping women facing domestic violence charges. It’s only the men that it is not willing to help out. That’s not an issue of resources or case complexity. That’s discrimination.

One of Ms. Cameron’s colleagues didn’t beat around the bush about it, either. David Tanovich, a University of Windsor law professor, said that the committee that decided to exclude men wanted to address “systemic issues” faced by women in the legal system. “We’re a social justice law school. We have a social justice mandate,” he told the Windsor Star.

It is also a law school. And the law recognizes a couple of key points the folks at the University of Windsor seem to have overlooked. The first is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, including anyone accused of domestic violence — yes, even men. The second is that all are equal before the law, and that even detestable people who are almost certainly guilty of all they’re accused of (and more) have a right to fair trial. That doesn’t change if they are male.

Law isn’t about separating good people from bad people. It’s about establishing guilt through the examination of evidence during a fair, impartial proceeding. Lawyers are a critical part of that process, but the outcome is not theirs to choose. It calls into question the kind of education Windsor students are getting if their own faculty is somehow oblivious to this. How can these supposed experts have so thoroughly failed to understand how our system of justice works? What good is the experience students get working at Community Legal Aid if the experiences don’t reflect reality?

A final irony: On the Community Legal Aid website, they list their values. Number two is “Access to Justice” and notes, “Every person is entitled to a defence.”

Just don’t ask them to take part in it. They’re too socially just to care about justice.

Source: National Post

Addendum: Dr Camille Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Law University of Windsor, offers a change in policy. You need advanced training in rhetoric and logic, and possibly other disciplines, to make sense of it.



Dean explains CLA decision

The decision by Windsor Law's Community Legal Aid clinic to shift its jurisdictional mandate from domestic violence cases has received much attention from the criminal defence bar, alumni and media. I would like to explain what the policy is and why we have adopted it.

The decision we have made is as follows:

  • CLA will no longer represent men or women in court in cases involving domestic violence.
  • CLA will try to find defence lawyers to take such cases on a pro bono basis.
  • CLA will also make other referrals to community partners where appropriate and when those services are available.

Our initial policy included a caveat for cases in which women were accused in domestic violence cases. That caveat was that CLA would represent those women if no defence counsel could be found to take the case on a pro bono basis.

We included that caveat because of some evidence that charges against women in domestic violence cases had been increasing and that these women might also have been victims of abuse.

As a law school with a longstanding commitment to social justice and access to justice, this was in our view a category of cases deserving differential treatment, investigation and research.

Our decision to alter this policy and to treat men and women the same in matters of referral and representation, should address the formal equality concerns that have been raised. As a law school committed to social justice and to equality, however, we would be remiss if we did not also engage with the substantive equality issues at stake.

Substantive equality requires differential treatment in order to produce an equal result. We will therefore find the resources to conduct research and inquiry into the issue of women charged with domestic violence.

Figures made available by Hiatus House in Windsor confirm this is an issue in need of exploration. They report they had 32 women in their domestic violence shelter last year who had been convicted of assaulting men and that all of these women were also longtime victims of abuse. Most men who are convicted in such cases are not also abuse victims. Our initial policy aimed to recognize this difference.

Just as some people have criticized us for our initial decision to take cases involving women if we were unable to find representation for them, so might we be criticized for changing that part of our policy.

It is a good example of how different conceptions of equality can lead to quite different views. We think our decision to investigate and analyze these cases and their policy implications, and to report the results of these investigations, will go some way to responding to those who criticize our policy change on substantive equality grounds.

I return to the original reasons for deciding to discontinue taking domestic violence and peace bond cases. Renewal and reform of a law school curriculum, including its clinical programs, is essential.

This is not to say that what has gone before has been wanting. The many Windsor Law graduates who have had the benefit of our clinical programs and who are now successful practitioners, are a credit to those programs and a testament to the quality and value of those programs.

We are proud of our clinics and the students who pass through them. But renewal is essential, as views about best practice change over time it is necessary to make tough decisions about how best to use scarce resources.

We have decided that we do not have the substantial resources required to train and supervise 100-150 students to conduct domestic violence cases.

There will be plenty of relevant and significant legal work for our law clinic students to do, because there are more unmet legal needs in the community than CLA can ever hope to meet.

This ensures that our students will continue to have access to excellent clinical training, and that marginalized and disadvantaged people in the community will continue to get the benefit of CLA's excellent service.

Source: Windsor Star

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