Friday, September 19, 2014

Clio sets a new standard in Technology Customer Service

So here's a thing that just happened.

I discovered that Clio works with Zapier, which is an IFTTT-esque service.  I discovered that Zapier could automate some of the steps that I take when I open a new file in order to connect my gmail archiving script to my google drive.  A bunch of steps.  Annoying ones.

But... there was something missing.  The information that I could get out of Clio was just not quite right.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Will Premier Prentice help @LegalAidAlberta?

I was pointed by a friend to Justice Minister Denis' mandate letter from the new Premier.

Mr. Denis is one of only four Ministers to maintain their post after the swearing in of Mr. Prentice as Premier on Monday.

Mr. Denis has, until now, been comfortable blaming the federal government for the state of Legal Aid's finances.  The federal government may be obliged to contribute more.  But I am not satisfied that is an excuse to allow people to go without representation in court.

It appears the Premier has made adequate funding of Legal Aid one of Minister Denis' new top four or five or six priorities.

Hopefully Mr. Denis has been informed that the status quo is unacceptable, and that he expects the minister to take action, not merely make excuses.  We'll see.

As a first step, Minister Denis could immediately take on financial responsibility for the representation of individuals for whom Rowbotham applications are granted.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Can Delusional Schizophrenics Consent to Sex?

The CBC has been reporting on the case of Kirsten Lamb. Paula Simons, who I follow on Twitter, also made some comments about the case bringing it to my attention. Ms. Lamb suffers from schizophrenia, and was found unfit to stand trial for the murder of her mother, who it is alleged she killed in 2010.

When she appeared at court for the trial of her fitness, she was pregnant, and the court was informed that she was due to give birth in November of this year.  That would mean she became pregnant while on a secure unit at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, where she still resides.  She has evidently declined to inform anyone of the identity of the father.

There has been a well-meaning, but I believe misguided reaction to this news.  It is best exemplified by this line from the second CBC story, attributed to ethics consultant Laura Shanner.

Shanner said the pregnancy raises questions of consent, noting that a severely delusional schizophrenic could not provide informed consent to sex.
It would be horrific if Ms. Lamb had been victimized once by her disease, and once more by a sexual predator.  That much is certain.  What is not certain, at least not to me, is that you can take "severely delusional" people, and say categorically that they cannot consent to sex.  I don't think that's correct, either legally or ethically.

Legally, capacity is specific.  You can write a will if you have capacity to write a will.  You can make your own medical decisions or financial decisions if you have the capacity to make those specific sorts of decisions.  Broadly speaking, the concern is whether the person is capable of understanding the consequences of their choices, and whether they are capable of understanding the things that they need to know to make those choices.

There is nothing about "severely delusional" that suggests that a person must not understand the consequences of choosing whether or not to have sex, or must not know what they need to know in order to make that decision.

It could mean they don't, of course. Many women have delusions of being pregnant when suffering the effects of schizophrenia.  If that delusion caused a woman to believe that she could not get pregnant because she already was, then she may not be capable of making the decision, because she doesn't understand the information she needs to understand in order to make that decision.  But that would depend on the facts.  Which is the point.  It should be on a case-by-case basis that we decide capacity, not on the basis of mental illness, regardless of how severe.

Beyond it being legally incorrect, we have a history in this province of making very bad mistakes when it comes to the sexuality of the mentally ill.  There was, at one time uncomfortably recent, a policy of sexual sterilization of people with mental illness.  A blanket policy, even if well intended, that "you are mentally ill, therefore you cannot consent to sex" ventures dangerously close to the same sort of prejudiced and uninformed attitudes that allowed those mistakes to occur.

So while I respect the concern that people have expressed for Ms. Lamb's situation, and when the specifics are known it may in fact be shown that she was taken advantage of, nothing that has been reported by the CBC so far tells us what we need to know.

In the absence of specifics, we must be careful of casually denying the mentally ill their rights "for their own good."

Clio Next (next)

So the good people at Clio have implemented Clio Next, and have, before I had an opportunity to comment on Clio Next, then proceeded to improve it.  The interface has improved dramatically by moving the sub-tabs to the top of the screen, so I can find things faster and without scrolling.  Using the full width of the screen is an improvement, for sure, leaving a lot more room for the information I'm actually looking for.

It still has not addressed any of my feature requests.

But it is better.  Kudos to the Clio team.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Legal Aid and Bad Timing

I just got an email from the Alberta branch of the Canadian Bar Association, inviting me to contact a number of politicians and express my support, as a member of the bar in Alberta, for increased funding for legal aid in this province.

As I've discussed here before, I am a big supporter of increased funding for legal aid.

But I just have to say... it doesn't give me a lot of hope for the advocacy role of the CBA that we are getting a list of politicians to send letters to that includes the current Premier and a number of current cabinet ministers, when two days ago his replacement was chosen, which replacement has promised to "clean house" in the cabinet.

We are being encouraged to direct our energies at people who, two weeks from now, may or may not have any say in the matter any more.

Why not hold off on sending out that email until the new cabinet is announced?