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Friday, November 9, 2007

Jacques Chaoulli, hero of the proletariat

Dr Jacques Chaoulli's Supreme Court win struck a blow for the common man, according to economist Larry MacDonald's , published yesterday in Canadian Business Online under the title "Lawyers: Another conspiracy against the laity?"

The title comes from a George Bernard Shaw quotation: "All professions are conspiracies against the laity." (Keep in mind that he also said, "Every doctor will allow a colleague to decimate a whole countryside sooner than violate the bond of professional etiquette by giving him away," and, "At present, intelligent people do not have their children vaccinated, nor does the law now compel them to. The result is not, as the Jennerians prophesied, the extermination of the human race by smallpox; on the contrary more people are now killed by vaccination than by smallpox." The US National Library of Medicine has of vaccine hysteria, including George Bernard Shaw's role.)

Expand this post for an excerpt from Mr Macdonald's article.

Montreal doctor Jacques Chaoulli spent eight years representing himself all the way up to the Supreme Court where in 2005 he successfully persuaded the top court to strike down Quebec's ban on private medical insurance. One of his suggestions for improving the legal system: Canadian lawyers should provide consulting services for people who want to represent themselves, just like lawyers in the U.S. do (which is a lower cost alternative to direct representation).

Deborah Rhode, a Stanford law professor and leading scholar on legal ethics, argues in her book, (2005), that lawyers bear an ethical duty to ameliorate "their monopoly's deleterious effects" by doing more pro bono work for those who are disenfranchised. After all, "the state-sanctioned scarcity of legal services" is the reason for their affluence, she writes.

To be fair, the problem lies not entirely with the law societies. The complexity of court procedures also contributes to delay and high costs (the Supreme Court of Canada's Web site has a section on self representation that advises: " … it is a good idea that you get a lawyer as the procedure is complicated"). It thus follows that another part of the solution would be to simplify the tangled web of court procedures.

Until fees come down, litigants can save themselves a fortune and register a vote against a cartel-like arrangement by joining the do-it-yourself trend running through other industries such as investing and real estate services. The great enabler, of course, is the Internet, which yields easy access to any Canadian statute, regulation, or case. If you have the time and dedication to do it right, success is possible, as Chaoulli demonstrated.

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