Canadian Lawyer

June 2009

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regional wrap-up Nova Scotia's first black lawyer honoured ATLAnTIC nity gathered to honour James Robinson Johnston — 109 years after he was admitted to the bar. The celebration at the Halifax A Law Courts was marked by the unveiling of a portrait of Lawyer Johnston, as he was known, Nova Scotia's first black lawyer and only the third in the country when he attained his law degree from Dalhousie University in 1898. Johnston was admitted to the pproximately 280 rela- tives, lawyers, judges, and other in the legal commu- His legacy lives on. In 1996, Dalhousie University established the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies in recognition of the unique historical presence and contri- bution of black people in the province. The chair served as a catalyst for the creation of a Centre of Excellence in Black Canadian research. "He was ahead of his time," bar shortly thereafter and went on to practise primarily in the areas of military and criminal law. At 39, Johnston's career came to an abrupt and tragic end: The Halifax native was murdered by his brother-in-law. During the course of his short-lived career, how- From left: Among James Johnston's many relatives in attendance were Hector Johnston, Leslie Johnston, Herald Johnston, Gordon Johnston, Aleta Williams, and Winifred Bowden. ever, he was well known and respected. The Halifax Herald described him as a "good lawyer," a "pre-eminent citizen," and an "ornament" to the bar of Nova Scotia. professor David Divine, the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, said during the event. "James Robinson Johnston's life and work and lessons learned from it have enormous relevance in 2009." — DONALEE MOULTON donalee@quantumcommunications.ca FAMILY VIOLENCE INTERVENTION COURT LAUNCHED IN NEWFOUNDLAND C ourt is officially in session. After a year of plan- ning and preparation, the family violence inter- vention court pilot project announced last year by the Newfoundland and Labrador government is offi- cially under way at Provincial Court in St. John's, the Honourable Judge Gregory Brown presiding. The $280,000 project, which follows on the heels of sim- ilar ventures across the country, is intended to address fam- ily violence with more than a Band-Aid. The court works with victims and offenders to find solutions best suited for everyone involved and with an ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of violence. "This court is not about being soft on crime but about finding alternative measures to address family violence and its impacts," said Attorney General Tom Marshall in the provincial House of Assembly. Here's how the court, which sits every second Wednesday, will do that. When a charge of family violence is first brought to Provincial Court, it will be identified for referral to the family violence intervention court. The accused will be given a court date, information about the court and, if the offender takes responsibility for their actions, will meet with a risk-assessment officer to determine if eligibility requirements are met. If met, defence counsel will become engaged and a guilty plea will be submitted. The judge will accept this plea but postpone sentencing until the comple- tion of a mandatory family violence intervention. During the intervention, the accused will be on supervised bail and will periodically return to court to update the judge. Once the intervention is completed, the accused returns to court for sentencing. A bail supervisor, social worker, victim services repre- sentative, and a family violence counsellor will be engaged throughout the process. Services will be available to those, including children, who have been affected. The pilot project will run for one year and will then be — DM evaluated. www. C ANADIAN Law ye rmag.com JUNE 2009 7 LISA NEILY/NOVA SCOTIA BARRISTERS' SOCIETY

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