Category Archives: Legal Profession

Remembering Judy Mosoff

mosoff_resJudith Paula Mosoff
June 20, 1947 – December 20, 2015

The Centre for Feminist Legal Studies lost an important member of our community to cancer, on December 20, 2015. Professor Judith Mosoff was a faculty member at UBC Law for 24 years. She played a key role in the clinical program before moving into the academic stream, teaching courses such as administrative law, criminal law and procedure, regulatory state, perspectives on law, disability law, children and the law, and, most recently, legal ethics and professionalism. Judy was a past member of the CFLS Steering Committee and she also organized several of the annual Marlee Kline Lectures in Social Justice.

Judy’s scholarly work on disability and disability rights was known across the country. She challenged the legal system to grant human rights to persons with disabilities but also challenged the human rights paradigm to address disability rights in a fulsome manner. For instance, her article “Excessive Demand’ on the Canadian Conscience: Disability, Family and Immigration” (1999) 26:2 Man. L.J. 149-179 was quickly followed by “Is the Human Rights Paradigm ‘Able’ to Include Disability: Who’s In? Who Wins? What? Why?” (2000) 26:1 Queen’s L.J. 225-276. Other articles on human rights and disability, as well as corporal punishment, were published with her colleague and friend Professor Isabel Grant.

The feminist community will likely remember Judy best for her work on law and mothers with mental health issues. Her well-known 1995 article “Motherhood, Madness and Law” (1995) 45:2 U.T.L.J. 107-142 was groundbreaking for its exploration of how mental health law and child protection law intersect in a way that dramatically affects women with psychiatric disabilities. Together with her chapter “’A Jury Dressed in Medical White and Judicial Black’: Mothers with Mental Health Histories in Child Welfare and Custody” in Challenging the Public/Private Divide: Feminism, Law, and Public Policy (1997), this work is a rare Canadian example of in depth scholarly consideration of how the ideology of motherhood intersects with attitudes about mental illness in judicial decision-making about parental fitness and can result in the legal system severing the relationship between mother and child. Judy had returned to this subject and was working on a second paper when she became ill.

Perhaps the project that meant most to Judy was her role as a founding member of Steps Forward, an inclusive post secondary initiative: http://www.steps-forward.org. Her passion for social justice and for issues such as how to include those with developmental disabilities in educational systems will be much missed. Steps Forward is currently taking donations towards a Judith Mosoff Bursary or scholarship to support future students.

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Visiting Scholars: Lisa Kelly and Clara Chapdelaine-Feliciati

Two exciting lectures by visiting scholars next week!

“Policing Child Discipline”
Lisa Kelly, Tuesday November 24 at 12:30pm,  Room 122

“The Concept and Conceptions of Girlhood Under International Law”
Clara Chapdelaine- Feliciati, Thursday November 26 at 12:30pm, Room 122

See posters attached below for details:

Lisa Kelly (November 24)
Clara Chapdelaine-Feliciati (November 26)

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Ensuring the Future of the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies

Many thanks to Professors Emeriti Susan Boyd and Claire Young for their recent gift to the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies.

To learn more about their important legacy, see the announcement here.

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Upcoming Event: Beyond Work Life Balance – Legal Ethics & Equality for Women Lawyers

1CBL CFLS logoConsider attending this upcoming panel, co-sponsored by UBC Law’s Centre for Business Law and Centre for Feminist Legal Studies.  The promotion of equality for women in the legal profession is part of the ethical and professional responsibilities of all lawyers. Much attention to this issue has been focused on the important question of the retention of women in private practice, which is usually linked to challenges in balancing the demands of practice and family responsibilities. While these are important issues, they are not the only issues facing women lawyers throughout their career paths.

The panel will consider other ways in which opportunities for women lawyers are impacted. Practical strategies and problem-solving will be emphasized.  Among the panelists is UBC Law professor and CFLS Faculty Director Janine Benedet.  The event is *free* for UBC Law students and faculty but registration is required.

WHEN: Friday November 28th, 8:30am-11am

WHERE: Metropolitan Hotel, 645 Howe Street

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Being a Feminist Lawyer

W. Anita Braha

by Susan Boyd and Camille Israel

W. Anita Braha gave an inspiring talk titled “A Feminist Practice: A Chronicle of Issues Over the Years” about her experiences as a feminist and a human rights lawyer. Her stories showed us that her work on feminist projects as a student gave her experience and contacts that paid off in future opportunities.

Law was not Anita’s first career choice – she told us she used to want to be a comedian, and certainly her sense of humour was evident in her talk. Once she settled on law, though, her clear goal was to be a human rights lawyer. She went to graduate school to pursue a Master’s in Political Science at the University of Toronto, where she was part of a coalition of students and administrators who, after a long struggle, got the university to pass one of the first sexual harassment policies in Canada. Anita then studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School, which in the 1980s could be a hard and hostile environment for feminists and lesbians. While there, she was active in the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), which had a number of caucuses across Canada. In her third year, she undertook a directed research project on the issue of pay equity, meeting feminists who were working in the field, such as Carole Geller of the PayEquity Coalition, with whom she later worked.

 

After graduating in 1986, Anita articled with the Official Guardian of Ontario (now the Children’s Lawyer), which provided an interdisciplinary environment due to its focus on child protection and mental health. Her principal was Susan Himel, now a judge on the Ontario Superior Court.

 

In the late 1980s, Anita moved to Vancouver, where, through her involvement with NAWL, she met a number of feminist lawyers, such as Gwen Brodsky and Shelagh Day, who hired her as a researcher on their important 1989 publication Canadian Charter Equality Rights for Women: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back? She then (re)articled at the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and was offered a position despite the fact that they did not normally hire back articling students.

 

During this time, she was asked to represent the first complainant under the University of Toronto’s sexual harassment policy, who was an engineering student. At issue was whether leering constituted sexual harassment. The defendant, 60-year old chemical engineering professor Richard Hummel, was accused of following and intensely staring at female swimmers at Hart House Pool. The board held that his actions did constitute sexual harassment. The decision was immediately appealed, and the defense hired Morris Manning, a prominent criminal litigator. As co-counsel, Anita retained Kate Hughes, who later represented LEAF in its intervention in Meoirin v. BCGSE, the landmark gender discrimination case. Anita’s client won the appeal, but the decision was not uncontroversial. Maclean’s columnist Barbara Amiel strongly criticized the case as “the utter debasement of the genuinely serious nature of sexual harassment.”

Anita worked on other groundbreaking cases, including a worker’s compensation case that established Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) as a compensable injury. In that case, the victim had been brutally attacked and raped, but had no lasting physical injuries. Anita worked with Vancouver feminist legal consultant Sandra Goundry and an expert witness to show that RTS constituted an injury, and her client received a full disability pension.

 

Anita started her own law firm with a colleague in 1992, sharing a library and other resources with another small firm. She eventually ended up taking institutional as well as individual clients, and has, somewhat unusually, worked for unions, employers and individuals. She has done policy work as well as litigation and education. She has also collaborated with other lawyers on many files. She was an appointed adviser to the City of Vancouver Women’s Task Force.

 

Anita’s talk contained many nuggets of wisdom. She told students interested in pursuing a feminist/social justice legal career to follow their passion, and that volunteering with people or organizations doing the kind of work that interested them is a great way to make connections, which could turn into paid opportunities down the line–sometimes in unexpected ways! It is important to help other lawyers and activists and they will reciprocate sooner or later. She said that creativity, persistence, preparation and hard work were crucial in her pursuit of the kind of career she wanted. Most of all, she reminded students to stand by their convictions and principles and to draw strength from them. In her experience, people are drawn to those who have strong core principles, including feminist principles. It is important to speak up and to “stand up and be counted” whenever possible. You may be attacked for your convictions, but others will rally around you. Finally, Anita told us that it is important to be respectful of one’s clients and that she had learned a tremendous amount from her own clients about strength and grace in the face of hardship.

 

This piece is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in LawFemme Volume 10, Issue 2.

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