Directed Reading: Legal History Workshop

The Workshop, also known as the Osgoode Society Legal History Workshop, takes place on Wednesday evenings via Zoom throughout 2021-22, even if in-person teaching resumes in winter term. It meets approximately seven times in each term, on roughly alternate Wednesdays. The schedule for the first term will be arranged during the summer of 2020 and will be available by August. The schedule for the second term will be arranged during the first term and will be available by the end of November. Students must take the course for the full year. Each session a different presenter will circulate in advance a paper on which he or she would like comment and critique. The presentations may be on any aspect of legal history, from any jurisdiction or time period, though most tend to be on Canadian or US topics. Students enrolled in the course for credit are not expected to present a paper, but to read the papers and participate in the discussion and critique that occur at each session. Through exposure to varied topics in and approaches to legal history, students will come to appreciate the methodologies and modes of analysis employed in doing legal history.

Attendees at the workshop in addition to J.D. students are graduate students and faculty in law and history from U of T and York, as well as members of the profession and other interested parties. Paper presenters are mostly workshop members, but some are visitors from other universities inside and outside Canada. Workshop presenters in recent years from outside Toronto have included Constance Backhouse (Ottawa), David Fraser (Nottingham), Robert Gordon (Yale), Rande Kostal (Western), Brad Miller (British Columbia), Michel Morin (Montreal), Rebecca Scott (Michigan), and Brian Young (McGill).

All members of the law school community are welcome to attend any workshop. JD students or graduate students wishing to register in the workshop for credit may do so. No previous background in history is required.

Legal Values: Law in the Time of Catastrophe

COVID-19 is the first truly global pandemic of the 21st century. Governments, climate scientists, epidemiologists, and public health researchers have warned that the viral outbreak will affect the world in myriad unforeseen ways and similar outbreaks are likely to recur. All the while that we are overwhelmed by this historical malady, we must not forget the increasing frequency and intensity with which Canada and countries around the world have been struck by forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, food scarcity, and historic refugee flows out of conflict and disaster-ridden landscapes. These events are likely to worsen in the coming decades.

Climate change and disasters as umbrella categories are fundamentally problems of governance. But environmental law courses traditionally struggle to make room for them. This course aims to introduce upper year law students to the relationship between law and a range of future-facing global environmental crises that are often overlooked in law school curricula. The readings are designed to: (i) bring law students up to date on social science and humanities research surrounding disasters; and (ii) critically examine a variety of international legal regimes that currently attend to specific kinds of disasters such as pandemics and food scarcity.

As possible, we will pause to examine how these issues are being addressed within Canada, both in terms of the Canadian constitutional framework as well as the concerns of indigenous communities. Like any survey, this course is designed to introduce students to a wide swathe of knowledge about a new subject. As such, there are limits to how deeply we can explore the subject-matter for each week. However, students are encouraged to choose research projects that will allow them to study any of the areas explored in the course, or other related areas, in greater depth.

The seminar will prepare students to serve as law and policy experts on significant national and international environmental concerns that are going to be in high demand in the years to come. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

·understand the socio-scientific, political, and historical context of climate change and other ‘catastrophes’ broadly stated;
·apply these insights and techniques to evaluate the quality and impact of international (and domestic) legal regimes;
·critically analyze the content of official statements, news reports, and popular narratives about disasters and emergency regulation

Sample list of topics (subject to change)
·        Climate, climate change, and disasters (as global, legal and non-legal contexts)
·        Famine and food security
·        Pandemics and global public health
·        Armed conflict and environmental Degradation
·        Small islands and sea level rise
·        Climate refugees and internally displaced persons

Legal Values: Theoretical Foundations of Contract Law

This seminar is intended to revisit the basic principles of your first-year contracts class, but this time from a rich theoretical perspective. The basic principles of contract law are firmly settled, and yet there is deep theoretical disagreement about their precise contours, purpose, and justification. This course has two main learning objectives. The first is to deepen students’ understanding of the fundamental principles of contract law by studying how those principles are embedded in settled doctrine and yet continually subject to controversy and disagreement. The second is to teach students to think critically about the law through the lens of a variety of theoretical and interdisciplinary frameworks. We will explore questions such as: what is the point of the doctrine of consideration? Is it a functional tool that could be replaced by some other functional tool or does it have some non-instrumental significance? What is the justification for the expectation measure of damages? If there is a right to performance, then why isn’t specific performance the default contractual remedy? If contract law is the law of voluntary obligations, what view should we take of standard form agreements that are rarely read or understood? How does the common law of contracts fit with contract law’s equitable doctrines? How can we reconcile contractual freedom with contractual fairness? Is there—and should there be–a duty of good faith in contract?

Law & Social Change: Critical Race Theory

What steps should be taken to establish a more equitable society? In addition, what are the assumptions, beliefs, and practices that undermine fair treatment in a society and devalue particular groups? Critical race theories (CRTs) provide a framework for identifying, articulating, and proposing solutions to inequity within a society. Some of the defining features of CRTs are as follows:

1)Group identities: race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other sociohistorical dimensions are constructed by societies.
2)Intersectionality: all individuals have multiple identities that interlock and are, therefore, experienced simultaneously.
3)Social systems: law, education and the media are mechanisms for conferring advantages to the political majority group and obscuring the unfair treatment of groups with less power.

The origin of critical race theories (CRTs) (e.g., AsianCrit, and DisCrit) can be traced to the works of Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, and Richard Delgado. More specifically, Bell, Freeman, and Delgado took an interdisciplinary approach to building upon the American civil rights movement. This introduction to CRTs will focus on the applicability of said paradigms to the Canadian context within which legal practices shape and reinforce hierarchies of group identities. This course will explore race, racism and Canadian law in a manner that is anchored by the works of Richard Delgado, Jean Stephancic, Carol Aylward and Constance Backhouse; moreover, this course will be enriched by presentations from lawyers who utilize critical race theories in their practice.

Legal Ethics

This course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to think critically about issues in legal ethics and professionalism.  As well, it will help students understand the different ethical and professional issues that arise in particular practice contexts.  What are the different professional dilemmas confronting Bay Street lawyers as compared to small town lawyers?  What are the challenging ethical issues facing government lawyers? How are these similar and dissimilar to the ethical issues facing criminal defence lawyers?  How might one think about the ethical duties of the poverty lawyer and the in-house corporate counsel?  How are these different ethical and professional issues reconciled in the context of our professional duties under the LSO Rules, case-law and existing norms of practice?  Through readings as well as in-class problem-based discussions, the focus will be both conceptual and practical. Students will be expected to participate extensively in the discussions.   The course is also designed to provide students with an opportunity to focus on particularly noteworthy ethical or professional issues within particular practice settings and to present these issues in class and through a research paper.  Additionally, throughout the term, the profession’s professional obligations as articulated in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be considered.


This is a course in the philosophy of law that approaches its subject matter through the lens of political philosophy. It will involve critical discussion of core issues and classical texts from the 17th century to the present. The organizing topics are: legitimacy, justice, and the nature and moral significance of law. Special emphasis will be placed on the ways in which various philosophical conceptualizations of the human person intersect with justifications for political and legal arrangements, including distributions of rights, goods, and powers. Students will develop competence and facility over several historically influential texts in legal philosophy (from Hobbes and Locke to Rawls, Williams, Waldron and Dworkin). Students will sharpen their legal reasoning, analytical and critical reading skills. Students will fine-tune their abilities to break down legal arguments, and examine their foundations. No prior philosophical training is required.
Note: The instructor of this course/ seminar has indicated a preference or willingness to conduct optional in-person meetings for students. All in-person meetings will be optional for students until the general return to in-person instruction that is expected for the winter 2022 term. Any in-person meetings in the fall 2021 term that cover examinable course content will be accompanied by a remote participation option, such as a separate remote class, live dual delivery, and/ or a recording of the class, at the instructor’s discretion. More information will follow from the instructor after students have enrolled; please also note that there is no guarantee of in-person instruction in any course or seminar.

Legal Ethics

This course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to think imaginatively and critically about issues in legal ethics and professionalism as well as to help students understand the basic ethical and professional context in which those issues can and do arise today. The course examines both individual professional responsibility and the regulation of legal profession by the Law Society. The course has two main goals.

1. The course introduces students to ethics and professional responsibility in the legal profession and to legal services regulation. Our focus, through readings, in-class discussions, will be both conceptual and practical. Students will be expected to participate extensively.
2. The course is also designed to provide students with an opportunity to focus on identifying particularly noteworthy ethical or professional issues and to present one issue both in a team-based class setting and another issue through a research paper.

Disability & the Law

This course examines disability as a legal category with implications for the rights of persons with disabilities. Students will be introduced to alternative conceptions and theories of disability and impairment, and will examine how law constructs and regulates the lives of individuals with disabilities. Throughout the course we will examine statutory provisions and jurisprudence in different areas including: family, reproduction, death and dying, health, human rights, education, social assistance and economic supports to understand how disability is defined and regulated by law. This course analyzes and evaluates how law can best achieve the goals of social justice and equality for individuals with disabilities.

This course offers in-class instruction in an interactive lecture/discussion/presentation format. Students are expected to read the assigned materials before class and to participate in analytical class discussions. From time to time, guests will be invited to speak about their area of expertise and/or their experience of law and disability.