On 15thJune 2018 the Canadian Supreme Court handed down two interesting and closely related judgments involving Trinity Western University: Law Society of British Columbia v Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant2018 SCC 32 and Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant v Law Society of Upper Canada 2018 SCC 32
Trinity Western University (TWU) is a Christian University – indeed, in its own words, it is “a distinctly Christian university” (here, page 2). It takes “the Bible as the divinely inspired, authoritative guide for personal and community life” (here, page 1) and seeks“to develop godly Christian leaders”.
Prospective TWU students must sign a ‘Community Covenant’. That Covenant requires them to commit to “reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage” and abstain from“sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” (here, page 3). This rule applies both on and off campus(the Abstinence Rule, see paras  and ).
The Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) refused to approve TWU’s faculty of Law because of the Abstinence Rule (I will call this the Decision). The question before the Supreme Court of Canada was whether this was lawful. The issue in Law Society of Upper Canada dealt with a similar decision of the Law Society of another province(Ontario)to approve the TWU law school. Continue reading
R (Parkinson) v. HM Senior Coroner for Kent and Others – read judgment
If anyone had the lingering hope that the door to argue “system failure” in any but the most exceptional case of medical negligence remained ajar after the decision of the Grand Chamber in Lopes de Sousa, then the recent Divisional Court decision in Parkinson shows the door has been well and truly slammed shut.
On 9th January 2011 Mrs Kathleen Parkinson died at the A & E Department of Darent Valley Hospital. She was aged 91 and dying. She had been taken to hospital by her son. On arrival in A & E she was assessed by a nurse and then by a Dr Hijazi. Dr Hijazi formed the view that she was dying, that there was no useful treatment that could be given her, and that as she was in the last moments of life, doing anything would not have been beneficial to her. Her son who, wanted her to be treated, became aggressive and eventually attempted to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation although advised against this by A and E staff. Mrs Parkinson deteriorated rapidly and died soon after arriving.
An inquest was convened and although Article 2 was kept under review throughout the inquest, the Coroner determined that it was not an Article 2 inquest. He rejected the submission that he ought to enter a verdict of gross negligence manslaughter and found that Mrs Parkinson died of natural causes and that any additional treatment that could have been provided to her in the short time she was at the Darent Valley Hospital would have been ineffective given the advanced stage of dying she was in. He refused the request to provide a report on the prevention of future deaths under paragraph 7, Schedule 5 of the Coroners’ Justice Act 2009.
R (on the application of Jollah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1260 – read judgment
The Court of Appeal has upheld an award of damages for false imprisonment in the context of immigration detention. The Court found that an unlawful curfew which required residence at a specific address between specific hours each day and which was backed by the threat of criminal sanctions and electronic tagging gave rise to the tort of false imprisonment.
Background law and facts
The claimant was released from prison in 2013 and then detained in an immigration centre. He was then released on bail which came with restrictions on where he could live. When the bail period ended, the secretary of state tried to maintain these residence restrictions. She purported to use her powers under the Immigration Act 1971 Schedule 3 Paragraph 2(5) to impose a curfew on the claimant which required him to stay at his home address between 11pm and 7am every day. The claimant was fitted with an electronic tag and told that he would face a fine or imprisonment if a court found that he did not comply with the terms of the curfew. This curfew was in place for two and a half years, from February 2014 until July 2016. Continue reading
Michael Rhimes is the fourth référendaire to Judge Vajda at the Court of Justice of the European Union. He was not involved in the Coman case. This blog post is written in a purely personal capacity and reflects only the author’s views.
I have three points on the judgment, which is summarised in part 1.
1. A narrow judgment: A free movement case, not a gay marriage one.
The judgment is a narrow one. On a basic level, for the “Coman” rule to be engaged, a number of conditions must be satisfied:
- At least one of the parties to the marriage must be a Union national;
- One of the Union nationals in question must have exercised their free movement rights (otherwise Article 21 TFEU will not be engaged, see C-434/09 McCarthy, paras 49 to 55)
- The couple must be married in a Member State that solemnises same-sex marriage.
In addition, the reasoning of the Court focuses on the right to free movement in Article 21 TFEU. The Coman judgment is not one that is predicated upon the growing recognition of same-sex marriage within the EU (on this, see my third comment, and para 56 to 58 of the Opinion) or, indeed, on fundamental rights (on this, see my second comment). Member States have to recognise the third country same-sex spouse of a Union citizen, but only so that Union citizen may freely exercise their free movement rights. Continue reading
This week the US Supreme Court handed down judgment in Masterpiece Cakeshop et al v Colorado Civil Rights Commission et al. This is a decision which is of interest in the UK for its factual similarity with the case of Lee v Ashers Baking Company, otherwise colloquially known as the “gay cake” case which is currently being considered by the UK Supreme Court (and which has been discussed previously on this blog).
In both cases Christian bakery owners refused to create certain cakes for customers on the basis that it would contravene their religious objection to gay marriage. The judgments in Masterpiece may foreshadow some of the arguments to be discussed in the upcoming UK decision.
In this case, the US Supreme Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to approach the matter in accordance with its obligation of religious neutrality. The baker’s appeal was therefore upheld — but only on technical grounds.
The owner of Masterpiece, Jack Phillips, refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony between two of his potential customers, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins. He did, however, say that he would be prepared to make birthday cakes or other products. His stated reason for refusing to make a wedding cake was that to do so would have been a personal endorsement and participation in a ceremony and relationship which contravened his deep and sincerely held religious beliefs.
Coman and others, Case C‑673/16, 5 June 2018 – read judgment
Can the term “spouse” in Article 2(2)(a) of the Citizenship Directive (Directive) refer to a spouse of the same sex as the other party to the marriage (same-sex spouse)?
This (fairly dry) question was at the heart of the Coman case. Of course, as the Advocate General recognised in his Opinion, para. 2 it touched on other (more juicy) questions of dignity and the diverging understandings of marriage in the 28 Member States.
In this post I will present the facts and reasoning in the judgment. My following post will offer three comments on it.
Mr Coman, a dual national of Romania and the US, met Mr Clabourn Hamilton, a US national, in New York in 2002. They married in Brussels (Belgium) in 2010. In 2012, Mr Clabourn Hamilton asked the Romanian authorities to provide him with the documents to allow him to stay in Romania, with Mr Coman, as his spouse, for longer than three months.
The request was denied. Continue reading
The second part of this guest contribution argues that it is time to consider seriously the case for granting legal personhood to certain classes of sentient animals. Part I can be found here.
On December 26, 2017, the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by the Non-Human Rights Project (NhRP) – which I introduced in an earlier post – on behalf of three elephants that the NhRP argued are illegally confined in Goshen, Connecticut. The issue, similarly to previous cases involving four chimpanzees, was whether the court should grant the petition for a writ of habeas corpus because the elephants are ‘persons’ entitled to liberty and equality. The court dismissed the argument and held that the ‘petition is wholly frivolous on its face.’
One of the things that is implied in the refusal to grant personhood to non-human animals, in my view, is the strong aversion to the notion that one day a human being may find his or rights trumped by those of a non-human animal.
In my earlier post, I argued that we are also animals, but different – and by this I further elaborated that we are different insofar as we have disavowed our animal nature in order to properly construct and enter the socio-symbolic order and human culture – through what, for example, Freud called a process of ‘organic repression’ in Civilization and Its Discontents, or what Joanne Faulkner has described as ‘an abandonment of the animal within.’
By no means is this meant to be construed as a bad thing – it is who we are – but being different does not necessarily always mean better. To argue that human beings are better would be to ignore the ways in which other animals are unique in their own way.