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Distinguished Visitor invites legal community to learn from a disability perspective

Professor David Lepofsky to discuss the lawyer’s ethical duty to engage in social justice advocacy

December 15, 2023 — 

The Faculty of Law’s long-running Distinguished Visitors Lecture Series kick-starts the winter term on January 9th, the second full day of classes, with a noon-hour visit from Professor David Lepofsky. Currently serving as an adjunct research professor at the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Law, the internationally-recognized disability rights advocate will speak on “The Lawyer’s Ethical Duty to Engage in Social Justice Advocacy – Learning from a Disability Perspective.”

Lepofsky holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (Honours) from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master of Laws from Harvard, and has received Honorary Doctorates in Law from Queen’s, University of Western Ontario, and Brock University. He is a member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, and has been inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame.

Professor David Lepofsky headshot. A bald older gentleman in a navy blue suit, striped blue tie and white shirt with Order of Canada pins on the lapel

Professor David Lepofsky visits Robson Hall Jan. 9.

For many years, Professor Lepofsky worked for both the Civil and Criminal Crown Law Offices of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. Prior to his current role at Western, he served from 2016 to June 2023 as a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, and was a part-time member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law since 1991, teaching an advanced constitutional law seminar on freedom of expression and press. He has lectured widely on various aspects of constitutional and administrative law, human rights, disability rights and other topics across Canada, as well as in the U.S., Israel, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and New Zealand.

Since the late 1970s, he has been active in a volunteer capacity, advocating for new laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada. In 1980, he appeared before the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for an amendment to the proposed Charter of Rights, to guarantee equality rights to persons with disabilities. The efforts of a great many combined to lead Parliament to pass the disability amendment to the Charter. He has undertaken volunteer advocacy efforts both nationally and internationally in support of equal rights for people with disabilities.

Lepofsky is the author of the book Open Justice – the Constitutional Right to Attend and Speak About Criminal Proceedings in Canada, published by Butterworth & Co, and he is the author or co-author of over 30 law journal articles or book chapters on topics including constitutional law, criminal law, administrative law, human rights, and the rights of persons with disabilities. His publications have been cited with approval in several decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as by trial and appeal courts across Canada.

While visiting Robson Hall, Lepofsky plans to meet with professors and administrators to discuss strategies for expanding disability content in the law school curriculum – the topic of his recently published article in the Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice, People with Disabilities Need Lawyers Too! A Ready-To-Use Plan for Law Schools to Educate Law Students to Effectively Serve the Legal Needs of Clients with Disabilities as Well as Clients Without Disabilities.” In that article, Lepofsky argues that Canada’s legal profession is not sufficiently equipped to meet the legal needs of clients with disabilities, and provides a roadmap for law schools to work towards expanding their respective disability curriculae.

“Today’s law students want to learn how to serve the legal needs of all clients, including those with a disability, a vulnerable minority whom the legal profession has too often underserved,” said Lepofsky. “Law students also welcome the chance to learn how to use their talents to systematically tear down the many accessibility barriers that impede millions of people in Canada who have a disability.”

The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law currently offers a course on Law and Disability taught by Professor Darcy MacPherson and Assistant Professor Brandon Trask in the 2023 Fall term. In the 2024 Winter Term, Trask will be teaching Mental Heath Law. Both professors recently issued a call for submissions for a Manitoba Law Journal special edition on Disability and the Law (Volume 47, Issue 2) which is expected to be published in full early in 2024.

At the moment, law students’ exposure to working with clients with disabilities comes from the mandatory upper-year course “Legal Profession and Professional Responsibility,” and from working in the clinics such as the University of Manitoba Community Law Centre, the Legal Help Centre and the L. Kerry Vickar Business Law Clinic where they may encounter clients with disabilities, but Lepofsky is concerned that law schools should incorporate more knowledge, awareness and experience throughout its curriculum.

The Distinguished Visitors Lecture Series welcomes David Lepofsky to Robson Hall on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 at 12pm in the Harry Walsh Moot Courtroom (Side B).

ALS interpreters will be in attendance. This event will be recorded.

Professor Lepofsky spoke at Robson Hall previously in 2018. View his lecture on the Robson Hall Youtube Channel.


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