#MeToo pushing accountability for sexual assault outside the courtroom

March 13, 2018
Article Source
Canadian Lawyer Magazine

Redress for victims of sexual assault is increasingly being sought outside the legal system, which raises challenges for lawyers representing the accused and ethical questions for journalists covering accusations that haven't been proven in court, says litigator Jonathan Lisus.

Lisus, who briefly represented former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown in his lawsuit against CTV, was speaking March 8 on International Women's Day at a University of Toronto Law School panel about the #MeToo movement.

The panel explored the idea that the emotional weight of what can be an adversarial system of justice makes victims look for other avenues to tell their story.

Lisus briefly represented former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown in his libel suit against CTV after investigative reporter Glen McGregor broke the story that two women, one a former staffer, were accusing Brown of sexual misconduct.

Brown quickly resigned after an impromptu press conference in January where he denied the allegations against him. McGregor was investigating the allegations against Brown and contacted his staff for comment, saying they were airing the claims that evening.

"I don't want to talk about any particular case and I am not representing Mr. Brown anymore on the CTV issue," says Lisus, a partner at Lax O'Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP in Toronto, who spoke to Legal Feeds after the event. "However, I think that where the media has been working on a story that they know will be explosive and have very significant consequences, the obligations of responsible journalism compel them to give people the opportunity to comment fairly and I think there are cases where that hasn't happened."

Critics of the #MeToo movement have complained that the way social media spreads word of accusations causes irreparable harm to the lives and careers of the accused before they have a chance to defend themselves or argue their case in court.

"There is no question that the #MeToo movement is a great leveller; it's also very, very powerful. I think we all have to, at the same time, remind ourselves that there are standards for responsible journalism," said Lisus.

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