Round three: Big Law versus Harry Kopyto takes place ― no holds barred ― bright and early Wednesday February 17, 2010 at Osgoode Hall downtown Toronto

When the bell rings, Kopyto will be facing professional capital punishment. Two tag-teamed Law Society (LSUC) prosecutors are looking to land a knockout blow. After a 35 year career exposing the raw nerves of a legal system that serves the rich and powerful, Kopyto is facing the fight of his life.

Kopyto wants a fair contest. He was forced into the ring after the LSUC legal elite took control over Ontario’s paralegals two years ago. It established its private monopoly of a public function ― legal representation ― after a bloody 20 year turf war. Although they are “members” of the LSUC, unlike lawyers, paralegals have no right to vote to elect their benchers. Their scope of practice has been cut to the bone. They are governed by an antagonistic clique of lawyers with adverse interests who treat them like serfs on a newly annexed fiefdom. And now, those who don’t fit their cookie-cutter mold are being made to walk the plank.

Kopyto has worked as a paralegal for 20 years without the legal system failing apart. But now, to be grandfathered, he must prove his “good character”.

Kopyto is challenging the legality of the LSUC’s takeover. He wants LSUC documents that he thinks will prove the paralegal takeover has driven the cost of justice up. He wants the evidence that the LSUC relied on in rejecting two independent public inquiries that recommended against the takeover on grounds that it would choke access to justice. He wants to find out why the LSUC cut paralegals out of family courts when thousands of women entangled in their complex rules can’t afford lawyers. He also wants to know why the LSUC, which hypocritically champions ethical conduct, refuses to admit it counseled a client to secretly tape record Kopyto to get evidence to charge a lawyer for associating with him.

But the overseers of the Law Society have ordered it to zip its lips. It has refused to release any documents except what it intends to use to smear him. It accuses him of invading its privacy by asking for full disclosure. So Kopyto has been forced to bring a motion to force it to release its records to him on February 17th.

Before that happens, Kopyto will ask the three judge panel to nullify the LSUC’s disclosure rules. One rule allows the LSUC to give only 10 days notice of its evidence and documents before a hearing. Another rule forces paralegals to produce all their documents two months after receiving notice that they will be challenged. This could mean that they have to set out their defence before they even know the case they have to meet. How’s that for an even playing field?

Kopyto wants a fair hearing with fair rules. He has battled the scions of the LSUC before, winning cases that established the right of lawyers to advertise and that enlarged lawyers’ access to the media about their own cases.

In the 1980s, Kopyto got everyone’s attention with a monumental victory that abolished “scandalizing the Court” law and established broad freedom to criticize the courts. More recently, he succeeded in having a Toronto Family Court Judge who falsified transcripts found guilty of judicial misconduct. He is not well loved by those who now sit in judgment of him and who would not shed too many tears to see him fight his last round.

The legal system needs a fearless fighter like Harry Kopyto.

The system needs many more Harry Kopytos. Show your solidarity by supporting him on February 17th at 9:30 a.m. at Osgoode Hall. He stands up for our rights. We should stand up for his.

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