High noon will come two and a half hours early on Tuesday April 6, 2010 at Osgoode Hall for Harry Kopyto. As soon as the gavel comes down at 9:30 a.m. sharp on that morning, Kopyto will face a showdown with a Law Society (LSUC) panel ruling on his professional future. For Kopyto, the fight will be over disclosure.
The LSUC is hell-bent on denying Kopyto access to the information he needs to defend himself. The LSUC is mired in secrecy. It regulates itself. It is not accountable to the public. It makes its own rules. It answers to no one, especially not to Harry Kopyto. Especially not by releasing records to him that he can use to expose its abuses.
The law on disclosure is very strict. Realizing that peoples’ livelihoods are at stake, the courts have ordered professional discipline bodies to provide all information that could possibly help in facing professional discipline charges. The threshold for entitlement to disclosure is low. Accordingly, Kopyto has the same rights to information to help his case as someone facing a criminal charge. In other words, everything the LSUC possesses that might help Harry must be produced by it.
What disclosure does Kopyto want? Disclosure of LSUC records that prove the takeover of paralegals has choked access to the courts. Disclosure of documents that expose bias and selective treatment in targeting Kopyto for professional capital punishment. Disclosure of LSUC shenanigans including using a secret tape recording of him speaking with a client ― conduct which the LSUC sanctimoniously condemns when done by lawyers. Disclosure of Panel Member Paul Dray’s correspondence with the federal Competition Act Bureau expressing its fear to Dray that placing the scope of paralegal practice in the hands of its competitors would create a conflict of interest.
The LSUC has rejected all these demands for disclosure. Harry had no choice but to bring forth the motion convoking the Panel.
Will Kopyto be granted disclosure? It won’t be easy. Big Law has nurtured a culture of concealment. What other body acting in the public interest is exempt from freedom of information law? What other similar body carefully controls and grooms its public image by hiring expensive public relations firms? The LSUC prosecutors have already accused Kopyto of seeking to breach their privacy and internal affairs with his requests for disclosure. Those with power and privilege are not inclined to share anything ― let alone information that can harm them ― with their perceived enemies. And no one is less likely to be an object of their affections then Kopyto.
Big Law’s objective is to strip Kopyto of his status as a grandfathered paralegal because of lack of “good character”. The LSUC has made little progress towards that goal in the three days of hearings held so far. Instead, Kopyto has exposed the three-person panel’s bias, their reckless disregard of his legal rights and their hostility towards him. They hit him with paying costs without giving him a chance to make submissions on the issue. They circled their wagons around biased Panel member Paul Dray by unlawfully shielding him from having to answer Kopyto’s charge that he was in a conflict of interest. They didn’t even blush when they failed to address Kopyto’s charge that Dray should not be allowed to decide whether to disclose his own correspondence.
Despite palpable hostility, Kopyto hasn’t given an inch. Kopyto’s supporters attended all the hearings. In a recent article, the Law Times hailed him as a legal provocateur leading the charge against the takeover of paralegals by the Law Society. The Panel wants to draw the curtain down. They have set aside two days, April 6th and 7th for Kopyto to bring all his disclosure and scheduling issues forward. The path has been cleared for Kopyto’s long march to the gallows for his professional hanging.
The LSUC is motivated by animosity against an articulate opponent who has exposed the raw nerves of the legal establishment over 36 years. They do not want to give Kopyto evidence that will show the paralegal takeover has restricted access to justice, has made it less affordable, has decimated their more affordable competition and has accelerated over-crowding in the courts. They want to finally swat Kopyto, a long time gadfly of the legal system, and they have blood in their eyes.
But Kopyto is not going away quietly. The grey beards ensconced behind the massive stone walls of Osgoode Hall are in for a battle between unchecked power and elementary social justice.
With solidarity, we can win. All supporters are called to attend this critical hearing on Tuesday April 6, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday April 7, 2010 at Osgoode Hall’s Museum Room (aptly named for the dinosaurs who wobble though its corridors). See you there!