LAW SOCIETY PANEL DUCKS ISSUE OF ITS INDEPENDENCE
Will the courts force the Law Society to rule on Harry Kopyto’s challenge to the Law Society’s takeover of the paralegal profession? That question will be answered by three judges in Courtroom 3 at Osgoode Hall at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday October 11, 2011.
Harry’s appearance before the Divisional Court comes at a turning point in the Law Society’s campaign to shut down his paralegal practice. His constitutional challenge to the takeover came at the conclusion of 20 days of motions before three different Law Society hearing panels over a two-year period. Kopyto had to fight tooth and nail to force the Law Society to disgorge a mountain of dossiers they maintained on his legal activities.
But the Law Society Panel, headed by Margot Blight and appointed by lawyers, refused to rule on his constitutional challenge to their authority to rule on his good character citing “institutional incompetence” as the reason. Instead, the Panel set several days for the hearing of evidence to establish Kopyto’s lack of good character which he needs to prove to continue his 22-year career as a paralegal. Thus, Kopyto’s move to the Divisional Court’s Courtroom 3 in the austere West Wing of Osgoode Hall from the Law Society’s cloistered nest in the East Wing of the building comes at a critical time in his battle to stop lawyers from neutering their rival paralegal competitors.
LAWYERS’ MONOPOLY IMPEDES ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Will justice be done in the Divisional Court whose judges are not known to be fans of Harry Kopyto, a gadfly and thorn in the side of the judicial system for 36 years? Certainly, Blight’s refusal to rule on Harry’s constitutional challenge to the independence of her Panel is understandable. She clearly would not relish becoming known as the gravedigger of the paralegal takeover among the backroom spooks who run the Law Society to whom she has strong connections.
Blight knows that Kopyto’s challenge of the takeover is difficult to refute. Kopyto’s argument is simple and compelling. Lawyers and paralegals are competitors in the legal services market. This helps keep the price of legal services lower and more affordable. But the takeover law gave lawyers the right to govern their paralegal competitors which has resulted in severe amputation of the legal services paralegals are allowed to provide to the public. The result of all this? A virtual price-fixing monopoly of the legal services market. This impedes the public interest and access to justice which is a constitutional right. Therefore, the takeover law is constitutionally defective, should be declared null and void, and Harry’s good character hearing stopped.
MARGOT BLIGHT’S REASONING IS SHAKY
The Law Society prosecutors did not even want Harry to argue this motion before the Law Society Hearing Panel and brought their own motion arguing that this was a political issue beyond the scope of the Blight Panel. Blight however agreed that the independence of the Panel, appointed by lawyers, was “implicated” by Harry’s motion…but it was just too broad an inquiry that the Panel would have to engage in. Instead, she suggested that the courts were the “appropriate” body to deal with the matter.
Blight’s reasoning is shaky. First, Harry’s personal right of access to justice was never an issue in his challenge so he would have no standing to raise the issue before the courts. Second, the hearings before her are still scheduled to continue on October 13, 2011, two days after his court appearance when witnesses will be called to prove his bad character. How can she proceed with the hearings when the Divisional Court may not yet have decided Harry’s motion to force the Panel to rule on its jurisdiction?
Why can’t a Law Society Panel be competent to deal with Harry’s constitutional challenge which raises issues that have already been studied to death? The Law Society has a budget of tens of millions of dollars, over 500 employees and all the records and studies addressing the merits of a paralegal takeover made over a 30-year period in its vaults. Can’t the Law Society, which is famous for the quality of its expensive vintage wines lining its wine cellar afford the resources to decide an issue that implicates the independence of the Panel by its own admission? Who is kidding whom with this disclaimer of competence?
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Harry is entitled to a good character hearing before a Panel independent of the legal profession and acting in the public interest, not in the interest of lawyers who control the Law Society by their vast majority. The question now is whether the Divisional Court will let the Law Society duck the issue thereby sealing Harry’s professional fate or will it order Blight to do her job? Which will it be?
The answer lies partially in the hands of the paying public. Harry has stick-handled the puck off home ice but he is far from home free. Big Law’s cheering section is apprehensive. They know Harry has a chance to score. Still, it’s a long shot. The Divisional Court would prefer not to blow the whistle on their home team. But their legitimacy may be more important than the results of a single game. Your presence in the judicial arena at the Divisional Court on October 11th can make a difference because the shroud of institutional process can be pierced by the light of public witnessing. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. The court must show that justice should prevail over legal trickery and sleight of hand. Accessible and affordable justice is a fundamental right in a free and democratic society. But it is something that is not handed out on a silver platter. You have to fight for it. Harry is fighting for it. Join the fight at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday October 11, 2011, in Courtroom 3 at Osgoode Hall.
We can win. See you there.