Kopyto returns to Osgoode Hall on Tuesday May 29th and Thursday May 31st, 2012 (9:30 a.m.) as Big Law bares its fangs. Red in tooth and claw, its agenda is now openly hostile.
Pretence of Fairness is Shredding
The Blight Panel’s pretence of fairness is shredding. Earlier in the proceeding, an appearance of fairness was critical for Blight. She was chosen as the gatekeeper for Kopyto’s grandparenting application to continue working as a paralegal because of her appearance of disinterest. After all, she was not a Bencher and therefore not a part of the in-crowd that usually does Big Law’s dirty work. Her appearance of distance gave her a degree of credibility that Harry’s two previous good character Panels lacked. Those two Panels were dismissed or resigned. Blight was summoned to finish the job because her hands were not as bloodied by a lengthy history of being a henchman for the Law Society’s bidding (although she had shown her true colours as an advocate for the financial interests of lawyers in other Law Society discipline proceedings).
Blight appeared at first to sport a cloak of fairness needed to create an illusion that the outcome of Kopyto’s good character hearing was not predetermined. You could see it in the way she deflected the prosecution’s demand to saddle Kopyto with an award of thousands of dollars of costs against him as a result of the Blight Panel’s dismissal of various motions he had brought. The Panel refused every one of the several procedural motions Kopyto brought to even the playing field in his battle with the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). However, Blight backed off awarding costs against Kopyto (at least so far) because it would have undermined her appearance of neutrality. Slick and savvy, or what?
A major costs award against Kopyto at an early stage of the hearings would have revealed too soon Blight’s slavish loyalty to Big Law documented in at least some of her previous rulings as a Law Society adjudicator. She could not go there without losing her halo. The prosecutors demurred. They know that preserving Blight’s image of fairness would ultimately be to their benefit.
But now, things have changed. During the last two days of hearings (April 9th and 11th, 2012) Blight’s tightened the noose around Harry’s professional neck. How you ask… read on:
Firstly, she scheduled 19 hearing days this year, four in July and seven in September alone. In doing so, she was finally conceding to the prosecution’s insistent demands to push Harry through the grinder full speed ahead. After all, isn’t Harry obviously guilty and therefore deserves expulsion sooner rather than later from the ranks of the morally worthy?
On top of that, she warned Kopyto that the Panel would judge his character on any evidence that they might hear whether or not it is part of the prosecution’s charges or documented in its Investigation Report. How can anyone defend themselves if the charges are not clearly specified and one is not given adequate notice of the case to be met?
Kopyto Asks Blight to Resign in Blow-up
The LSUC hearing on April 9th culminated in a loud and hostile exchange. Blight accused Kopyto of ignoring her direction to prepare a cross-examination plan of Investigator Greenaway. She ordered him to detail areas of questioning and time estimates. She did so even though it is rare that a judge would interfere with an accused person’s style of cross-examination. Despite her offer that the Panel was trying “to help” him, and that the Panel was “signaling” a loss of patience, Kopyto asked only for their patience to afford him the right to ask his questions. If they could not afford him this basic right, Kopyto demanded that the Panel consider recusing itself (the hallmark of a good judge). The Panel, by body language which included Panel member Sikand folding his arms defiantly, ignored Kopyto’s demand. No love was lost in that exchange.
As documented in various articles on Kopyto’s blog, Blight has not hesitated to treat him shabbily in the past. In one instance, she banned Harry from calling people who attended his hearings from being called as character witnesses, on the grounds that they could be influenced by the evidence that they heard. That their testimony would be unrelated to the evidence heard seemed immaterial to Blight. Further, Blight allowed into evidence negative opinions about Harry made by judges in their written decisions without allowing Harry the right to cross-examine or otherwise challenge their views.
The prosecution is riding high. In an effort to isolate Kopyto, the LSUC recently handed down a two-month suspension to a lawyer that Harry referred many of his high court cases to. The suspension was ostensibly for breaching a prior order not to associate with Kopyto.
Blight is also under severe pressure from the LSUC brass to reign in the hearings. Prosecutor Susan Heakes, not so subtly, conveys her minders’ messages. She reminded Blight at the most recent hearings that Kopyto is the last grandparenting paralegal still to be tried. She repeated, incessantly, until her wish for multiple hearing days came true, that Kopyto “continues to practice”. She has scheduled a parade of lawyers and clients as witnesses starting with the up-coming May hearing dates now that Kopyto finished his cross-examination of Investigator Greenaway.
Harry’s Crime? Providing Access to Affordable Justice.
Kopyto ended his cross-examination of Greenaway mid-day on April 11th. Additional evidence was adduced that blew another hole in the LSUC’s efforts to picture Harry as ungovernable, deceptive and self-interested. Greenaway was already discredited because of judicial denunciation for participating in an abusive and morally reprehensible unconstitutional police raid that breached the privacy rights of hundreds of participants at a Toronto lesbian social gathering. This happened when he was a Toronto police officer in the early 2000’s before joining the LSUC. (One wonders why the Law Society would hire such people of bad character to work as investigators?) Kopyto produced evidence to Greenaway of a letter written by Harry to a high court judge in his own name inconsistent with Greenaway’s theory that Harry deceitfully misrepresented his involvement in such cases. Greenaway, once again, was left speechless as his orchestrated spin on Kopyto slid another notch into unbelievability.
The clients scheduled to testify against Harry are casualties of the same legal system that the LSUC defends uncritically. In fact, Ontario’s Legal Aid Plan, once considered world-class, was throttled to death under LSUC auspices. Harry is a beacon for many people seeking legal redress against unfavourable odds, often with little or no money to afford a $500.00/hour legal fee. Harry offers such clients access to justice which they would otherwise be unable to afford. Out of hundreds of clients, a handful of these victims of an unaffordable judicial system, who were already stressed beyond endurance, have turned against Harry. Harry raised their hopes for justice but he was not able to fulfill their aspirations. These witnesses deserve our sympathy even as the Law Society exploits their misunderstandings and misperceptions to build a false case against Kopyto.
The other witnesses that the LSUC intends to call in subsequent hearing dates are lawyers who will identify Harry Kopyto as acting for clients who opposed their own clients. Harry had already admitted engaging in unlawful practice (UAP) by helping clients who had no affordable alternative to access the judicial system. Is this evidence of poor character? Harry has chosen to be governed by real justice, not by the unconstitutional rules of an expansionist monopoly profession that has just colonized its paralegal competitors, resulting in a denial of competitive legal fees and the right of the public to choose its legal representatives. How could being governed by the fundamental constitutional right of affordable access to the courts rather then by the price-fixing by-laws of the LSUC, be evidence of ungovernability? It is Big Law, not Harry, who stands morally condemned by a grand deceit that ignores judicial rights in favour of financial self-interest.
For many years since the early 1990s, the LSUC has turned a blind eye to Harry’s unauthorized practice, which was always known to it, by refusing to prosecute him. It is a little late in the day for the LSUC to now change its tune and condemn his character for doing what it tolerated and accepted through its own inaction over the years. The LSUC knew that any prosecution of Harry would reveal their hostility to poor people being able to have their day in court and give him a platform. Now, they sing a different tune.
Resistance is in the Air
Two days of hearings in each of May and June 2012 have been scheduled for the LSUC’s parade of former clients who the LSUC expects to point to Harry as the cause of their misfortunes. They represent a tiny percentage of all those Harry has tried to help or dealt with professionally. But it is their evidence that the LSUC will now use to weave a noose around Harry’s professional future.
Resistance is in the air. In a world torn by social as well as judicial injustice, the Law Society’s move to colonize the paralegal profession is part of the monopolization process that is visible in the rest of our economy. This was emphasized in the comments of retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie who last month condemned the “corporatization of the country’s major law firms” focused on serving Big Business clients.
Harry’s struggle questions and challenges the price-fixing monopoly which restricts affordable access to courts in breach of the LSUC’s own statutory mandate to promote such access.
The next stage of Harry’s struggle will unfold at his good character hearings on Tuesday May 29th and Thursday May 31st in the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, 9:30 a.m. each day.
The two LSUC lawyers prosecuting Kopyto are attempting to call selective evidence to support their spin. Disappointed and disaffected people sometimes turn on those most proximate and visible to them, even those who try to help. The former clients of Harry that they will call as witnesses should be assured that their encounter with the legal system’s uncaring attitude and not Harry has caused their misfortune. Their real enemy is a legal system run by the rich for the rich. Their evidence, seen in context, should expose that system itself and its Law Society underlings as the real betrayers of the public interest.
To resonate, Harry’s battle for real justice needs public support. It needs the presence of the public as witnesses. It needs fresh air in the dusty corridors of Osgoode Hall. It needs those who judge Harry to be aware that his battle is part of a broader battle, that his cause is also our cause and that a judicial system that condemns someone who tries to help those who cannot afford justice and rewards someone who stands by without offering to help, stiff-lipped and sanctimonious, is profoundly dysfunctional.
Be there on Tuesday May 29th and Thursday May 31st. Your presence as overseers of the Panel’s deliberations is essential to ensure that Harry has a fighting chance.
Harry Kopyto Defence Committee