LSUC Not Wild About Harry
The June 19, 2012 Law Society (LSUC) hearing into Harry Kopyto’s character marked a turning point. It finally ripped off the mask of neutrality worn by the Panel so far. The Panel is no longer sitting in the stands cheering the LSUC prosecutors from the sidelines. It has now climbed into the arena of conflict in which the prize is Kopyto’s right to continue to work as a legal advocate. It has joined the battle. And, to no one’s surprise, it is not wild about Harry.
It is now directing the prosecutor’s attack on Harry’s character, albeit by nearly imperceptible signals. And the prosecution is now showing a confident bounce in its step as its efforts to strip Kopyto of his right to a fair hearing bear fruit.
Some of the signs of the new paradigm are subtle. Kopyto is admonished by Panel Chair Margot Blight for raising his voice, although the witness testifying against him on June 19th at the hearing engages in multiple outbursts, one of them a lengthy, angry, ear-shattering outburst, completely irrelevant, which the Panel makes no efforts to restrain. Panel Chair Margot Blight telegraphs her empathy to the witness who complains to her about harm done to his reputation by the Harry Kopyto Defence Committee in its last blog article. She assures him that her final decision on Harry Kopyto’s conduct will be made public thereby attempting to assuage his concerns by hinting to him that it will not be in Harry’s favour.
Blight no longer pretends to consult her two co-panelists. She makes decisions in the name of the Panel without even pretending to confer with them. And these two other members scarcely make any notes of the evidence, leaving Blight in control of the only written record that the Panel’s final decision will be based on. She denies Harry the right to introduce similar fact evidence of the witness’s unfounded complaints against other lawyers. She attempts to block his cross-examination of the witness on evidence elicited from other witnesses as part of his cross-examination of them, a bizarre notion in law that she reluctantly abandoned―under Kopyto’s protests.
Blight Makes Mockery of Fair Hearing
There are more ominous signs of the Panel’s “shock and awe” campaign against Harry. For the first time, Blight refuses to allow him to finish his cross-examination of a witness, which would require the witness to return on the next hearing date. This is a denial of Harry’s fundamental right to test the evidence against him. She has her excuses for doing so. She says there are no credibility issues related to this witness, when there clearly are, including the terms of his retainer. She blocks his questions to establish a pattern of self-destructive conduct. She disallows questions regarding the witness’s state of mind saying his opinions don’t matter. When rephrased in terms of factual evidence, she still disallows them.
She says that Kopyto has not identified new areas for cross-examination of the witness although he had not completed asking questions about the ones he already started covering in his examination. She accuses Kopyto of repeating questions, which happened at most twice or three times during a full day of hearings that lasted until 5:30 p.m.—something that is not the worst crime in the world. She accuses Kopyto of failing to use a half day for cross-examining the witness that was offered on the last hearing date when he gave his evidence-in-chief, conveniently forgetting that Harry objected to proceeding without disclosure that she had ordered the witness to make on that day. This was disclosure that she ordered the witness to make which Harry needed to cross-examine him effectively. And she completely ignored Harry’s plea that there was a massive wastage of time by the witness whose rambling evidence was predominantly unresponsive and repetitive to the point that Blight herself had to refocus his attention, at Kopyto’s request, to his questions on several occasions.
Blight Polished to a High Sheen
Blight is subtle; in fact, polished to a high sheen. She knows she can’t direct Harry’s prosecution openly as her pretensions to neutrality would leave her halo of objectivity askew. But she doesn’t need to. The ties that bind her to the prosecution are not in the nature of a handshake. The ties are more in the nature of a wink. But it is not even a wink. She and the LSUC prosecutors have the same loyalties. They just know what their different roles are. They know what they have to do. And they are doing it.
Yet it is still fascinating to watch them. The Law Society is a well-oiled machine that produces poor character rulings just like a factory produces widgets. Everybody knows. Yet no one tells. We are dealing with highly sophisticated elite lawyers for whom hints and innuendos are all that is needed to grind those who don’t fit into their cookie-cutter molds into dust. This is the crème de la crème of the legal elite, paid well for their highly specialized skills. They leave no tracks and can convince you that black is white and good is bad if that is their understood orders. They confer by osmosis, not conspiracy. Yet Kopyto stands alone against them. He speaks truth to power. He exposes the fact that the Emperor has no clothes.
Blight Sends Smoke Signals to the Prosecution
One example will suffice. Of the 27 page indictment against Kopyto set out in the Investigation Report, little remains that can be considered valid by an objective observer after close to 40 days of deliberations before three Panels. The prosecution has engaged in the tired, old tactics of throwing every piece of dirt that they could dig up against Harry, hoping that some of it would stick. But the prosecution has faired poorly as reported in previous blog articles. On top of this, there is concern that most of the evidence has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of good character which involves truthfulness, empathy and moral integrity. There are alleged poor services issues. There are issues of Harry’s public criticism of the legal system, of the legal establishment, of the Law Society itself and of his denial of the validity of his disbarment. This last issue really burns them.
The hearings are stretching into their third year. The powers that be in the Law Society have made it clear through repeated exhortations from the prosecution that it was time to transform the rush to justice in Kopyto’s case into a stampede. It was time to refocus. And it was time to start drawing the curtain for the final act. With that background, Blight, as previously reported in this blog, ended a recent hearing last month with some unsolicited advice. She told Harry that the Panel wanted to “help him”. She told him that the Panel’s concern was focused on evidence that Kopyto had engaged in unauthorized practice and also on his continued association with a lawyer, Joseph Markin, who represented many of his clients in court appearances in which Kopyto is not allowed to appear as a paralegal, and who was ordered not to associate with Harry several years ago. Yes, the Law Society has conferred upon itself the right to dictate to lawyers with whom lawyers can associate. It’s as if the medical establishment were to forbid the association of physicians with chiropractors upon pain of penalty.
However, the LSUC’s focus on these issues raised by Blight has not been a mystery. It had been apparent for several months from the Law Society’s opening statement, in which it was trying to picture Harry as “ungovernable” for violating these very rules and the non-association order. However, by putting the Panel’s unsolicited views on the record emphatically when she did, Blight not so subtly telegraphed to the prosecution which direction it should take in its prosecution of Harry and to tell it that this was all the evidence that the Panel needed. By repeating this message at a strategic point in the hearings after the weak evidence of the first witness called to testify against him from outside the LSUC ranks, it was the prosecution and not Harry who the Panel was “helping”. She was “signaling” (a favorite word of Margot Blight) what needed to be done by them.
No Need for a Weather Vane
The prosecutors did not need a weather vane to know which way the wind was blowing. Within days, the prosecution reconfigured their entire strategy. All of a sudden, abandoning key parts of their previous positions, they wrote Harry they would call a new witness not previously listed in their briefs against Harry: Joseph Markin. And within days, the prosecution prepared briefs of documents that Harry allegedly prepared and asked him to admit that he engaged in unauthorized practice. So anxious were they to comply with Blight’s prodding that they even offered to drop allegations against Harry that until then were of central concern to them, if he would only admit his authorship of these documents. These allegations they are prepared to now drop included that he misrepresented himself as being a lawyer to his clients. Another allegation that they include for dropping is that there were serious concerns with respect to the quality of his services that he was rendering to his clients. They even are prepared to concede that many of the clients who came to Harry may well have had no choice but to seek his assistance because they could not afford lawyer’s fees and would otherwise be unrepresented. They also agreed as an additional trade-off, to abandon calling several lawyers that Harry had dealt with as witnesses, if he would only admit preparing the documents in the cases that he had with them. Holy cow! They were trimming the fat after having been directed by Blight where the meat of the case against Harry lay. Fascinating to watch the smoke signals between two puppets controlled by strings held in one hand behind the curtains.
Of special interest is how Blight triages the prosecutors’ suggestions. The Society objected to evidence of the witness’s medical history. Blight redirected them to withdraw their objection stating his “vulnerability” could be relevant. You could almost see her writing the paragraph in her decision finding that Harry exploited a vulnerable” client. And when the prosecutors raised the issue that the blog articles breached her order excluding witnesses from the hearing room by reporting on the evidence, she cooled their ardour to avoid giving the appearance of circumscribing Harry’s freedom of expression which would be disastrous to her image. They backed off. Such sensitivity!
Law Society Now Leads Trump
Fast forward. There is now a new sprightly spring in the Law Society prosecution’s footsteps as they march into the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall from their ensconced rabbit-holes elsewhere in Osgoode Hall’s recessed enclaves. The newly oiled gears of the prosecutors are now engaged fully in rhythm with the Panel’s agenda. The final shape of the decision that will grind Kopyto’s future professional status through these meshing gears leaving his professional future bloodied has now gelled.
The decision to lead trump reflects the weak hand that the Law Society holds in relying on alleged poor service and dishonesty allegations against Harry. The Law Society investigator, Adrian Greenaway, blew everybody away when he could not explain why Kopyto never had the $150,000 in legal fees that he allegedly defrauded from the Ontario Legal Aid Plan deducted from outstanding payments owed to him. Another witness, Theresa McLean, a lawyer sued by one of Harry’s clients, had no criticism and even acknowledged his professional conduct throughout the 10-year period during which, to her knowledge, he pursued a Superior Court claim against her. To everyone’s astonishment and to the extreme embarrassment of the LSUC, McLean failed to report his unauthorized practice known to her for those 10 years (since a telephone conversation she had with him in 2003) because she claimed she was not aware of the Law Society’s Rule requiring her to do so!
Cuts Off Nose to Spite Face
But it was not until the sad and tragic testimony of Harry’s former client given during the June 19, 2012 hearing that the full depravity of the LSUC’s conduct became apparent. The witness is treated by them like collateral damage. Described as an intelligent and articulate individual by LSUC counsel, this witness described how an error by Harry’s secretary―who signed a factum in his court case mistakenly believing she had his authority to do so―caused the witness to become fixated on the error and eventually withdrawing this document. This document was critical to his court case and he had no disagreement with its contents. The witness cut off his nose to spite his face. He abandoned Harry’s efforts to help him oppose two motions to dismiss his claim because of his fixation on the error, which he could easily have remedied (and was advised to do so by Harry) by refiling it with his own signature. Instead, he turned on Harry while letting his 18.5 million dollar lawsuit be dismissed against the advice of various judges which he ignored directing him to defend his claim.
His fixation, anguish and anxiety were displayed with emotional lability, including an outburst against an article about his testimony at the last hearing that appeared in this blog. His distressing state of mind, which was heart-breaking to witness, underscored how low the Law Society had sunk to put him on the stand at a public hearing. The real tragedy, however, was how the legal profession failed him in his search for justice.
Witness’s Evidence Confirms Harry’s Good Character
His evidence, nonetheless confirmed the good quality of Harry’s legal work on the factum, that Harry never abandoned him, and that Harry was prepared to absorb all the legal fees and disbursements of defending the motions including supplying a counsel with approximately 35 years experience to represent him in court for a full fee in total of only $2,000 inclusive of disbursements. The Law Society investigator who interviewed him was clearly flabbergasted by this fact.
After leaving Harry, this witness remained self-represented, being unable to afford a $15,000 retainer requested of him by another lawyer he consulted. The way the Law Society exploited such a confused witness whose calculus was clearly fuzzy was unforgivable.
This witness confirmed important elements of Harry’s defence against allegations of unauthorized practice against him. Harry argues that his engagement in high court cases involves clients who would otherwise be unrepresented because of financial barriers. He argues that the constitutional principle of access to justice trumped the application of the Law Society’s unauthorized practice by-law prohibiting his involvement in the cases it has cited against him. The exclusion of poor people from exercising equal access to the courts causes profound harm both to their integrity as persons unable to exercise their legal rights as well as to the integrity of the judicial system as a whole. Kopyto willingly risks his career to ensure that his clients are not demeaned by their inability to pay lawyers fees they cannot afford, well over $43,000 which is the average cost of a Superior Court trial in Ontario. Ironically, it is Harry, and not the Law Society, who defends the integrity of the legal system by making it accessible to persons who cannot afford the fees of a profession that has a monopoly over the provision of judicial access. Yet this effort to make the system work is the critical evidence confirming Harry’s poor character!
Fight Far From Over
Fate has placed Harry in the guts of a system that denies the very humanity that motivates him, the empathy that motivates him, the compassion that motivates him, the thirst for equality that burns in his heart and his sense of pride, honour and dignity as an advocate. Justice has no price for Harry. When injustice became law, for Harry―even at the cost of not being licensed―disobedience became an obligation.
The fight for real justice before the Blight Panel is far from over. As the knives are sharpened, Kopyto prepares a counterattack. He has filed complaints with the LSUC against LSUC investigator Adrian Greenaway, who is also a paralegal, for presumably failing to divulge to the LSUC a fierce judicial denunciation of his role in a raid against a lesbian social event where he illegally entered premises full of hundreds of semi-nude women when he was a Toronto cop before joining the LSUC. And he has filed another complaint with the LSUC, which it is attempting to ignore, against lawyer Theresa McLean who testified at his hearing that she breached LSUC rules requiring her to report unauthorized practice. He has issued subpoenas against two senior LSUC bureaucrats to expose the inner machinations of a system in which the same body unreasonably controls and influences the adjudicative, prosecutorial and investigative functions of the LSUC. He has issued subpoenas to several judges whose negative opinions of him the LSUC is relying on in judging his character. And he is preparing a motion to be brought before the Blight Panel at the conclusion of the LSUC’s evidence against him to quash any inference of poor character wrought from the LSUC’s evidence and his own admissions of unauthorized practice.
Harry is also defending a claim to be heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on July 4, 2012 at 393 University Avenue at 10:00 a.m. in which he seeks to overturn the takeover of the governance of paralegals by their lawyer competitors―and he is preparing for the next hearing date before the Blight Panel on Thursday June 28, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. (one hour later than usual) in the Museum Room, Osgoode Hall, in downtown Toronto.
LSUC Focuses on Following Blight’s Agenda
The LSUC prosecution has advised Harry they will call Joseph Markin as a witness next Thursday in accordance with Blight’s not so subtle signaling to focus attention on Harry’s association with Joseph Markin in breach of an order forbidding such association made in an effort to isolate Harry. Yet that association has been critical to giving literally dozens and dozens of clients who could not afford lawyers access to the courts over decades. In other words, the LSUC is protecting the price-fixing monopoly lawyers have that makes a mockery of justice for most Canadians. It is the LSUC’s poor character, not Harry’s, that stands to be exposed next Thursday.
Harry is the last grandparenting applicant in the mill of the Law Society’s licensing process. Dead man walking? Not quite. He has lasted this long against the LSUC’s “sturm und dang” because he has fought openly and publicly, insisting that the system abide by its pretensions of fairness and equal access to justice. The glare of public oversight has inhibited the system from crushing him before now and has sustained him for three years. The visibility of his support continues to be critical.
Be there next Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to support him. And to watch the fur fly.