Marathon of Hearing Dates set
The Law Society Panel that will rule on Kopyto’s application to be grandparented as a paralegal is planning a marathon series of hearings this month. It set four hearing days, Wednesday July 18th and Friday July 20, 2012 next week. And the following week, Tuesday July 24th and Wednesday July 25th. Then, the Panel will take a breather for the summer and reconvene on Friday, September 7th and six additional days in that month for Kopyto to present his evidence. Additional dates have been scheduled for October and November if needed.
This maddening pace was set by the Blight Panel after being telegraphed by the prosecution that Big Law’s phantoms, scurrying in the interior recesses of Osgoode Hall’s Victorian hallways, have lost their patience. The hammer blows from building the scaffolding for Harry’s gallows, once faint, are now ever louder resonating into the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall where the hearings are taking place.
Big Law not Blowing Kisses to Kopyto
For 38 years, Kopyto has been a thorn in the side of Big Law. Harry’s record? The first gay rights case (John Damien) and winning the inclusion of gays under the protection of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The first case to rule that women can’t be fired from a job on grounds of gender. Crooked cops secretly tape-recorded and found guilty of perjury for threatening Kopyto’s client. The right of blind litigants to transcripts in Braille. Precedent-setting cases defending the rights of workers not to be fired for seeking union membership. Establishing sexual harassment and gender discrimination as a workplace hazard under the Health and Safety Act. Outing a crooked Family Court Judge found guilty of judicial misconduct for illegally editing transcripts. Winning the right to rely on human rights codes in private litigation. Establishing precedents to strengthen tenant protection legislation. Winning the right to allow private prosecution against efforts by the government to block such prosecutions. Abolishing a contempt law (scandalizing the court) in a powerful blow in favour of freedom of speech and the right to criticize the court system. Winning the largest human rights settlement—$250,000.00—in Canadian judicial history. Arguing the first gay rights case in the Supreme Court of Canada. Representing victims of security service wrongdoing before Royal Commissions and exposing their dirty tricks. Successfully getting the reinstatement of an Islamic Egyptian who was fired as a nuclear engineer after a fit of hysterical discrimination following September 11, 2001. No wonder Big Law doesn’t love Harry.
Kopyto was also central to the founding of the Law Union representing hundreds of critical lawyers in Ontario. He mobilized dozens of lawyers to freely volunteer their skills to prosecute RCMP officers who admitted criminal conduct directed against innocent dissidents under Operation Checkmate and Operation Oddball. Winning the right of lawyers to publicize their services and fees, previously restricted under the Law Society Act. Abolishing sections of the Law Society Act that restricted lawyers from speaking to the media about their cases while they were ongoing. No wonder the Law Society is not blowing kisses in Harry’s direction.
To those of us concerned with real justice, Kopyto’s good character has never been in question. To Big Law which embraces the rich and powerful, his bad character has never been in question. He has always been seen as a threat.
Kopyto Darling of the Media
Initially, from the 1970s onward, Kopyto was in many ways a darling of the media attracting a great deal of attention simply by doing what a lawyer is supposed to do. The widespread media coverage that Harry and his struggles for justice received over decades acted as a lever against harassment by the legal elite. Harry used public attention to focus support for his cases and attention to the way they were dealt with in the courts.
After his disbarment on false allegations that he over-billed Legal Aid (for fees which the Plan never asked him to return because it knew he actually earned them), Kopyto’s credibility was damaged among some people. But he still continued to fight for the rights of minorities, women, trade unionists, tenants, the disabled and other constituencies that did not have the money or power to buy justice. Eventually, he re-established his credibility to a large extent and was successful in giving a voice to the powerless in the corridors of law.
History is still in the making
This is Harry’s history. But history is still in the making. Kopyto, under fierce attack by Big Law that has taken over the paralegal profession in order to eliminate competition with lawyers, is now out to silence him for good. For Kopyto, there will be no throwing in the towel. There will be no last hurrah. Ironically, he has used the Law Society’s efforts to drive him out of the paralegal profession to launch a campaign to support affordable access to justice. This battle is being fought both in the courts and at his good character hearings. The next stage in the drama will be played on July 18th, 20th, 24th and 25th. He is not about to go gently into the good night.
The hearings are to take place at 9:30 a.m. in the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall. Be there to express your solidarity and support. Be there to judge the judges. Be there to defend your rights.