As the Law Society (LSUC) moves forward into its fifth calendar year of hearings into Harry Kopyto’s good character next January 7, 2013, the move to shut him down from testifying further has finally crystallized. And the victim may be Harry’s right to defend himself.
A Bolder Margot Blight Rides Harry All Day
During the last hearing date in November, a bolder and more aggressive Margot Blight revealed herself. As Chair of Harry’s Hearing Panel, ruling on whether he can continue working as a paralegal, she started the day with an ominous warning. She insisted on knowing how much longer Harry will be in his direct testimony. He has been on the witness stand eight days. Enough is enough, she obviously thinks. She proudly proclaims her new-found unity, especially on this issue, with the two other panel members who have, in any event, unanimously confirmed every one of her past rulings. Kopyto’s response to Blight’s demand, “As long as I have relevant evidence to give,” does not appear to please them. Not at all.
All day, Blight rides him. She accuses him of ignoring her rulings. Of repetition, of being impossible to control. And then the Hammer. She wants Harry and the Law Society prosecutors to submit in writing legal authority for their contending viewpoints on the Panel’s right to limit “the direct evidence of a self-represented party”. On January 7th, she will make her ruling.
The reality is that there has always been a power struggle between Kopyto and the Blight panel over Harry’s right to a fair hearing. Blight promised Harry the fullest opportunity to defend himself when first appointed to take charge of the hearing. But the promise faded as she realized she had a tiger by the tail. She allowed Law Society witnesses—mostly lawyers—called to prove Harry’s already admitted unauthorized practice, to blather without end. She chuckled as they also attacked Harry for defending clients who couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer. She made these lawyers, one of whom had even worked with her law firm, feel very much at home.
Case Management Maven Builds Phony Image of Harry
Blight overrode Harry’s objections to irrelevant, emotional outbursts from the only former client of Harry’s that was called as a witness against him. And then, she cut Harry off in the middle of his cross-examination to protect the former client from Harry’s deadly cross-examination. More recently, she targeted Harry for repetition because he approached the same facts from different perspectives related to his various defences. She castigated him for refusing to limit himself to current evidence. (Harry wants to show that his commitment to justice is life-long, rooted in his past and therefore defines his current character). His refusal to present his evidence in a chronological or topical order becomes evidence of messiness. While ruling that Harry’s feelings and subjective perceptions of his role as an advocate are relevant to his character, she attacks Harry for allegedly making submissions when he expresses such feelings. Harry’s disagreement with opinions that Blight sometimes expresses and which show her closed mind, leads to accusations that Harry is “arguing” with her. She now deems him “uncontrollable”, a faint echo of the Law Society attack on Harry as “ungovernable”.
The new Margot Blight, a renowned case management maven brought in to do what two previous self-imploded hearing panels could not do, is pushing the hearings into their final phase. She is doing what she is paid to do as an outsider, who is not part of the usual ranks of the LSUC’s adjudicators, brought in to do a job requiring her refined case-management and strategic skills. These she learned representing government boards, commissions and major employers fighting teachers, unions and victims of discrimination.
Her determination shows. Dates are set for handing in written submissions on limiting Kopyto’s time to testify. Two new hearing dates, Monday January 7th and Wednesday January 23, 2013 are set [Also Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 21, March 8 and March 27, 2013]. We will find out what she will rule on Harry’s right to complete his evidence on the first of those dates.
Patina of Blight’s Fairness Grows Thin
The context for Blight’s anticipated decision is important. The Law Society in its five-year written review of its takeover of paralegals, notes criticisms that good character hearings are taking too long (without mentioning Harry explicitly, but everybody knows…). The LSUC’s prosecuting legal team seeking to lasso Harry’s career as a paralegal, are cracking their whips over the panel’s heads with renewed vigour. In their written submissions, already delivered, the LSUC calls on the panel to reduce the time for Harry’s testimony to a maximum of two or three more days. They attack Harry for calling “dated” evidence, especially evidence pertaining to the revelations about the dirty tricks and unfair treatment having to do with his disbarment, while she recites his 1989 disbarment itself as an unassailable and relevant “judicial fact”.
The dénouement of the hearings is on the horizon. But before Blight takes a bow, one more observation is appropriate. If her case management skills are her greatest strength, they also reveal her greatest weakness. They expose her true role for the “Society”: to give a thin patina of independence and fairness to the hearings while making mincemeat of Harry’s right to defend himself.
Blight’s deft skills mask an agenda she has willingly assumed. In her thoughts, frequently foreshadowed by her spontaneous utterances, she is searching for anything negative she can find to crucify Harry. This does not prevent her from ignoring or overruling the crude attempts to attack Harry’s character by the LSUC prosecutors, who lack her finesse and nuanced insights (“The Law Society has its concerns but we also have ours, Mr. Kopyto”). When the LSUC objects to Harry’s questioning a witness about his emotional distress, Blight points out how this evidence could be used to show that Harry may be abusing his vulnerable clients. While Harry’s ongoing dealings with Joe Markin, a lawyer who has been ordered not to associate with Harry, was little more than a footnote to the LSUC’s case against Harry, she moves that issue up front and centre as relevant to prove his disobedient disposition.
Blight Looks for Chinks in Harry’s Character Armour
Blight is prepared to be innovative. At one point, she suggested Kopyto was dishonest for preparing court documents to be signed by his clients and having lawyers appear on his cases without going formally on the court record. This charge, never previously developed by the LSUC, required Harry to run around digging up examples of “unbundled services” that many law firms now provide to clients who can’t afford to fully retain them for an entire court proceeding. Blight, usually in a rush, has no difficulty wasting time looking for undiscovered chinks in Kopyto’s character armour to lance him off his professional steed. But none of this exposes Blight’s predisposition to place efficiency about natural justice as much as the unprecedented decision she may make limiting Harry from testifying further in direct evidence. She is sly enough to justify such an unprecedented ruling and has already hinted at her largely manufactured rationale for doing so, by mischaracterizing Harry’s evidence to fit a preconceived template.
The decision to limit Harry’s testimony, if made, will confirm that the LSUC bought Blight’s talents to act as a “hitman” to bring what should be a living process of inquiry to a premature dead end. Kopyto may not even get a full hearing, let alone a fair one. And Blight, superficially friendly and engaging but professionally coded to put out fires and neutralize “difficult” opponents of the Establishment, is increasingly transparent and predictable.
Does Harry Have the Right to be Heard?
Everyone is urged to attend the next hearing date on Monday January 7, 2013 at the Museum Room, Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto at 9:30 a.m. The Society has attempted to hide its efforts to arbitrarily limit Kopyto’s testimony from public scrutiny by requesting submissions in writing. Kopyto has countered by asking for the right to make oral submissions on this issue as well on January 7, 2013. A confrontation brews.
The Law Society’s shameful conduct can be restrained by public oversight. The disguised manipulations of the hearing process threaten Harry’s right to be heard. Your presence can inhibit those who are ready to carve the final epitaph on Harry Kopyto’s professional headstone. Be there.