The Law Society (“LSUC”) Hearing Panel Chair Margot Blight finally announced that she will impose a time limit on Harry Kopyto’s personal testimony in his defence at the start of the next hearing date on Wednesday January 23, 2013 starting at 9:30 a.m. if he doesn’t do so himself.
The unprecedented decision to silence Kopyto exposes the sham of Blight’s promise made when she assumed command of his good character hearing at the start of 2011 (after two failed panels) that she would give Harry a full and fair hearing. Her impending decision dramatically reveals the Panel’s role as a posse out to lasso Harry by his professional neck.
Supreme Strategist Blight is Walking on a Tightrope
The Panel’s veneer of objectivity and disinterest had already worn thin by the time that Blight made the announcement in response to a Law Society motion at the start of Harry’s good character hearing on January 7, 2013.
Supreme strategist Blight is walking on a tightrope. On the one hand, she needs to maintain an appearance of fairness in judging Harry’s character to determine whether he should be grandparented as a paralegal. She smiles. She is impeccably polite some of the time. (“Thank you for standing” as she enters the hearing room). She allows Harry to give his evidence in his unique style. (“You have the floor, Mr. Kopyto.”) She has let him file over 100 exhibits so far (which of course, is his right). She gave him a full day to outline his defences in an Opening Statement (but she did limit him to one day). She has not interfered with his right to adopt a style of presentation of his evidence based on exhibits that are mostly in the public domain. She has conceded his right to share his “feelings” about legal issues and the legal profession which are relevant to assessing his suitability to continue to work within the legal system (not that she had a choice). She lets him testify about his legal achievements as a lawyer prior to his disbarment and as a paralegal afterwards. (This includes leading cases in human rights, labour, criminal and poverty law.) All of this leaves the impression that Harry is being listened to.
Blight Excuses the LSUC’s “Mistakes”
But then her other face shows. She dismisses Harry’s stellar contribution to the development of the law in favour of those without power and money, which the Law Society prosecutors have readily admitted on the record, as “merely background information”. Zap! She scowls when Harry protests her making decisions without consulting her two fellow panelists (not that they would ever differ with her). She invites him to given an opinion and then admonishes him for arguing with her (Catch 22). She allows Harry to expose the LSUC’s duplicity during his disbarment proceedings for interpreting his admission of negligence in detailing some of his legal aid accounts into a confession of fraudulent overbilling (Harry wasn’t ever asked to repay any fees because the work was done). Still, she characterizes Harry’s disbarment as a “judicial fact” that can’t be challenged. (Got that, Kopyto?) She lets Harry expose the bias against him among conservative judges but then rules that Harry is bound by their findings anyway. (So there, Kopyto!) She allows Harry to bring several motions at the start of the hearings. Then, she rules against him on each and every occasion. (Is Harry never right?)
The Panel’s game plan reached an apex of clarity at the January 7, 2013 hearing. Kopyto introduced evidence of outrageous examples of Law Society abuse when he and his then associate, Angie Codina, were subjected to disbarment proceedings in the late 1980s. Blight listens as Harry files exhibits proving that the Law Society auditors, despite their protests, were used, under false pretences, to retrieve files from Codina’s law office to try to build a case against Codina and Harry. She listens as Harry explains that the Law Society was found guilty of abuse of process by the Hearing Panel for refusing to issue subpoenas to witnesses during his disbarment proceedings. She raises her eyebrows as Harry explains how the Law Society prosecutors offered to allow Codina, with whom Harry was living at that time, to continue to practice law if Harry would resign as a lawyer even though the charges against them were totally unrelated. (Trading souls!). And then she dismisses such nefarious intentional conduct as mere “mistakes”. (Nobody’s perfect, right?)
Blight Becomes Inquisitor Instead of Judge
During the January 7th hearing, Harry’s alleged failure to co-operate with the LSUC investigation into his character was discussed at length. Kopyto introduced evidence to explain why he perceived an apprehension of bias by the Law Society against him when Law Society Investigator Adrian Greenaway came knocking on his door seeking to build a case against him for the good character hearing. Sensibly, Kopyto insisted on full disclosure of all the evidence against him prior to giving Greenaway a statement. But Blight pre-emptorily dismisses Harry’s concerns about investigative bias documented in a dozen exhibits. She describes his evidence as dated, tenuous and relevant, at most, “by a bare thread”. She makes this statement without consulting her two other Panel members whom she takes for granted despite Harry’s protests that he is entitled to the independent judgment of each of them.
She listens as Kopyto argues that the LSUC’s conduct is part of a pattern of abuse encouraged by Big Law because he was a thorn in the side of the legal establishment and his cases received widespread coverage in the media. She makes notes as Harry points out the LSUC’s motive to silence and marginalize him, especially after he won broad support for his right to criticize the judiciary for its cozy relationship with police which he described as being “stuck together with Krazy Glue”. She even admitted previously that she attended a wine and cheese party held in Harry’s defence by the University of Toronto Faculty of Law when he was charged under an antiquated criminal law (“scandalizing the court”) which he succeeded, on an appeal, in abolishing as unconstitutional for violating freedom of expression. (Yes, Margot Blight was once liberally-minded before she morphed into a legal handmaiden to Big Business and Big Government). But then Blight minimizes Harry’s achievements by telling him to focus on his “current character” (as if one can change one’s character as readily as one changes one’s shoes.) She cautiously dots her i’s and crosses her t’s by allowing Kopyto an opportunity to testify. But then, she reveals through her frank and bold utterances, the workings of a mindset that seeks to minimize and undermine Harry. She is clearly delighted in her role which often takes on the colouration of an accusitorial Inquisitor rather than a judge standing above the fray of conflict.
LSUC Panel on Hunt for Harry’s Character Defects
Blight’s mind is actively seeking every possible opening to demonize Kopyto. Blight tells him that the Panel has its own concerns aside from those of the Law Society prosecutors whom she frequently corrects and occasionally restrains when their outlandish aggression against Harry becomes too close to providing grounds for appeal such as seeking an order shutting down this blog.
The case against Harry shifts under Blight’s direction far beyond the original indictment. Like a searchlight spanning the skies, she inventively initiates her own hunt for character defects to discredit Harry’s professional conduct. The LSUC charges become a work in progress, like a moving target. On one occasion, she accused Harry, without prior notice, of bad character for retaining a lawyer to represent clients without the lawyer going on the official court record. This obliged Harry to provide her examples of law firms that provide “unbundled services” to show that such a practice is common and accepted as valid within the legal profession. He wins the point. Blight’s eyes glaze as she searches for another chink in his armour.
You didn’t need a weathervane to see which way the wind was blowing in the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall on January 7th. Blight’s is not a role of a passive judge. “You don’t want us to just sit here and be silent like a piece of dead wood, do you Mr. Kopyto?” she asks Harry. Kopyto, who, in his opening statement enthusiastically invited the Panel to engage in a dialogue with him, likely regrets that invitation now that he sees what it has wrought. Blight’s bias against Harry peeks through her preppy manner again and again. She treats Harry’s evidence of institutional bias against him by the Law Society with polite disdain. Yet her confidence in the Law Society administration is endless. (“I will never question the LSUC’s good faith in providing you with full disclosure, Mr. Kopyto”).
Law Society Fronts for Lawyers’ Interests
To justify his wariness of the LSUC’s investigation of his character, Harry documented the social and political pressures that the Law Society bended to in other instances as well as in its efforts to extinguish Harry’s role as a widely quoted critic exposing the raw nerves of the judicial system over the decades. Harry tells the Panel that the legal system is an institution subject to social pressures like every other institution. He reminds the Panel of the resignation of two senior Law Society prosecutors in the 1990s after the head honcho of the Law Society leaned on them to nix prosecution of several prominent lawyers on the executive board of a law firm (Blakes) that facilitated fraudulent immigration cases originating in Hong Kong in what became known in the media as the Pilzmaker/Donaldson affair. Kopyto described how the Law Society caved in to pressure from a cabal of insurance company defence lawyers who, in a showdown with the LSUC, openly admitted to breaching confidentiality of medical health records of plaintiffs suing their clients. When dozens of those senior members of the insurance defence bar rallied around a colleague whom the Law Society was considering prosecuting for breach of privacy at that time, taunting it to prosecute them as well, the Law Society backed down without a squawk.
In his evidence on January 7th, Harry also characterized the 2007 takeover of paralegals by the Law Society, which led directly to his investigation by the now disgraced Adrian Greenaway and the convocation of the good character hearing, as motivated by the financial interests of lawyers to swallow their competition. Blight takes notes, but it is clear that she regards each of these incidents as discrete and unrelated to each other. They are “mistakes”. The Panel does not look at the big picture. It is not prepared to question the good faith of those who appointed them and who expect them to bring back Harry’s bloody severed professional head on a silver platter.
Blight is More Calculating Then Wise
Blight is calculating but in a covert and careful manner. She is efficient while being careful. By osmosis, she has internalized the mentality of Big Law. She is not self-aware. Apple carts do not need to worry about being upset by her. No one tells her what to do. She knows. She does not question her role, likely hoping her career, including case-managing the Kopyto case, will flower into a judgeship. (Oh, Goddess of Ambition! What schemes you have wrought?)
Blight is caught in the contradictory process that the LSUC is subjecting Harry to. But she rides the surf like a pro. She is more full of guile than wisdom. When she stumbles, she adroitly recalibrates. She camouflages her agenda—to drive Harry out of the world of law. However, couching her determination to cut Kopyto off in a sweet appeal to judicial economy renders her goal no more palatable. The fact is that the Law Society prosecutors’ motion to limit Kopyto’s personal evidence is legally unprecedented. But Blight will go there if she has to, always trying to cover her flanks. Asked by Blight at the previous hearing to document cases where self-represented parties were limited by adjudicators in testifying in their own defence, not one applicable legal precedent was produced. No reported legal case exists of an arbitrary time limit placed on a party’s presentation of relevant evidence in an adjudicative proceeding. The LSUC’s written submissions cite only one decision where a self-represented lawyer at a discipline hearing was cut off from cross-examining a witness—a different scenario.
Mania for Case-Management Trumps Harry’s Right to be Heard
The decision to set an arbitrary time limit on Kopyto testimony is a stark marker of Blight’s mania for case management, a quality that has made her the “go to” lawyer for defending wealthy, vulnerable institutions and employers, her exclusive client base in the Bay Street mega law firm where she has her office, from embarrassing criticism. Blight’s training and experience is as a lawyer specializing in case-management “difficult” cases for public institutions. She shines.
Blight’s skills were on full display on January 7th. Kopyto tried his best to protect his right to call relevant evidence. Kopyto proclaimed difficulty in estimating the amount of additional time he needed to complete his frequently interrupted evidence. It was his ninth day of testimony. He questioned why the Panel insisted that he estimate how much more time he needed and what his presentation plan was. Kopyto pointed out that he should be allowed to testify as long as needed to establish his defence in the way ordinarily done in civil, criminal and adjudicative cases. He pointed out that the sky didn’t fall down when he cross-examined Greenaway without agreeing to a time limit or submitting a cross-examination plan when repeatedly pressured to do so by Blight at that time. He questioned the Panel’s impatience again on January 7th and the need for an estimate which, of course, the Panel would then hold him bound to. (The tricks lawyers play!).
Kopyto likely had in mind how he was arbitrarily given a time limit by Blight last year to cross-examine the only client who was called against him as a witness. He was stymied in using that time fruitfully when Blight allowed the witness to extemporize at great length in time-wasting asides and irrelevant outbursts despite Kopyto’s protests to Blight to reign him in. Kopyto was then blocked from finishing his cross-examination. Blight knows every trick in the book. She’s been around the block. She is nuanced and flexible enough to adapt to a wide range of scenarios. Her chameleon like skills would enable her to blend in nicely in any crowd.
Panel Keeps Score as it Plays Hardball
Although Blight attacks Kopyto for leaving the Panel with “no end in sight without a time estimate and plan”, every judge finds himself or herself in precisely that situation when a case is tried. Kopyto’s evidence has been lengthy but the charges against him are legion and his defence is complex, bolstered by numerous exhibits. Virtually every exhibit tendered has been marked and found relevant. However, one would expect in a hearing that heard evidence over 50 days, there is occasional repetition. Blight documents these occasions. She keeps score. Blight especially does not relish Harry’s repeating a previously made point when calling new evidence. Nor has she hesitated in the past to attack Harry for allegedly making “submissions” although inviting him to testify about his “feelings” regarding the matters raised in his evidence, although she admitted the difficulty in distinguishing between the two.
Blight knows her job. She is determined to see it through. She occasionally echoes the LSUC prosecutors’ theme that Harry can’t be controlled and that he disobeys her orders (often too vague to be able to follow clearly). What about “judicial economy?” she asks Harry, as he defends his right to call relevant evidence. Harry’s response? The right to be heard, which is the grounding principle of natural justice, should not be sacrificed on the pedestal of impatience and a rush to justice. Blight is playing hardball but preserves an appearance of providing Harry with the leeway needed to foster an illusion that he is being treated fairly. Still, her aim is deadly. Kopyto’s ability to defend himself is her target. Ultimately, for Blight, it’s who wins and not how the game is played that counts.
You Can Make a Difference
Abuse of fundamental rights including the right to be heard is not lessened when carried out in a soft and reassuring tone of voice. At the end of the hearing day on January 7th, Blight laid down the law: “Justify the time you need to testify when you return on your next hearing day on Wednesday January 23rd with an estimate of time and a detailed plan or we will impose a time limit on you by 10:00 in the morning. I assure you it will happen.”
Kopyto faces a dilemma. What should he do?
As he ponders the alternatives posed to him by the newly confident and openly aggressive Blight, who, moving in for the kill, sees the end of Harry’s testimony on the horizon, her masked effort to pretend to be fair stands bare.
Harry’s supporters are reminded. Without you in the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall where the hearing is taking place, without you continuing to show your solidarity and support for Harry, without you reminding the Blight Panel that their polished maneuvers are transparent, Kopyto’s professional career would have been over a long time ago.
Wednesday January 23, 2013. D-Day. Be there. Help defend Harry’s right to be heard.