Burning Issues Threaten to Immolate Panel
Burning issues emerged at Harry’s Law Society, (LSUC) good character hearing on February 4th. The flames sparked by these issues will now engulf the hearing agenda on his hearing date next Monday February 11, 2013 at the Museum Room, Osgoode Hall at 9:30 a.m. in downtown Toronto.
Harry finally let loose both his anger and a litany of arguments to support his claim for disclosure of his Law Society (LSUC) disbarment file. His anger was directed at the outrageous delay in releasing the file to him. He first brought a motion in 2009 to obtain the file. The motion was deferred. It was renewed again when the Blight Panel was appointed in 2011. It was deferred again to allow Kopyto to lay a factual foundation for his request. And, boy oh boy—did he ever lay a factual foundation!
Kopyto raised eyebrows, if not breath-taking gasps, when close to a dozen exhibits were produced by him showing how the Law Society–whose definition of good character in practice amounts to rule obedience–broke every rule in their own hymnbooks to “build a case” [their words] against Kopyto back in 1989 when the LSUC disbarred him. Kopyto produced protest notes and letters from Law Society auditors and employees asked by the LSUC’s Discipline Department to lie to his then associate, Angie Codina, in order to gain access to supposedly incriminating files. Some of these employees alerted Harry and Angie at the risk of losing their jobs. Harry produced interview notes showing that the investigation of Angie was used as a cover to incriminate him. He demanded a copy of a memo drafted by LSUC prosecutors and shown to him at that time advising that the LSUC would resolve the charges against Angie favourably if Harry Kopyto, facing completely unrelated allegations, would resign as a lawyer. Talk about blackmail and abuse!
Blight Sits on Top of Volcano
In a powerful one-hour submission, Harry painted a picture of deceitful, hostile, manipulative and immoral actions by the Law Society in its campaign against him which included a formal finding of abuse of process against Senior Discipline Counsel Steve Sheriff by a LSUC panel for blocking Harry’s and Angie’s request to obtain subpoenas for their witnesses. Kopyto even reported seeing newspaper clippings about him in Sheriff’s file and a recommendation by LSUC lawyers that Harry change his profession to journalism! Sheriff and his assistant, Reg Watson, were removed from Harry’s case and eventually resigned their positions with the LSUC.
The current three-person Panel, chaired by Big Law’s defender Margot Blight, is sitting on top of a volcano as it deliberates on whether to disclose the disbarment file. Harry pleaded that he needed this information to be able to proceed with his “testimony in chief” in order to argue a number of points to refute the Law Society’s charges of poor character. He told the panel that he wasn’t asking them to accept his arguments in advance but merely to allow him, in the interest of natural justice, to obtain the evidence he needs to make his case. A half-hour conference held by the panel after Kopyto’s submission last Monday came up empty-handed – reflecting the panel’s quandary. But Blight promised to announce her ruling on Harry’s disclosure request at the opening of the hearing next Monday (February 11th). Ominously, the LSUC prosecutors demanded that the Blight panel ignore Harry’s request and furthermore punish him for even asking for the right to get such evidence by ordering costs against him. What will the Blight panel do?
Krazy Glue Comments Draw Ire
This is Panel Chair Blight’s dilemma. If she denies the motion, clearly relevant to a number of Harry’s defences, she will be exposed as biased and leave in total tatters her role-playing persona as fair and even-handed. In the eyes of reasonable people, Harry would clearly be denied access to evidence that he needs to argue why he insisted on full production of all evidence against him in his dealings with the investigation of his good character in his current grandparenting application.
The disclosure sought will also show the absence of any evidence that Harry overbilled Legal Aid, which never sought compensation from Harry, and therefore explain why Harry feels justified in not showing remorse that the LSUC insists he must show to prove his good character. Perhaps, most importantly, the disclosure will reveal the institutional bias and abuse against Harry because of his reputation as a maverick challenging Big Law, especially for his famous criticism of the cozy relationship between the police and the courts.
Harry’s success in abolishing the criminal law of “scandalizing the court”, when he defended his famous 1986 comment that “[t]he courts and the RCMP are sticking so close together you’d think they were put together with Krazy Glue”, enraged the Law Society.
In retaliation, the Law Society launched its own regulatory charges against him for speaking those words to a Globe and Mail reporter, however they later abandoned these efforts, deciding it would be easier to drive Harry out of the profession by building a phony case against him for defrauding legal aid.
Mayor Ford’s Decision Could Impact on Harry’s Disbarment
Blight will win few accolades from Big Law if she grants Kopyto the sensitive disclosure he is seeking. Her job is to put out fires, not fuel them. Will she expose her true face or will she shed more light on the hidden scandalous evidence in Harry’s disbarment file? We will know next Monday.
Another related important development took place at the last hearing when Harry announced that he also wants the disbarment file disclosure to support his claim that the Blight Panel should give the decision to disbar him no weight. So far, Blight has ruled that Harry’s disbarment was an immutable “judicial fact” that was beyond challenge. She had dismissed his argument that his disbarment was improper by accusing him of making an impermissible “collateral attack” against the sacred institution that employs the panel and the prosecution. In other words, they loath and fear the idea that Harry’s good character hearing will be used to demonstrate the pattern of egregious abuse the Law Society engaged in to carry out Harry’s disbarment and current harassment. The pretentious sanctity of their privileged institutions stands to lose face and to be exposed in all its falsity. The panel’s resistance to providing Harry with basic information is really about institutional fear.
Kopyto shocked the panel when he pointed to a recent ruling by the Divisional Court. In late January of this year, the Court ruled that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford could attack the decision made by a City of Toronto Committee finding him in a conflict of interest and ordering Ford to pay improperly collected monies. The Divisional Court ruled that a collateral attack could be made when the initial decision was made without jurisdiction. Kopyto thus argued that his disbarment was also made without jurisdiction, as there was no evidence that his billing procedures as a lawyer had resulted in deprivation or loss. A finding made without evidence of an essential ingredient is made without jurisdiction. The shit hit the fan as the prosecutors contemplated the impact of Harry’s point!
They Really Want to Shut Him Down
Kopyto also raised protests from the LSUC prosecutors when he wanted to introduce correspondence with major law firms that show they deal with him on cases where paralegals are not allowed to practice. Kopyto will argue next Monday that such evidence is relevant to assessing his character in light of his admitted breach of unauthorized practice rules made by lawyers to protect their turf.
Maintaining her dogged case-manager style, Blight announced last Monday that she will make her previously postponed decision on how much more time to allow Harry to give personal testimony at the upcoming Monday February 11th hearing. They really want to shut him down.
The hearings have turned into a wild rollercoaster ride that the LSUC no longer controls. Harry has used the hearings effectively as a platform to expose the deep malaise and opposition to affordable access to justice within the Law Society’s bureaucracy. The decision to limit Harry was deferred initially until a decision was made in response to Harry’s motion for disclosure of his disbarment file which would impact on the length of his evidence. Ever the crafty and wily-thinking case management superstar, Blight announced that the panel will make a two-tiered decision. She will set a time limit on Harry’s personal evidence regarding all matters for which disclosure has already been granted and set another limit for time to testify on the disbarment file if his request for disclosure succeeds in being granted.
Judge the Judges
All these dramatic shenanigans and maneuvers take place as Harry continues to give his personal evidence describing, usually with court records or newspaper clippings, the vast number of legal cases that he has fought for his constituencies over the decades. These include major legal victories for minorities, the disabled, working people, children, political activists, tenants, women, etc. The evidence over the last 10 days or so contrasts like black and white with the absurd allegations of poor character that the LSUC has attempted to smear on Harry. The panel members’ eyes blur under the mountain of dozens and dozens of exhibits that document Harry’s stellar legal character as a David fighting a Big Law Goliath on its own territory using its own rules. Is his character without blemish? No. Does this warrant however a determination that Harry lacks good character? Certainly not! The question then is whether the reality of Harry’s true character will impinge on the consciousness of the panel members; or will they respond like Pavlovian dogs doing their master’s bidding for a nibble at the goodies?
Everything is possible but the balance of forces, which includes public supervision, will ultimately decide how the panel will rule.
Be part of that public supervision. Show the judges that they too are being judged.
Support Harry next Monday February 11, 2013 at Osgoode Hall.