Harry Kopyto is back before the Law Society next Thursday and Friday, August 29th and 30th. After a brief reply to his cross-examination, Harry’s clients and supporters will be testifying on his behalf.
The Law Society is tightening the screws on Harry. It has set a date in September to force him to divulge his financial records so that it can start to collect costs orders against him from his litigation to declare the takeover of paralegals unlawful.
The lines between Harry and his judges have never been sharper. He is now acting for a client in a case against an entity represented by—if you can believe it—the Chair of the Panel judging his good character. Your presence in the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto to support Harry and his clients on August 29th and 30th at 9:30 a.m. has never been more important.
We Found the Official Training Manual
How does the Law Society of Upper Canada (“Society” to insiders) train its legal pugilists to pummel its opponents’ moral character in Osgoode Hall’s boxing ring? The long-sought answer to this question has finally been brought to our attention by an avid reader of this blog. Somehow, he has got his hands on the Official Training Manual used to direct prosecuting lawyers to knock their helpless opposition senseless. This article, for the first time, will start to outline the lessons taught to the Society’s team of champion fighters. It will also begin to illustrate how these lessons have been applied in practice at the recent bout held on June 19, 2013 when paralegal candidate Harry Kopyto faced off against veteran LSUC heavyweight champion Susan Heakes. This article will only deal with Lesson One. Future blog articles will deal with other lessons.
The Back Story
First, a note about the two boxing opponents and the background of the fight. The undercard qualifying matches have lasted close to one hundred days. (Is there anyone left keeping count?) Prosecutor Susan Heakes and defendant Harry Kopyto started trading punches in 2009. That’s when the Society, the sanctioning body and sponsor of the match, first summoned Harry to defend his moral character. The outcome of the match will be determined by a panel of three judges. The panel members are also appointed by the Society. The current panel is the third one appointed to officiate at the match. Two previous ones self-imploded early in the game. One pleaded “an apprehension of bias” before scuttling off. The other, openly biased, needed a swift kick to the derriere from Harry before scrambling madly to the exit door.
The two fighters have contrasting styles and backgrounds. Heakes is doing God’s work. Her style smacks of pretended self-righteous indignation. How can anyone dare attack that paragon of virtue—the venerable Society? Her swaggering self-assurance stems from feeling very much at home with the three “independent” judges—wink! wink!—whose favour she curries with unrestrained enthusiasm. Are the judges really neutral in judging Harry’s character? Let’s just say that to a hammer, everyone looks like a nail. Especially, someone who stands out from the woodwork, like Harry. Heakes’ persona is famous for mercilessly slugging her opponents with smashing hits, usually from a safe distance. She struts around the ring like a rutting rooster. She has governorship of all four corners. She is sanctimonious and superficial at the same time. Is she only posturing? Or does she actually believe that she is the champion and defender of the Society’s monopoly over moral purity as pictured on the advertising posters? It doesn’t matter. The masks that people wear have a habit of melding with their faces after a while.
Harry Comes From a Different Place
Harry comes from a different place. He has no reserved seat in the clubhouse dining room. He is the last person promoters speak to when they congregate for a drink after a match in the arena’s Trophy Room. He did not train in the elite gym where Heakes spars and tones her muscles before a bout. Kopyto earned his cred in the streets. Our Crowd was not written about the Harry Kopytos of this world. More likely, Albert Camus, when he wrote L’Etranger, could well have had in mind a mental picture of a disoriented Harry meandering through the labrynth of halls in Osgoode Hall.
As June 19th neared, Harry recalled going the distance with Heakes during the first bout of cross-examination on June 6th. But he knew that his professional survival could turn on a simple misstep. Heakes is on the lookout for a knockout. She really wants to finish Harry off. (No shit, Sherlock—a promotion could be in the works!) She clutches the Official Training Manual as a drowning person clutches a life-buoy. Last minute advice is whispered in her ear by her loyal second, Anne-Katherine Dionne who also dabs her brow with a towel as Heakes climbs into the ring. Heakes is pumped up—ready to go. The smell of human sweat and cigar smoke permeate the musty air in the Museum Room in the arena at Osgoode Hall as the restless crowd stirs with anticipation.
Red in Tooth and Claw, Out for a Kill
Harry is both apprehensive and hopeful. He really doesn’t look forward to fighting against someone skilled in going to the body after breaking from a clinch. He knows Heakes is red in tooth and claw, out for a kill. There are other places, he thinks, he would rather be. Not that he is afraid. It’s just that he never really wanted to be top dog. Of course, he always knew he could be a contender. (Sorry, Marlon.) But it really isn’t him.
True, Harry was always ready to front for his clients who would otherwise be eaten alive if they had to climb into the judicial ring without him. He was totally committed to defend his status as a paralegal pugilist fighting for justice on behalf of the 99%. But first, he had to face Susan Heakes, sponsored by Big Law, promoted by Big Money and groomed for the series by the Society’s cigar-chomping managers with deep pockets and even deeper loyalty to the 1%. It wasn’t either his choice or his preference to be in the boxing ring with her. The fixers had made their decision. He had no alternative. Face disqualification from ever fighting again—or defend your professional life against the brokers’ odds-on favourite. Didn’t Hercules have to prove his mettle by sailing between those two monsters, Scylla and Charybdis?
Kopyto also has hope. There is something strangely satisfying in seeing a self-absorbed and pompous poseur of moral virtue thumbing her nose at us mere mortals go down for a fall. Although little more than a wild dream, that’s the thought that raced through Harry’s mind as he laced up his gloves minutes before sauntering into the ring for his second day of cross-examination.
Lesson One: Focus on The Insignificant and Miniscule
The bell rang. The paying audience hushed. All eyes focused on the ring. Heakes dashed like lightning to centre ring. Her purpose: to implement Lesson One from the Official Training Manual—focus on the insignificant and miniscule. As the Manual explains, this is not as easily done as one might think. The purpose of lesson one is to learn to extract from an entire narrative of events an act which could then be labeled as morally reprehensible. To do so effectively, it is necessary to regard that act in abstract isolation. Also note Corollary One to this Lesson: you also have to obliterate the big picture as the context itself may constitute overwhelming evidence that the impugned act is morally neutral or even virtuous. In the event that the conduct has been previously admitted, note Corollary Two: you have to act shocked and pretend that you have just discovered it for the first time. Judge’s have short memories. If they are not sure, they will follow your lead. The last bout is always the one they remember best.
Heakes Tries to Corkscrew Harry Over Al Gosling
With this lesson in mind, Heakes started the match letting off a corkscrew punch that focused on Harry’s efforts to help his deceased client, Alan Gosling. Eighty-three years old and frail as a gentle willow, Al was evicted from a tiny Toronto Community Housing Corporation (“Toronto Housing”) apartment a few years earlier. He failed to deliver documents verifying his meager income to Toronto Housing. Harry tried to convince him otherwise. Al resisted. Toronto Housing got an eviction order from the Landlord Tenant Board, wouldn’t let Al back into his apartment and left Al in the streets, wandering from hostel to hostel. After phoning numerous newspaper reporters over weeks, Harry finally got the Toronto Star’s Joe Fiorito to write a column about Al’s plight. The reaction was massive, beyond Harry’s expectations. More than 300 e-mails were sent to the Star within 48 hours with at least two dozen people volunteering to pay Al’s back rent. Facing an embarrassing public crisis, the head honcho at Toronto Housing phoned Harry offering to let Al back home. It was too late. Al had become too frail to recover from an insidious infection that was haunting the hostels he was staying in. He died in hospital a few days after his apartment was offered back to him.
What Had Harry Done Wrong?
Kopyto was apprehensive. What in this tragic tale proved his bad character? What evidence would Heakes elicit to draw boos against Harry from the paying audience?
A little aside. Kopyto had known and befriended Al for about 30 years. He had represented Al on numerous occasions including when Al was fired from his security guard job and during an earlier conflict decades earlier with Toronto Housing which Al had won. It even attracted the attention of CBC local news who put a shy but smiling Al on television. Al respected Harry. Al dropped into his office over the years for a little chat or socializing. Sometimes, Al would leave Harry a few dollars for his advice which Harry always returned if he was there when Al dropped it off. They were friends in a way.
Harry had never asked Al for a penny for his extended efforts to get him back into his tiny apartment. Harry had contacted the Good Shepherd Ministries, the Public Trustees’ Office, a legal aid clinic, numerous newspaper reporters and several Toronto Housing bureaucrats from the highest to the lowest levels to try to get Al back home. He made endless phone calls. He wrote letters. He studied the law to look for loopholes (which he could not find) and eventually, after Gosling’s death, he sought permission (which was denied) from the Estates Court to launch a lawsuit on Al Gosling’s Estate’s behalf against Toronto Housing for funds to build a commemorative headstone at Al’s paupers’ grave. What had Harry done to deserve moral opprobrium from Susan Heakes? What had he done wrong?
Let’s Get Al’s Story Right
But Heakes is nothing if not resourceful. Trust her to find in the flurry of voluntary and unpaid activity a single act of Harry’s that would impugn his character in accordance with Lesson One in the Official Training Manual. What was that act that would allow her to smack Harry hard for a flash knockdown?
The incriminating conduct only came out after Heakes pummeled Kopyto with a dozen jabs, none of which Harry saw coming. Harry didn’t even know which part of his body she was targetting. He sought to slip the punches. He played possum. She kept striking. He covered up. She hit him with a cross. He clinched. She jabbed. He tried to roll with the punches. It worked. Then, it didn’t work. But finally, the crime Harry Kopyto committed was established. And what was that heinous crime that made Al’s tragic story pale in significance by comparison?
A Light Bulb Flashed Over Harry’s Head
The moral imperfection in Harry’s conduct lies in a detail of the Al Gosling story. After the eviction order was granted with nary a fuss, Harry uncharacteristically got down on his knees and begged Toronto Housing for mercy. He even told them that they were literally killing Al. But all Toronto Housing wanted was the purse. “Maybe it is time for Al to move on,” one of its managers told Harry in a voice as cold and uncaring as an icy Toronto sidewalk is to a homeless, sickly octogenarian sleeping outdoors in February in Toronto. “What to do? What to do?” Harry thought. Suddenly, a light bulb flashed over Harry’s head. “What if I took charge over Al’s dealings with Toronto Housing? What if I guaranteed them their ever so valuable financial information that Al was too stubborn to release?”
By this time, Al had already been evicted from his tiny room, his meager household belongings withheld. He slept as best he could, under a frosty stairwell in the public housing building where he used to live. This lasted for several days until police were called to toss him out of their as well. (A round of applause for Toronto’s finest!) Al finally began to realize that he was outmatched in an unequal fight against a bullying, remorseless heavy hitter under rules that permitted it to pummel him to death. Shuffling through the streets of the city late at night with his worldly belongings in two plastic bags, unfed, unkempt, alone, his shoulders hunched, his frame increasingly skeletal, his voice reedy from weakness, Al was now ready to follow Harry’s advice. He agreed to sign a Power of Attorney that would give Harry authority to deal with Toronto Housing.
Harry planned to use the Power of Attorney to hand over the financial information to Toronto Housing that had been previously withheld, to reduce the inflated rental charge that it claimed and to cooperate in the future with Toronto Housing’s reporting requirements. With that in mind, Harry approached Toronto Housing, Power of Attorney in hand, personally promising to abide by its rules on Al’s behalf. Please, please, would Al now be allowed to return to his still vacant apartment?
How Naïve Harry Can Be
Oh Harry, how naïve even you can be! Harry completely underestimated the ruthless, heartless and destructive nature of Al’s landlord which stood its ground without a drop of mercy or remorse. “No! no! and no!” Harry was told by nameless bureaucrats who had memorized their lines. Toronto Housing governed the ring and continued to pound Al, now cornered and cowered, with a flurry of jabs, left hooks and straight rights that kept Al kissing the canvas even after the count of ten. (In comparison, Heakes’ hits against Harry in their parallel bouts were like blown kisses.) All of this was done, of course, strictly in accordance with the fair and neutral rules of the ironically named Tenant Protection Act. That Act regarded Al—debilitated, sickly and impoverished—as being in the same weight class as a publicly-funded opponent. Has there ever been a greater ruse? Did this elite of well-heeled, sanctimonious Toronto Housing bureaucrats who sleep under silk sheets and rest their heads on down-filled pillows not realize what they were doing to a decrepit, old, sickly man?
There was still one hope held out to Al by a Toronto Housing functionary. If only Harry could get the Public Trustee, bound to play according to the Rules, to take charge of Al’s Estate, Toronto Housing coffers would jingle with Al’s change without an argument. With this in mind, Harry tried one last desperate time to cover up Al against the jabs and body blows. He arranged for Al not once, but twice, to attend at the Public Trustee’s office. The result: No go! Beat it, Charlie! Harry then sent Al for a psychiatric assessment at a major downtown Toronto hospital. The result? The written report proclaimed that Al was “oriented,” Al was mentally “competent” and therefore, for all practical purposes, Al was also homeless—out of the ring, out of the arena and out on the street. End of story.
Harry’s Crime of the Century
It was now also the end for Al Gosling—homeless, weak, cold, hungry, sick, abandoned and finally hooked up to a dozen machines in an intensive care unit at the Toronto General Hospital until Harry saw the pain in Al’s face and gave the word. Lights out forever. Even Al’s two plastic bags were stolen. Even the University of Toronto medical school didn’t want his disease-ridden body. Al Gosling was a victim of a bully in a match that should never have taken place.
Back to the ring in Osgoode Hall. Harry had already testified about Al Gosling’s case. Heakes knew every detail. She didn’t care about Al. Her purpose in cross-examining Harry was to expose the crime of the century—that Harry had engaged in unauthorized practice by preparing the Power of Attorney for Al to sign! Holy Cow! This was Harry’s crime? Was this the implementation of Lesson One of the Society’s Official Training Manual? Is it possible that a human mind could so delude itself by ignoring the real immorality that Al was victim of? We have a quasi-judicial system, the Landlord Tenant Board, and its legal officials aiding and abetting the destruction of a human being as predicted by Harry. Yet, in this morass of official indifference, Heakes pulls out of her hat a violation of a minor bylaw of a professional body as quintessentially representing the worst evil that a human being can do sufficient to disqualify him from earning a living as a legal advocate. Is Heakes so accustomed to tolerate the one-sidedness in the judicial ring that banal evil becomes a normality that one can react with to studied nonchalance?
Heakes Pumps Both Hands Into the Air
To an outside observer who had stumbled into the arena, Heakes’ mindless posturing might have appeared bizarre. But in Heakes’ mind, she had struck a blow against Kopyto to mark him for a professional knockout. Abstracted from the larger narrative of the Gosling tragedy, Heakes focused on a minor and insignificant detail. That detail should have reinforced rather then detracted from Harry’s moral character. Heakes could not let go of the illusion in her mind that she had just knocked Harry through the ropes, off the canvas and onto the arena’s concrete floor.
She pranced about the four corners of the ring triumphantly, a frozen smirk on her face, both arms extended upwards, pumping the air above her head, chortling in a shrill and self-congratulatory tone. What a victory! She had proved Harry guilty of preparing a two-page document allegedly establishing his guilt by unauthorized practice. She turned to the three judges seeking accolades for allegedly shattering Harry’s glass jaw. Two of the three judges, perhaps too embarrassed to so obviously delude themselves, reacted with poker faces. The other, a die-hard sycophant of the backroom fixers, seemed to endorse Heakes’ mindless zeal reactively.
Did Heakes Take a Walk on Queer Street?
Recall Lesson One from the Society’s Official Training Manual: focus on a minor detail; ignore everything else; declare victory. A more objective evaluation of a punch that Heakes intended to land on Harry’s chin may well have been different. For a reputed stylist with champion status and a slew of trainers and managers, Heakes’ attempted opening strike against Kopyto was not even a plodder’s punch let alone a jawbreaker. It was a jab well below her weight class. It even suggested that she might have taken a walk on Queer Street, notwithstanding the official endorsement of her tactics in the Manual.
Forget for a moment that Harry’s preparation of the Power of Attorney was certainly within a paralegal’s scope of practice which allows documents to be prepared in relation to Tribunals and Boards that allow non-lawyers to appear before them like the Landlord Tenant Board. The Power of Attorney was prepared without charge as part of Harry’s extensive, time-consuming efforts to negotiate on Al’s behalf, all done on a voluntary basis. Forget that, as a result of Harry’s efforts, Toronto Housing eventually did back down, although too late. Forget that the Power of Attorney form is printed in user-friendly format by the Ontario Government so that the public does not have to go to a legally-trained person to fill it out. Forget that all you have to do is put in the name of your Power of Attorney to complete your form. Forget all that. But do ask yourself: how could Heakes delude herself into believing that she had scored a knockout punch while completely ignoring Al’s horrible fate?
Law Society’s Perceptions are Schizophrenic
Al was in need of legal assistance that the legal profession failed to provide. Harry filled the gap. For this, he should be counted out of the match? This moral condemnation of Harry Kopyto reflects not only Heakes’ state of Dementia Pugilistica but that of the entire Law Society coterie as codified in the Official Training Manual. Heakes was not dazed from taking too many hard punches to the head. The symptoms that she exhibited of an estrangement from social reality characterizes the Law Society hierarchy as a whole including those who conduct and direct its frontline fighters.
The sanctioning body itself, which, since 2007, has assumed the role of gatekeeper for all legal professionals, is in itself in a moral crisis. It is trying to do two things that are in conflict with each other. On one hand, it functions, in reality, as an institution preserving a price-fixing monopoly by lawyers who control it over the provision of legal services that the 99% can’t afford. On the other hand, it is pretending to fulfill its statutory obligation to promote affordable justice. In reality, it has thrown the match as far as that obligation is concerned. However, it suffers from a schizophrenic illness that prevents it from admitting this fact. It is caught in two contradictory worlds, one real and one pretended or ignored, just as Susan Heakes ignored Gosling’s plight and condemns Harry for trying to help him.
Ultimately, Heakes lunged at Harry for protecting his client from the monopoly of lawyers over the provision of legal services which blocked Al from obtaining affordable justice. In Heakes’ twisted view of reality, if Harry had walked away from Al and decided not to help him, he would have been “moral”. By trying to help him, Harry committed the greatest crime—infringing on lawyers’ turf. The Goslings of the world be damned. Lawyers’ turf must be protected at all costs. So this is the ugly face of Lesson One: focus on an insignificant detail that serves your purpose to protect your interest. Ignore the big picture. Pretend to beat your opponent in the judicial ring at whatever cost, even if you need to sacrifice reality.