NOTE: The Harry Kopyto Defence Committee apologizes to all the persons who attended the scheduled Law Society hearings on August 29, and August 30, only to find out they were cancelled by the Panel. The cancellation was unforeseen. Your ongoing support is appreciated. The next hearing date is scheduled for October 16 and, if needed, October 17, 2013. These days have been set aside for a motion brought by Harry Kopyto challenging the Panel Chair to resign because of an appearance of bias. Full details are set out below.
Hearings Already Derailed—But Will the Train Crash?
Social reality took a big bite out of the Law Society’s case against Harry Kopyto on August 29, 2013. The hearings into his moral character were thrown into disarray and face potential collapse. Eight hearing dates set last June were cancelled. All further testimony, if needed, was deferred to November, 2013.
The mind-boggling twist in the plot came during the fifth year of hearings. The hearings were winding down to an increasingly predictable endgame. Harry Kopyto v the Law Society quickly became more like Panel Chair Margot Blight v Harry Kopyto when she took charge of Harry’s third hearing panel in 2011. Ms. Blight was brought into the picture by Big Law. She only takes retainers from employers. Harry Kopyto, on the other hand, only takes retainers from workers. Wasn’t it only a matter of time before Blight and Kopyto faced off in litigation away from their normal venue in the Osgoode Hall Museum Room? After all, they are fighting every day in legal trenches on behalf of their opposing constituencies outside the Law Society hearing room. Class enemies, you might say.
That time came in August, 2013 when Harry was retained to represent a teacher for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board in a discrimination complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Harry agreed to represent him before knowing Blight was representing his employer. The corresponding social opposition between their clients reflected itself in whom the clients chose as counsel to represent their adverse interests—Blight for the employer; Harry for the teacher.
Within the Law Society good character proceeding, this social opposition and conflict are reprised again, this time in a direct and not representative capacity between Harry and Margot Blight. Unexpectedly, this has now created an appearance of bias for Blight. There is no easy way out—only her resignation.
Blight Might Have a Financial Conflict
On August, 21, Blight tried to finesse the situation. She handed over the file in which she acted in opposition to Harry’s client to another counsel in her firm. She proudly proclaimed that she built a “firewall” between the two. This was a rash but understandable reaction that seems to have locked Blight into an appearance (or reality?) of a conflict of financial interest because of her firm’s ongoing financial retainer from the Respondent employer opposing Harry’s client. But it was a miscalculation that did nothing to douse the conflict which still threatens to consume Blight with its unquenchable flames.
On August 29, before the Law Society proceeding heard evidence, shortly after 9:30 a.m., Law Society prosecutor Heakes announced to the Panel, that they were aware of the conflict from a note published in the last blog article on this site. But what she didn’t tell the Panel was that Harry’s client had asked to be a witness at the hearings and Harry had agreed to have him testify. Did she consider this information given to her by Harry two days earlier, a minor unimportant detail? Blight thought the transfer of the file resolved the issue but that was before Harry announced to her after Heakes’ bizarre omission that Michael Giftopoulos whom she had fought tooth and nail before the Human Rights Tribunal was now a witness for Harry. Her effort to create distance from him, she suddenly realized, failed miserably.
Blight was astonished. How could she objectively evaluate the testimony of a witness for Harry when she was personally involved in opposing that witness and had all kinds of information and knowledge regarding matters that would be dealt with in his testimony for Harry? She immediately recognized the seriousness of the problem.
Blight Ignores Adjudicator’s Code of Conduct
First, Blight declined to rule on the issue of recusal. She decided to complicate the matter by compelling Harry to bring a formal motion, with cross-examination, facta, etc. In doing so, she ignored the Adjudicator’s Code of Conduct that required her to decide whether to resign from the Panel right away. In a shameless, undisguised direction to Law Society prosecutors, whom she treats as her research department, Blight encouraged them to explore, using less explicit words, whether Harry’s witness could be dispensed with. We know that Ms. Heakes and Ms. Blight are cocooned with each other, but don’t they even have enough respect for the process to pretend to be separated in their roles?
The motion is scheduled to be argued on two days—October 16 and, if needed, October 17, 2013. Blight will then decide if she will continue with the hearing or resign from the Panel. If she resigns, this will likely result in an implosion of the proceedings. Back to square one.
As the possibility of the destruction of the whole project to destroy Harry’s career dawned on her, Blight slowed down Heakes’ proposed full-speed-ahead agenda to resolve the conflict of interest and appearance of bias issues within a few days. Ms. Blight emphasized repeatedly how serious the issue was and her desire to proceed without undue haste.
Blight Faces Critical Decision
This latest dramatic turn in the Kopyto v Law Society saga is the most critical yet to confront this Hearing Panel. If Harry is allowed the right to call Mike Giftopoulos as his witness, which we naively thought was a fundamental right of natural justice, Blight will never be able to pass the smell test. How can she assess Mike’s evidence in light of her past involvement in his case (hostile to him) which he will testify about at some length? The Society has already initiated legal manoeuvres to try to eliminate or minimize the significance of Mike’s evidence.
The Society has invested great resources since June, 2009 in prosecuting Harry—three panels, 100 days of hearings and an amount of money that has likely edged into seven figures.
All of this is now at risk.
Supporters are encouraged to witness the event and to provide Harry with moral support—October 16 and, if needed, October 17 at 9:30 a.m., Museum Room, Osgoode Hall. Defend Harry’s right to be judged by an unbiased Panel. Stop the harassment!
Harry Kopyto Defence Committee