Advice for self-represented litigants, Part 3: LSUC Bencher Joseph Groia “Lawyer-bullies prey on the weak and inexperienced”

Lawyers Gerry Ranking and Lorne Silver-private

Lawyers Gerald Ranking (left) & Lorne Silver. Strategies for cross-examination of self-represented litigant included screaming, yelling foul words and throwing objects at the witness. (as indicated in transcripts of cross-examination with the Judge not present. The lawyers later apologized to the court, but not to the self-represented litigant.)

The Legal Profession’s culture of bullying

Law Society of Upper Canada bencher Joseph Groia and BC lawyer Gerry Laarakker are two of the high profile people weighing in with comments on law professor Adam Dodek’s excellent article: Ending Bullying in the Legal Profession.

In January 2012, the Law Society of British Columbia found Laarakker guilty of misconduct for not being polite to a bullying Ontario lawyer. Laarakker had to pay $4,500 in fines and costs. The Ontario lawyer-bully walked free because the legal profession has a culture of bullying that law societies tolerate and even support through attacks on lawyers who stand against the practice.

According to lawyer Katarina Germani of Clyde & Co. LLP in Toronto, “(lawyer-bully) behaviour is so often normalized by the profession.”

And as Chris Budgell comments, bullying by lawyers is a problem in the courts, not just within law firms.

Self-represented litigants need to be aware of lawyer-bullies

There is a sometimes difficult to define line between a lawyer diligently representing their client – and engaging in bullying. Although there are contrary opinions I’m sure, I believe that most judges and most lawyers dealing with self-represented litigants try to be fair – if for no other reason than to avoid appeals and complaints.

But, as LSUC bencher Joseph Groia points out, some lawyers are bullies who attempt to prey on the weak and inexperienced. That description certainly includes self-represented litigants.

In my own case, during a January 2013, cross-examination where the judge was not present, senior counsel Lorne S. Silver of Cassels Brock & Blackwell yelled, screamed foul language at the top of his voice and threw objects at me. All this is supported in the transcripts. Co-counsel Gerald Ranking of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP later apologized to the court (but not to me), for the disgusting behaviour, of which Mr. Ranking played his own part during the same cross-examination.  Read more

Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada approved & licensed known pedophile to be children’s lawyer – with predictable results.

John David Coon Lawyer Pedophile-private

“Coon was given a licence to practice law in Ontario despite a history that included a prior criminal conviction for sexually assaulting a child.

According to the documents, Coon revealed in 2004 to the Law Society that he had been convicted of sexually assaulting a friend’s 12-year-old daughter in 1991.

… But the Law Society determined there was insufficient evidence to justify what is known as a “good character” hearing after Coon produced a “favourable” report from a psychologist who had treated him from 1990 to 1994…” (National Post)

Ontario Lawyer John David Coon is on the run. Arrest warrant issued.

Accused of sexually assaulting 4-year old girl while acting in his professional capacity as an Ontario lawyer.

Thought to be hiding in Thailand or Cambodia.

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

Far be it that I, or any ordinary Canadian, should attempt to define professional standards for Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada.

After all, the Law Society has arranged it so that lawyers are unaccountable to anyone but their fellow members of the Club. Ontario lawyers are only regulated and judged by the same people they went to law school with, worked with and attended office and family functions with.

These same members of the Club decided that a convicted pedophile met the ‘good character’ standards to be licensed as a lawyer in Ontario. Not to mention that the pedophile’s area of practice was ‘Child Protection Law’.

Well, if that’s the standard, who are we ordinary Canadians to disagree?

With the Club.   Read more

Canadian Judicial Council refuses investigation of Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy. CJC says “No misconduct”

Norman Sabourin, CJC Executive Director & General Counsel

Norman Sabourin, CJC Executive Director (photo courtesy of The Lawyers Weekly)

“I have carefully considered your complaint and concluded that it does not involve misconduct. Accordingly, I will be taking no further action.”

Norman Sabourin
Executive Director and Senior General Counsel
Canadian Judicial Council

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

I have just received the below letter from Canadian Judicial Council Director Norman Sabourin, in response to my January 5, 2016 complaint about the actions of Ontario Superior Court Justice the Honourable J. Bryan Shaughnessy. (CJC 2016 Response Sabourin PDF 906kb download)

The letter is dated January 28, 2016. The envelope has an office postage meter date of February 3, 2016. Assuming that the CJC mailed the letter at Canada Post shortly after running it through the CJC’s office postage meter (and that it didn’t sit on someone’s desk) it took Canada Post almost eight weeks to deliver an ordinary mail letter from Ottawa to Barrie, Ontario.

That seems to be abysmal performance on the part of Canada Post. On the other hand, Mr. Sabourin messed up the postal code. So for whatever the reasons, I have just received the CJC’s decision about my complaint. Contrary to the indication on the letter, the CJC did not send the letter to me via email.

I invite my readers, and especially those involved in Canada’s Justice System who love the Rule of Law, to carefully consider the evidence of Justice Shaughnessy’s actions as reported in my articles here at DonaldBest.ca.

Feb. 9, 2016: Judge J. Bryan Shaughnessy under investigation by Canadian Judicial Council

Dec. 2, 2015: Ontario Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy secretly increased prisoner’s jail sentence; in a backroom meeting, off the court record, without informing the prisoner.

March 9, 2016: Canadian Judicial Council remains silent on investigation of Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

Then, I invite you to have a carefully considered read of Mr. Sabourin’s letter, and repeat after Mr. Sabourin: “…it does not involve misconduct…it does not involve misconduct…it does not involve misconduct.”

That any judge would do what Justice Shaughnessy did; illegally, vindictively, in secret, in a backroom and off the court record, is immensely disturbing to every lawyer I have spoken with.

“In all my years of practicing law, this is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen a judge do.” 

Senior Ontario lawyer writes to Donald Best after examining the evidence against Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy.

I’ll be writing further about this subject in a while.

Photo of Norman Sabourin courtesy of The Lawyers Weekly.

Anonymous Companies: Global Witness undercover investigation shows 25% of lawyers will money launder

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

An undercover investigation by Global Witness found that twenty-five percent of the New York lawyers they approached were willing to become involved in moving suspect monies into the United States. Several of the lawyers even suggested that their trust accounts could be used for the purpose.

The Global Witness investigation highlights the role of anonymously-owned companies in avoiding detection of money laundering. Most of the unethical lawyers in the hidden videos suggested using anonymously-owned companies and even layers of companies to money-launder.

What is most shocking about the 25% rate of corruption is that these were all cold calls by an undercover investigator.

A stranger walked in the door and 25% of the lawyers laid out strategies to enable money-laundering or otherwise agreed to participate to varying degrees. It is reasonable to assume that some of the lawyers who refused to participate did so because they were suspicious of the undercover investigator. Some would probably have agreed to money launder had they been approached by an existing client, therefore the Global Witness figure of 25% is probably low. Perhaps very low.

Gerald L Ranking Fasken noncopyright Photo-SAN

Fasken Martineau Toronto lawyer Gerald L Ranking knowingly used a phoney, non-existent ‘corporate client’ to commit fraud upon Canadian courts. Where did the million dollars go?  Why didn’t Ranking submit costs to the Supreme Court of Canada?

In context, the Global Witness investigation is nothing less than an indictment of the legal profession – including of former lawyers who are now called ‘judges’. If I belonged to a profession where 25% of my colleagues were shown to be corrupt, I’d be embarrassed, upset and determined to clean up the profession – and I don’t mean just polishing the profession’s image by making excuses.

Dirty money is dirty money, whether taken by corrupt Lawyers or corrupt Police

Donald Best from an organized crime squad photo, mid-1980's

Toronto Police Sergeant Donald Best. From an organized crime squad photo, mid-1980’s

In 1985 when I was a Toronto Police officer working undercover in 52 Division, my squad mates and I received stacks of cash as bribes from organized crime. Yes, we took the cash and much more… but please read on!

Gang members offered us hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus fabulous vacations (and stunningly gorgeous women), for doing nothing more than looking the other way and not raiding certain gambling and prostitution establishments in the heart of downtown Toronto. An extra hundred thousand dollars a year per man (tax free cash) was quite a sum in 1985.

Were we tempted? Not even for an instant.

We were police officers; steadfast, independent agents of Her Majesty and Canada, and proud of it. So we organized a sting that went on far longer and far deeper than any of us ever imagined was possible.

We took the bribes under controlled conditions and found ourselves diving deep into the corrupt relationships between organized crime, lawyers, former lawyers, politicians, public officials and law enforcement. (And no… we didn’t take the offered women. We brought in female undercover officers to pose as our squad ‘groupies’. That story deserves its own book.) Read more

Canadian Judicial Council remains silent on investigation of Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy – Under CJC investigation.

“In the private sector, any business that failed to answer multiple letters over a 63 day period would soon be out of business. The CJC doesn’t have to worry about maintaining reasonable levels of service because it is effectively unaccountable to any outside person or organization.”

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

Neither the Canadian Judicial Council nor CJC Executive Director Norman Sabourin have replied to written requests as to the status of the CJC investigation of Ontario Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy.

The first request was simply acknowledged as ‘received’ by the CJC on January 7, 2016. Further requests were made on January 21, 2016 and February 4, 2016, but other than automatic confirmation of the receipt of the emails, there has been no reply from the CJC in 63 days.

In the private sector, any business that failed to answer multiple letters over a 63 day period would soon be out of business. The Canadian Judicial Council doesn’t have to worry about maintaining reasonable levels of service though; because the CJC is totally funded by tax dollars, operates without oversight and is effectively unaccountable to any outside person or organization.

The allegations, evidence and actual exhibits against Justice Shaughnessy, as well as copies of my letters to the CJC and Director Sabourin, can be read in my February 9, 2016 article:

Judge J. Bryan Shaughnessy under investigation by Canadian Judicial Council

I made a formal complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council, the organization mandated to investigate misconduct by federally appointed judges, however it appears that the organization is ‘going slow’ in its investigation of Justice Shaughnessy in an obvious strategy to enable a subject judge to wind down his caseload and retire without a completed investigation and resolution.

This is not in the public interest and I therefore decided to publish the complaint, all supporting evidence and my communications with the CJC so that Canadians can have transparency and be able to discuss this and similar incidents of serious judicial misconduct.

“In all my years of practicing law, this is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen a judge do.” (Senior Ontario lawyer writes to Donald Best after examining the evidence filed against Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy.)

From St. Matthew to Brad Pitt: The Ethics and Regulation of Expert Witnesses

 

Professor Adam Dodek Allard Law-private

The J. Donald Mawhinney Lecturship in Professional Ethics

Speaker: Associate Professor Adam Dodek

Lecture: “From St. Matthew to Brad Pitt: The Ethics and Regulation of Expert Witnesses”

Thursday, March 17, 2016 – 5pm to 6pm (lecture) – 6pm to 7pm (reception)

Four Seasons Hotel (Vancouver), Arbutus Room

RSVP by email or phone (604.822.5018)
The deadline to RSVP is March 15, 2016

This event qualifies for 1.0 CPD credit

About the lecture:

In recent years, many concerns have been raised about the role and the regulation of expert witnesses. Many of these concerns are not new. Critics have been questioning the ability of expert witnesses to be independent since at least the 19th century. This lecture will examine the ethical expectations of expert witnesses and evaluate how the justice system attempts to regulate their ethical conduct. It concludes that not only is the current approach to the regulation of expert witnesses insufficient, it is fundamentally flawed. A new paradigm is needed for the regulation of expert witnesses, one which imposes obligations on all actors in the justice system: lawyers, judges as well as experts.

In recent years, many concerns have been raised about the role and the regulation of expert witnesses. Many of these concerns are not new. Critics have been questioning the ability of expert witnesses to be independent since at least the 19th century. This lecture will examine the ethical expectations of expert witnesses and evaluate how the justice system attempts to regulate their ethical conduct. It concludes that not only is the current approach to the regulation of expert witnesses insufficient, it is fundamentally flawed. A new paradigm is needed for the regulation of expert witnesses, one which imposes obligations on all actors in the justice system: lawyers, judges as well as experts.

About the speaker:

Adam Dodek is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. He is a graduate of McGill, Harvard Law School and the University of Toronto and a member of the bars of Ontario and California. He has clerked for the Supreme Courts of Canada and Israel and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a founder of the Canadian Association of Legal Ethics (CALE) and was named by Canadian Lawyer in 2014 as one of Canada’s Most Influential Lawyers. In 2015, the Law Society of Upper Canada awarded him its Law Society Medal.

Adam Dodek is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. He is a graduate of McGill, Harvard Law School and the University of Toronto and a member of the bars of Ontario and California. He has clerked for the Supreme Courts of Canada and Israel and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a founder of the Canadian Association of Legal Ethics (CALE) and was named by Canadian Lawyer in 2014 as one of Canada’s Most Influential Lawyers. In 2015, the Law Society of Upper Canada awarded him its Law Society Medal.

Justice system rules and practices unfairly place self-represented litigants at tremendous disadvantage

courtroom-private

The deck is already stacked against self-represented litigants. Prohibiting the use of an assistant in court further ensures that self-represented litigants will lose.

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

Self-represented litigants often face a phalanx of lawyers in court; with each lawyer having their own junior to take notes and assist with exhibits and case management during the hearing.

In contrast to the latitude and even deference extended to their fellow legal professionals, most judges prohibit self-represented litigants from having an assistant or non-lawyer advisor in court. This systemic favouritism places self-represented litigants at serious disadvantage even when arguing relatively simple cases, but is devastating in more complex cases where there might be dozens or even hundreds of documents and other exhibits in play.

In my company’s civil case (Nelson Barbados Group Ltd. vs Cox et al), the defending lawyers filed tens of thousands of pages of documents as exhibits. As a self-represented litigant during my Contempt of Court hearing, I had to appear before the court alone and attempt to make my own notes as I simultaneously hunted through boxes for reply documents and exhibits.

The opposing lawyers, Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver, made team notes and took turns handling the exhibits as the other addressed the court. Occasionally there would also be junior lawyers taking notes. The lawyers refused me permission to make recordings, so I was left waiting sometimes weeks for transcripts before I had accurate notes of what had transpired in court or at examinations.

This type of systemic bias by the justice system and courts against self-represented persons is simply unacceptable in an age where so many citizens cannot afford legal representation. Access to Justice is a human rights issue. It’s time that the legal profession acknowledged the systemic bias against self-represented persons.

Dr. Julie Macfarlane of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project just posted an excellent article about self-represented litigants being forced to appear alone in court. Well worth your time:

The Loneliness of the Self-Represented Litigant

When her case was called, Maria (not her real name) walked towards the front table in the courtroom and, anxiously shifting her papers, asked the judge if she could have her sister sit with her during the hearing. She explained that she could not take notes and listen to what was being said at the same time, and her sister could help her by taking notes for her. Maria said that she had become so overwhelmed the last time she appeared in court that she had started to cry, and felt humiliated getting so upset in public, in front of the people watching in the courtroom. If her sister could sit beside her, it would help her to stay calm and centred.

The judge said no. You have to make your own case, or go and get a lawyer.

But my sister would not speak, she would just take notes, Maria tried to explain.

The judge told her to stop talking and sit down.

Continue reading The Loneliness of the Self-Represented Litigant

Judge J. Bryan Shaughnessy under investigation by Canadian Judicial Council

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

“In all my years of practicing law, this is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen a judge do.” (Senior Ontario lawyer writes to Donald Best after examining the evidence filed against Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy.)

It is obvious that, as previously documented by the news media in other cases, the Canadian Judicial Council is delaying and drawing out the process to enable a subject judge to wind down their caseload and retire without an investigation and resolution.

This CJC cover-up strategy is not in the public interest. Therefore, I have decided to ‘go public’ with the details of the complaint about Justice Shaughnessy’s serious misconduct, and will do so on February 9, 2016.” (Donald Best in a February 4, 2016 letter to Mr. Norman Sabourin, Executive Director, Canadian Judicial Council)

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

The Canadian Judicial Council is investigating Ontario Superior Court Judge J. Bryan Shaughnessy for serious misconduct involving the illegal and secret substitution of a court order; made in secret and off the court record in a deliberate, vindictive and premeditated extra-judicial abuse of his position and authority.

On May 3, 2013 after court had finished and I had been sentenced and taken into custody, Justice Shaughnessy then went to a backroom where he secretly increased my prison sentence, without a hearing, without informing me as a self-represented litigant, and arranged everything so I would not discover the increased sentence until told by the prison staff at some unknown time in the future.

It is a given that Justice Shaughnessy would not have committed this misconduct had I been represented by a lawyer, but as a self-represented litigant I was vulnerable and defenseless against his abuse of power.

I wrote about Justice Shaughnessy’s actions in a December 2, 2015 article published on my website, and included copies of Justice Shaughnessy’s original January 15, 2010 Warrant of Committal and his secretly substituted May 3, 2013 order that increased my jail sentence by a month without informing me.

20100115 Warrant Justice Shaughnessy SAN

20130503 Warrant Justice Shaughnessy SAN

(click photos to see full size*)

I made a formal complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council, the organization mandated to investigate misconduct by federally appointed judges, however it appears that the organization is ‘going slow’ in its investigation of Justice Shaughnessy in an obvious strategy to enable a subject judge to wind down their caseload and retire without an investigation and resolution.

This is not in the public interest and I have therefore decided to publish the complaint, all supporting evidence and my communications with the CJC so that Canadians can have transparency and be able to discuss this and similar incidents of serious judicial misconduct.

February 4, 2016 letter to CJC Director Norman Sabourin    Read more

When big law firm lawyers won’t say ‘No’ to unethical demands from major clients

Canadian Bar Association’s Ethics Forum underlines why ordinary citizens should involve themselves in the discussion. Legal Ethics are too important to be left to the legal profession alone.

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

In life and in legal practice, sometimes making an ethical decision is simple, even easy. Other times, doing the right thing, no matter how carefully considered, seems to be an impossiblity given all the circumstances.

In any profession the laws, practices, technologies and societal expectations are constantly changing in ways that make new difficulties for anyone trying to behave ethically. While I’m sure that plumbers and ceramic tile installers have their ethical concerns and codes of conduct, I think you’ll agree with me that along with medicine, the practice of law is probably one of the most difficult professions when it comes to the challenge of behaving ethically.

The Canadian Bar Association’s Ethics Forum is coming up on March 7, 2016. I won’t be attending but I just might next year after my book is published, because the one thing that seems to be missing at these conferences is the perspective from outside of the legal communities.

While some lawyers may not appreciate independent civilian involvement and oversight of the legal profession, virtually all ordinary Canadians I’ve spoken with agree that laws and the practice of law are far too important and foundational to our society to be left to lawyers alone.

The list of speakers and moderators at this year’s Ethics Forum includes many of the ‘Who’s Who’ leaders in the area of legal ethics. Malcolm Mercer (McCarthy Tetrault LLP) and Alice Woolley (University of Calgary) are the co-chairs. Dr. Steven Vaughan (University of Birmingham) will deliver the keynote speech.

Other panelists and moderators include:

  • Brent Cotter, University of Saskatchewan
  • Elaine Craig, Schulich School of Law
  • Adam Dodek, University of Ottawa
  • Allan Fineblit, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP
  • Charles Gluckstein, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers
  • Stephen Goudge, Paliare Roland LLP
  • Julia Holland, Torys LLP
  • Gavin Hume, Harris & Co
  • Jasminka Kalajdzic, Windsor Law School
  • Darrel Pink, Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
  • Stephen Pitel, Western University
  • Amy Salyzyn, University of Ottawa
  • Noel Semple, Windsor Law School

Although I won’t be attending this year, I do have an ethical question for the panels to consider, especially in light of the topic of Dr. Vaughan’s keynote address about the too-cosy relationships between large law firms and some major clients:

Example Situation: A Large Law Firm lawyer acts unethically. Should the law firm refund the client’s payments for ‘work done’?

And just to make it interesting for the discussion panels at the Ethics Forum, the following example is real, and involves one of the law firms (but not the lawyers) participating on the panels:    Read more

Guest Column: How one self-represented litigant lost in court, but won the larger battle

blind-justice canada-private

Reader ‘John” reminds us that ‘Justice’ can sometimes be won outside of court

I have seen one self represented litigant actually win, but in the court of public opinion after the case was tossed for a technicality in filing.

In 1995 or thereabouts Leonard Earl St. Hill represented the Scotland District Association against the Attorney General and Prime Minister of Barbados.

Mr. St. Hill was no lawyer. He appeared before Mr. Frank King and was opposed by the Attorney General.

The Prime Minister of Barbados, as far as the Scotland District Association alleged, acted ultra vires in placing a garbage dump in the National Park on land zoned for the supply of water.

Once the case was lost the Government applied for security for costs of $60,000 BDS if I remember correctly, effectively killing the appeal.

Richard Goddard and others mobilized opposition to the plan to locate the garbage dump in the National Park.

Funnily enough, it happened in Barbados.

Even funnier, the Attorney General was David Simmons, MP for St. Thomas and member of the then ruling Barbados Labour Party.

Simmons caused a storm when he was elevated to the Chief Justice of Barbados in 2001. The Prime Minister was Owen Seymour Arthur.

Both of them and Barbados are known to Mr. Best in his trials.

It is estimated that the Government of Barbados spent in excess of BDS$50 million (US$25 million) trying to mitigate the land slip issues but the springs in the hills above the dump made it into a lake, just as predicted by members of the Scotland District Association.

Twenty years later, no garbage has been dumped there; a victory in the court of public opinion for the Scotland District Association.

It was also a victory for common sense.

Sometimes victories are not won in a court of law and sometimes a loss in court is a win.

This article originally left as a comment by ‘John’ on Advice for self-represented litigants, Part 1: Walking away is sometimes the best decision

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