Robert Lapper’s moral leadership failure undermined Ontario’s Law Society
After six years as CEO of Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada, Robert G. W. Lapper Q.C. steps down at the end of this month – some say appropriately so on Halloween. Even Lapper’s farewell announcement reflects the elitist, out of touch self-centred behaviour that Ontarians have come to expect from the lawyers’ union…
“I am confident that the Law Society will continue to make a diﬀerence, and serve the public interest very well.” Outgoing CEO Robert Lapper Q.C.*
Heady words from Robert Lapper – whose term was rocked by the scandal of what is probably the largest cover-up in the law society’s history. The Toronto Star’s Broken Trust series details how the law society quietly handles the cases of lawyers who commit criminal offences against clients – not reporting the crimes to the police and often allowing the involved lawyers to resume practicing law when the dust settles and the victims have been bought off.
How the ongoing cover-ups of lawyers’ criminal activity against their clients serves the ‘public interest’, Mr. Lapper has never explained.
The cover-ups of serious lawyer misconduct didn’t start with Robert Lapper, but they did continue and even accelerated under his leadership.
“It is never a good idea to allow powerful organizations and people in positions of trust and power to self-regulate. Time and time again the Law Society of Upper Canada has shown that it is incapable of self-regulation in the public interest.
Most Ontarians believe that the lawyers’ union (for that is all it is) no longer has the moral authority to self-regulate.”
Lapper’s self-congratulatory resignation (repeated fully at the end of this article) and the fawning reply by LSUC Treasurer Paul Schabas come at a time when it can be fairly said that never before in Canadian history have the people and the justice system been so far apart. Never before has justice been so inaccessible to the vast majority of ordinary Canadians.
“Never before in Canadian history have the people and the justice system been so far apart. Never before has justice been so inaccessible to the vast majority of ordinary Canadians.”
It can also be fairly said that the elites who currently run the legal system do so primarily for the benefit of the legal profession. Nothing illustrates this better than Family Court where the vast majority of persons before the court cannot afford a lawyer and so are forced to appear by themselves. In Toronto this approaches 80% of litigants.
Former Ontario Court Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo recently recommended that lower-cost paralegals be allowed to act in Family Court as that would at least bring some order to the chaos and exponentially increase real access to justice compared with the current situation.
“Not a chance” said Ontario’s lawyers and judges who want to maintain their monopoly at the expense of ordinary people who need justice – but can’t afford even $200 an hour for some kid out of law school let alone double that for a senior family lawyer.
“Nobody is talking to anybody in the public about (the Bonkalo recommendations), and the law society’s attitude is just this ‘trust-us’ stuff. Well, the public doesn’t trust them, because the public can’t afford them.” Dr. Julie Macfarlane of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project.
Robert Lapper: Organizational success, moral failure
For six years Robert Lapper failed to provide the moral leadership that Ontario’s law society so desperately needs. He also had the chance to provide leadership in my case, but ran the other way.
In November 2012 I notified Robert Lapper in writing of certain criminal activities by named Ontario lawyers and Bay Street law firms. You can read my letters and the law society’s response here (pdf).
I told Mr. Lapper that dozens of lawyers had refused to represent me because I had voice recordings and other evidence that showed senior lawyers had fabricated evidence and lied to the judge to convict me of contempt of court. I asked for Mr. Lapper’s help in finding a lawyer willing to take my case and explained that dozens of lawyers had refused me because they feared backlash and opprobrium from the profession if they took my side against Bay Street lawyers.
In reply Mr. Lapper and the lawyers’ union sent me an email advising to ‘go fish’ for a lawyer on LSUC’s website. No investigation was launched into the criminal acts by LSUC members. No evidence was seized or protected. When the law society later became aware of additional misconduct by the lawyers, including apparent money laundering by one of the Bay Street cabal, they still covered up. (Full story here: Cowardice and lack of Integrity at Ontario’s Law Society)
For six years Robert Lapper failed to provide the moral leadership, courage and integrity that the Law Society of Upper Canada always claims but doesn’t practice.
As the people of Ontario say ‘good riddance’ to Mr. Lapper, we hope that the next CEO of the lawyers’ union has the courage and integrity to serve the public interest and the public trust first.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
* Lapper’s full resignation statement:
“After almost six years as CEO of the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) I have decided that it is time to leave, to focus on new opportunities and life priorities. The opportunity to have been involved in so many of the ambitious and innovative policy and regulatory initiatives of this Law Society over the past five years has been deeply gratifying and unfailingly interesting. I leave feeling pleased and passionate about the accomplishments of this organization over that time, knowing that the Law Society has both a strong organizational foundation and an openness to new ideas that will serve it well as it approaches future challenges in legal services regulation and access to justice.
It has been an honour and a privilege to have been part of this amazing organization. I have worked with four Treasurers, Benchers, an amazing senior management and staﬀ team, and a large group of stakeholders and interested supporters. I acknowledge with much gratitude their support, and I leave with a large network of good friends and colleagues among them. I am confident that the Law Society will continue to make a diﬀerence, and serve the public interest very well.”
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Barrie, Ontario, Canada