Should US White Supremacy Group Forfeit Bequest in Canadian Will?

GEO_edited-1In an intriguing case from New Brunswick a court will decide whether a bequest in Robert McCorkill’s will to an American Neo-Nazi group should be declared void because of the racist views of the organization.

National Alliance, a white supremacy group in West Virginia, was gifted a collection of valuable coins from ancient Rome and Greece, an antique Iranian sword, and other artifacts and investments said to be worth a minimum of $250,000 and as much as $1 million dollars.

Robert McCorkill, who died in 2004 in New Brunswick, lived primarily in Saskatchewan and Ontario during his lifetime. He was a geologist and a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, who had spent time at National Alliance’s headquarters.

The challenge to his Will was brought by his sister, Isabelle McCorkill, who maintains that it’s not about the money but a reflection of her moral duty to intervene in what she describes as an offensive and illegal bequest.

The Attorney-General of New Brunswick agrees with her, as do B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who were granted intervener status and made submissions at the hearing.

In their arguments against upholding the will, the interveners argued that the National Alliance’s profile had declined with the death of its founder ten years before, and that the bequest would provide funds to the organization to resurrect itself and its mandate to deny the Holocaust, and promote racial cleansing and genocide.

However, the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) argued that the will should stand as representing Mr. McCorkill’s testamentary wishes which are paramount and should not be subject to court intervention simply because the intended beneficiary espouses a message that is unpopular or even contrary to the Criminal Code or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

CAFE also argued that it was not up to a judge to determine the worthiness of a beneficiary and to do so would open a Pandora’s box, illustrating their point by querying whether a bequest to the Hell’s Angels or to a drug dealer or even to Greenpeace could be subject to attack.

They also noted that the National Alliance is a lawful corporation in good standing and had no criminal convictions either in Canada or the United States.

A very thorny question and one that will require wisdom. Is such a gift an affront to Canadian public policy and should the Court interfere with testamentary wishes? How do you think the Court will rule?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Why Trinity Western Law School is Good For Canada

BarristerElaine Craig, an assistant professor at Dalhousie Law School wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on December 18 concerning the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s Law School. As a Vancouver lawyer and arbitrator and a committed Christian I have listened to the critics rage on since TWU made their application to the Federation of Law Societies to obtain the necessary approval.

The good news is that the Federation approved TRU’s application, quickly followed by the assent of British Columbia’s Ministry of Advanced Education. With these obstacles out of the way, TWU Law School will now move forward, much to the chagrin of Ms. Craig and others who have decried the establishment of a faith-based law school.

In her article Ms. Craig scolds the Federation for refusing to act in the interests of “equality and justice” by virtue of TWU’s Covenant which states that students, staff and faculty must “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”.

What she and others of her ilk ignore is that freedom of religion co-exists with the right to equality. However, in the case of private institutions, religious freedom trumps equality.

Section 41 of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code provides a specific exemption for non-profit religious organizations where the organization’s primary purpose is to promote the interests and welfare of an identified group, characterized by a common religion.

Ms. Craig also repeats the tired refrain that TWU’s Covenant is evidence of their anti-gay stance, when she knows the prohibition of sex outside of marriage applies equally to heterosexual couples.

In Ms. Craig’s world there is no room for divergent opinions and the accommodation of different beliefs, even though tolerance of opposing views is the centerpiece of a democracy. In her view, the curtailment of religious freedom is necessary in order to promote the beliefs of another group. Ironically, Ms. Craig is a strong proponent of human rights, so long as the rights are not of the religious variety.

The basic mission of religious law schools, of which there are many in the United States, is to educate students to be lawyers in democracies founded on Judeo-Christian principles. How can Christian ethics and morals be considered inappropriate?

TWU will undoubtedly lead the way in Canada “integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice”. (Taken from the mission statement of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a Catholic school in Florida)

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bondage Judge’s Judicial Inquiry High-Jacked By Federal Court and Collapses

BarristerIf the Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry Committee reviewing Madam Justice Lori Douglas’ off-duty behavior is a microcosm of Canada’s justice system, why should anyone be surprised that after years of litigation manoeuvres by Ms. Douglas, the Committee has finally thrown up their hands and walked off the job.

Their frustration with the legal gamesmanship and the resulting delay and expense is a feeling that is shared by millions of Canadians daily, particularly those unfortunate enough to be caught in the morass of family court.

However, when the body that governs superior court judges in Canada cannot move forward and complete their mandate because of the interference of another court, one has well and truly gone down the rabbit hole.

Judge Douglas’ saga began in the Fall of 2010 when her husband, divorce lawyer Jack King’s former client, Alex Chapman, reneged on his 2003 agreement to keep his lips sealed in exchange for a payment of $25,000. His lurid secret was that Mr. King had shared explicit nude photos of his wife, Judge Douglas with him and allegedly attempted to entice him into a sexual relationship with the two of them.

Chapman’s complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council alleging sexual harassment started their investigation which eventually led to a rare public inquiry in May 2012 as to whether she was fit to retain her position as a judge of the superior court in Manitoba.

By the time the hearing got underway, additional allegations tangentially related to the harassment charges came into sharper focus. The investigation revealed that when she applied for her judicial position in 2005 she answered the question “Is there anything in your past that could reflect badly on the office of a judge?” in the negative and “changed” some of her diary entries that related to the Chapman allegations.

Several days into the inquiry, after the evidence of husband Jack King and Mr. Chapman had gone in, it became apparent to Judge Douglas’ lawyer that things were not going well for her and an application to terminate the inquiry based on the legal principle of “a reasonable apprehension of bias” was brought on her behalf. The sole basis for the allegation was that counsel for the Committee aggressively cross-examined two inquiry witnesses.

On July 27, 2012 the Committee rejected her application, whereupon she launched an appeal to the Federal Court and obtained an order from that Court that the Inquiry would be “stayed” or put “on hold” until the Federal Court could rule.

The absurdity of the process in the Federal Court is explained by the Committee in their written REASONS FOR RESIGNATION OF THE INQUIRY COMMITTEE CONCERNING THE HONOURABLE LORI DOUGLAS released on November 20, 2013.

They point out that the orders sought by Judge Douglas in the Federal Court and made by the Court were argued without challenge since the only Respondent in the action is the Attorney-General of Canada who brought their own application to be removed from the Federal Court proceedings. The Court refused to remove them from the proceedings but their lack of enthusiasm was evident when they did not appear in court for the stay hearing, thus turning it into an uncontested application, also known as a “slam-dunk”.

The learned justices of the Committee also lament that crucial issues such as the Federal Court’s jurisdiction to usurp the Inquiry’s authority were never addressed and recognize that it may be several more years before the Federal Court completes its review, including the inevitable appeals that will follow.

Finally, the Committee affirms their belief that the inquiry process under the Judges Act must not be high-jacked by “unlimited steps and interlocutory privileges…at public expense”…with the goal of defeating the “wider public purpose that must be served by the judicial conduct process.”

The Inquiry Committee’s resignation is regrettably a necessary, but embarrassing step in a circus that has played out far too long. When will Lori Douglas follow their lead and tender her resignation?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Lawyer’s Nasty Letter Leads to His Suspension

DSC00507 (2)No one in their right mind could possibly welcome an unsolicited letter from a lawyer. The chances that such letters will bring good news are extremely remote. Clients who retain lawyers to write the dreaded “lawyer’s letter” usually have a situation that means trouble for the recipient.

But in the ordinary course of a lawyer’s business, there is no reason that these letters heralding bad news, should be rude or nasty.

I have always subscribed to the theory that each person deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy, even in the most difficult of circumstances. After all, dramatic entreaties outside of the courtroom are of little assistance in resolving disputes.

Unfortunately, not all lawyers have the discipline to exercise basic rules of common courtesy and common sense. Indiana divorce lawyer Joseph Barker falls into that category.

While acting for a father who had been denied access to his child, Mr. Barker wrote to mother’s counsel:

“[Father] told me this week that he has only seen his baby . . . one day all year. Your client doesn’t understand what laws and court orders mean I guess. Probably because she’s an illegal alien to begin with.

I want you to repeat to her in whatever language she understands that we’ll be demanding she be put in JAIL for contempt of court. I’m filing a copy of this letter with the Court to document the seriousness of this problem.”[emphasis in original letter]

The Indiana Supreme Court took exception to Mr. Barker’s letter invoking two sections of their Code of Professional Conduct:

4.4(a): Using means in representing a client that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.
8.4(g): Engaging in conduct, in a professional capacity, manifesting bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, or similar factors, and this conduct was not legitimate advocacy.

Mr. Barker was suspended for 30 days for professional misconduct. The insulting letter served no legitimate purpose related to the matter of his client’s access. Perhaps Mr. Barker believed his offensive missive would intimidate opposing counsel or impress his client? Not likely…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

DISBARRED: The Series Part 9 Scott Saidel

GEO CASUALWhen hot-shot Florida attorney Scott Rothstein’s world of excess collapsed with his $1.2 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, it was inevitable there would be collateral damage, but who could have guessed that Rothstein’s massive fraud would also bring down his beleaguered spouse’s lawyer?

Rothstein’s wife, Kim, shocked by her husband’s criminal acts, had lawyer Scott Saidel by her side, as federal investigators moved to repossess their homes, their yacht, and all the other “stuff” they took such pride in as Rothstein bilked family and friends, all the while parading around Florida like a “big man on campus”.

Boca Raton attorney Scott Saidel, who called himself a friend of Kim Rothstein’s, apparently felt sorry for her, particularly after her husband was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Unfortunately, his compassion led him to participate in a fraudulent scheme to hide over $1 million dollars of her jewellery, including a 12-carat diamond ring, despite a court order that all assets be relinquished to the trustee in bankruptcy.

He then secreted over half a million dollars in his law firm trust account when she sold a portion of the gold and gems. But there was more. Mr. Saidel and Kim Rothstein also conspired to convince the imprisoned Mr. Rothstein to falsely testify that the 12-carat ring had already been sold, so that they could keep it away from the bankruptcy trustee.

Scott Saidel was charged with money laundering, obstructing justice and tampering with a witness. Ms. Rothstein and a girlfriend, who also took part, were also arrested and charged.

Florida newspapers reported that Mr. Saidel wept as he apologized to the court and others for his “error in judgment”, a characterization of his crimes that drew ire from prosecutors. Saidel’s attorney made a passionate plea to the court that out of her client’s desire to help a friend, he had lost his career, his wife and family, and all his assets. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

After reading the news stories I almost felt sorry for Mr. Saidel, until I learned that his “assistance” to his client/friend, added $65,000 to his personal coffers, a hefty sum he was ordered to disgorge as a result of the convictions.

I also learned that Mr. Saidel’s Florida disbarment was not the first time he had fallen afoul of the criminal law. Saidel had practiced law in Arizona, prior to moving to Florida, and was barred from the practice of law for six months after pleading guilty to two felonies arising from an incident that left two passengers in the vehicle he was driving suffering serious bodily injury. Excess speed and alcohol were major contributors to the accident.

Kim Rothstein awaits her sentencing.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Sleazy Divorce Lawyer Faces Jail Term

BarristerWhen I first heard about Mary Nolan, a divorce attorney from Oakland California, I thought perhaps she was simply an overzealous and misguided advocate who got caught up in the emotional maelstrom of her high-conflict divorce practice, perhaps misled by a dirty cop on-the-take.

At the time, maintaining her innocence, she seemed to be a bit-player in scenarios set up by now-disgraced private investigator Chris Butler, situations referred to in the press as “Dirty DUI’s”.

One of Mr. Butler’s “games” was to “set-up” husbands going through a divorce, by instructing his attractive female operatives to entice them to a bar, and after too many drinks and a little dirty dancing, plant a friendly cop a mile from the drinking establishment waiting to bust the unsuspecting dupes.

On at least two occasions, Ms. Nolan just happened to be acting for their wives and lo and behold, the resulting criminal convictions for drunk driving were a serious problem for them in their custody and access claims.

This week Ms. Nolan plead guilty to tax evasion and hiring Mr. Butler to plant listening devices in the automobiles of her clients’ spouses. Butler, who was earlier sentenced to eight years in prison for a myriad of criminal offences, including drug trafficking, testified that Ms. Nolan’s clients paid him for the scam DUI’s but Nolan managed to escape the consequences of her participation in these activities.

Butler also admitted to planting eavesdropping devices inside “hundreds” of cars for clients.

But it is likely Mary Nolan’s evasion of tax that will see her spending time in prison. In multiple years she filed tax returns indicating annual income between $20,000 and $50,000 when she actually earned hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, resulting in a tax bill to the IRS of $1.8 million dollars.

She and Butler also face civil suits brought by husbands of Ms. Nolan’s clients, who suffered significantly after their arrests and convictions. Luckily for them, a higher court quashed their convictions after hearing of the dirty dealings between local police, P.I. Butler and attorney Nolan.

She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Ten-Year-Old B.C. Boy Champions Case for Gender Identity Syndrome

GEO CASUALA ten-year-old boy from Comox British Columbia, who calls himself Harriette, has gone public with his crusade to reform the law that prevents him from acquiring a new birth certificate to reflect his preferred gender.

Harriette’s birth name is Declan Forrest Cunningham, but he recently announced to his Grade 5 teacher and classmates that he is transgendered and lives as a girl, with the full support of his family, who decry the Canadian bureaucracy that refuse to issue him new identification.

Harriette could be a poster child for a debate that is brewing over the treatment of children who are confused about their gender.

Picture a little boy in a pink tutu, fairy wings and ballet pumps. Now imagine that boy being treated with hormone-blocking drugs in a clinic established to diagnose and treat children who believe they were born in the wrong body.

Gender Identity Syndrome, first identified by the American Psychiatric Association in the 1990’s, has spawned a new industry, one where children as young as five, are receiving puberty suppressing injections, despite a paucity of research with respect to the side effects or medical dangers that may accompany these treatments.

At Tavistock Clinic in the United Kingdom over 165 children are being treated by the clinic’s team of social workers and child therapists. Seven of these children are under the age of five, despite Tavistock’s own research that indicates that up to 80% of these children will change their minds about living in the wrong body, once they reach adolescence.

Nonetheless, proponents of hormone therapy believe the treatment is worthwhile to prevent the mental distress these children will experience as their bodies mature. The treatment is also said to be beneficial to those children who will eventually have gender-changing surgery. Others say the treatment reduces suicide and self-harm rates.

Contrary opinions abound. Professor Russell Viner, a hormone specialist at London’s Institute of Child Health believes the impact on a child’s developing bones and brain has not been ascertained and warns of the potential danger. He notes the drugs reduce a patient’s fertility level.

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a world authority on gender issues, with a Toronto clinic, is opposed to hormonal treatments for children. He says:

“Suppose you saw a black kid that wanted to be white. Wouldn’t you try to understand what was happening…You certainly wouldn’t recommend skin-bleaching.”

He says that gender confusion is an issue of nurture, not nature and believes dysfunctional families or cultural backgrounds play an important role. Other experts say that children confused about their gender may have experienced sexual abuse or have psychiatric ailments and need psychotherapy, not drugs, and not sexual reassignment surgery.

While it is reported that most adults who complete sex-change surgery are happy with their new lives, for others the surgery is anything but positive.

After allegations were made in 2009, psychiatrist Dr. Trudy Kennedy of the Monash Gender Dysphoria Clinic in Melbourne, Australia was forced to close her clinic for a time, while she dealt with numerous complaints and three lawsuits alleging negligence and faulty diagnosis.

Certainly the medical and ethical issues of prescribing intrusive treatments on vulnerable children requires more intense scrutiny than it has received to date.

While the Cunningham family believe their young son’s passion to find justice for himself is laudable, they ignore the potentially negative consequences of his public campaign. He is a child in his formative years who deserves to develop and mature away from the prying eyes of the media. If I was cynical I would say that it is his parents that seek the spotlight…another reality TV show?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Will State of Ohio Allow Parents to Terminate Daughter’s Chemo?

DSC01152_2 (2)_2
In a difficult case from Akron, Ohio the Amish parents of a 10-year-old girl with leukemia, have found themselves in a court battle over who has the right to make life and death medical decisions.

The little girl was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in April 2013 and was being treated with chemotherapy, when she begged her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, to terminate the treatment. Her parents were advised by doctors that with extensive chemo, over a two-year period, their daughter had an 85% chance of recovering from her illness.

This cancer is highly aggressive and when diagnosed the child is usually at stage 4.

Torn by their daughter’s pleas and the debilitating side effects they observed, they terminated the treatment in June and ended up defending the State’s court application to appoint as a temporary guardian, Maria Schimer, a former nurse, who is also an attorney, to make medical decisions in the child’s best interests.

The couple told the judge they were using holistic and herbal remedies together with the power of prayer. Medical experts testified that without treatment the girl had less than a year to live.

After hearing the evidence, Medina County Judge John Lohn ruled there was not a “scintilla” of evidence that the girl’s parents were unfit or incapable of making appropriate decisions for their daughter and dismissed the guardianship application.

However, an appeals court saw it differently, holding that it did not matter if the parents were fit and capable of making a reasonable decision, the only issue was whether the appointment of a guardian was in the child’s best interests.

The case will now go back to Judge Lohn for a new hearing. In the meantime, the chemo treatments have been resumed, pending a fresh ruling.

From an ethical perspective, the debate centers on the tension between respect for the parent’s wishes and religious beliefs, on the one hand, and the life of a young child, who may not survive without the treatment recommended by her doctors. The child’s desire to stop the chemo is understandable, but a child of ten is not capable of understanding the ramifications of her request.

In the child’s best interests, her parents must choose Life.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judicial “Copying” Longstanding and Acceptable Says Highest Court

GEO CASUALTwo years ago the British Columbia Supreme Court heard a case about a young boy who had severe brain damage and cerebral palsy as a result of difficulties during his birth. His mother sought damages on his behalf and was awarded several million dollars. His doctors and the hospital, who were found to be at fault, appealed the decision.

As is usual, a three-member panel of British Columbia’s Court of Appeal listened to their arguments and handed down their Reasons. What turned this case from a tragedy for this family to a case worthy of the attention of the Supreme Court of Canada was that two of the appeal judges excoriated the trial judge, accusing him of plagiarism by including lengthy excerpts from one of the lawyers’ written closing arguments in his Reasons for Judgment.

As a result of their findings, they set aside the young boy’s damage award and ordered a new trial, a devastating result for a family who had already suffered so much.

Many in the legal profession were shocked that this usually scholarly, genteel group of jurists would publicly impugn a sitting judge, for indulging in a practice that was frankly, commonplace. In fact, as far back as British jurist Lord Blackstone, lawyers hoped their written closing submissions would find a place in the Court’s Reasons and ultimately, dictate the Court’s decision.

Last week the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mr. Justice Groves’ so-called plagiarism was nothing of the kind and his rebuke by the appeal judges was exposed for what it was: an inappropriate attack on an exemplary judge who did nothing wrong. (Cojocaru v. BC Women’s Hospital 2013 SCC 30)

Chief Justice McLachlin noted that “judicial copying” is a longstanding and accepted practice which should only be condemned if it so egregious that it displaces the presumption that judges fufill their duties with integrity and impartiality.

She gave short-shrift to the criticism that a judges’s Reasons must be an “original” product of the judge’s mind and mused that a lack of originality is “part and parcel” of the judicial process:

“Borrowed prose, attributed or not, does not establish that a judge has failed to come to grips with the issues to be decided.”

She also affirmed that to criticize a judge for utilizing excerpts from counsel’s written submissions is to fundamentally misunderstand the Court’s task and the time-honoured tradition of decision-writing.

She noted that unlike term papers, novels, essays and newspaper articles, a judge’s Reasons reflect a body of law and legal principles that have been arrived at based on precedents, which over the years when recited in successive decisions take on a “deja-vu” quality. The verbatim repetition of legal formulas is de rigueur, representing the “tried and true” rather than the novel.

For Mr. Justice Groves the exoneration must be bittersweet, as he spent two years under the shadow of plagiarism that never was.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Another Nigerian Scam: Fake Fertility Clinic

BarristerA married couple from the United Kingdom tried for eight years to have a baby with no luck at all. After years of disappointment the couple were referred by family members to the Miracle of God Fertility Clinic in Port Harcourt Nigeria. They travelled there, and after paying $20,000, she underwent a fertilization procedure and became pregnant, according to Dr. Chinyere at the Clinic.

With much joy the couple returned to their home in England to await the birth of their child. Their first stop was a visit to their family doctor who informed his patient that she was not actually pregnant.

However, she was undeterred, relying on the Clinic’s advice that due to the nature of the procedure, her pregnancy would be more difficult to detect. As expected, she began to gain weight as well.

Nine months passed and the couple returned to Nigeria for the birth of their baby. After a painful birthing process under heavy sedation, the couple were presented with their baby, complete with its umbilical cord.

Arriving in England, they took their baby to its first medical check-up. Their doctor was stunned to see the child and contacted the police and social services who took their baby into custody after the doctor advised them that his patient had never been pregnant. DNA testing confirmed that the child was not biologically connected to the couple.

Court proceedings ensued where the couple sought the return of their child. The Crown, however, alleged that the parents of Baby D were fully aware of the child’s true circumstances and had knowingly participated in a fraud.

In a hearing before Mr. Justice Coleridge the couple were found to be innocent victims of a fertility scam. The Judge said:

“Gullible they may well have been, dishonest they most certainly were not. They had no inkling of the scam in which they were involved and the light only dawned after the production of the DNA tests. That is the conclusion to which the police and the Local Authority each independently have come and I think they are right.”

In a further court appearance the couple succeeded in obtaining custody of Baby D. A representative of “Children and Families Across Borders” expressed concern about the decision and its potential impact on trafficking in babies:

“Behind every one of these children lies an actual birth mother. She has been coerced, she may have been kidnapped or raped. These children are not given up willingly”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang