First We Fire
(Stone)Wally Oppal has, deserved or not, a reputation as having been a good magistrate when he was on the bench. However in his current role as the people's lawyer his performance has been questionable at best, or perhaps even mal-practice. When an individual retains counsel, the individual retains the right to dismiss that counsel if and when that counsel fails to act in the interest of the individual/client due to conflict of interest or fraud. As Attorney-General of British Columbia, Mr. Oppal's duty is to represent the legal interests of the citizenry, NOT the CEO premier, his cabinet (of which StoneWally is a member) or the BC liaR Party.
Perhaps the first criteria by which one can judge a lawyer's worth is by the validity of his legal opinions. Indeed, if the client receives bad advice regarding the merits of his case, the client then may merely waste financial resources pursuing an unwinnable case. Of course this may be no problem for the attorney whose primary goal is the collection of ever more legal fees, wasted or not. Since we, as taxpayers, pay not only the salaries of all MLAs and cabinet ministers, not to mention court costs for defending poor laws or fighting obstruction and obfuscation of cases dealing with the public interest, we are entitled to judge the performance of our A-G as the "paying" client(s)!
So how well is Wally doing, looking out for our interests?
It is difficult for this citizen to see the value to us of Mr. Oppal's continual refusal to answer any question regarding Patrick Kinsella, BC Rail, BC Hydro and any other government agency or crown corporation that Mr. Kinsella has been "lobbying" for (though he isn't a lobbyist - or at least not a registered one), indeed to the casual observer he appears to be representing the interests of Gordon Campbell - CEO of the Province. With all the cut-backs to legal aid in BC, perhaps it wouldn't be too much to expect the CEO Premier to hire his own representation.
But let us examine the value of Mr. Oppal's legal advice/opinions. Recently he had to turn to the media, as lame as it may be in BC, to explain the meaning of "sub judice." Other lawyers, well respected and successful ones in private practice, tended to disagree with Mr. Oppal's view of and (according to some) abuse of the principle of "sub judice." It seems as if only "enhanced" interrogation could bring Wally, Gordo or any others with any knowledge to explain anything to do with the sale/lease/giveaway of BC Rail. At StoneWally's request Gary Mason took the time to explain sub judice to the public, since the public's lawyer either can't or won't.
This week, the Attorney-General got into a heated exchange with a group of journalists in the halls of the legislature over the matter. Frustrated, Mr. Oppal challenged the media to do a better job of explaining sub judice to the public
That may have been a tactical mistake..
According to Clayton Ruby, one of Canada's top criminal lawyers:
"When a trial is under way, fair comment is fine, expressing an opinion is fine, talking about the facts is fine," Mr. Ruby said from his Toronto law office. "You just can't act in a way that prejudices the public against Smith the litigant or Smith the defendant. So properly understood, it leaves full scope for freedom of expression.
"But politicians use it to avoid making any comment about a subject that is embarrassing and that is not the [sub judice] doctrine. That is just an abuse, but a convenient abuse.
"They're cheating and they're doing it as politicians often do: to prevent the public from knowing what really went on. And there's no reason for that to be accepted as valid. It's not valid."
If I was charged with a serious crime, I would love to have Clayton sitting next to me at the defence table in court.
Another way to judge an attorney is by how well his "opinions" coincide with the actual "law" or the law as defined by a judge in issuing a judgement. Here again Wally (as well as the previous A-G under the CEO Premier) fails the smell test. This government has wasted a lot of tax dollars defending laws that were found to be in violation of the Charter - a waste of time and money by any measure.
The legal advice of OUR lawyers proved lacking in the cases of tearing up the HEU contracts, its bad faith negotiations with the crown prosecutors and most recently the infamous and now stricken Gag-Law - Bill 42.
Vaughn Palmer captures Wally Oppal issuing worthless opinions in the Vancouver Sun for April 2. As Wally and the liaR hordes were pushing Bill 42 through yet another abbreviated sitting Wally opined:
The government was on solid legal and constitutional ground in its effort to severely restrict third party advertising in the run-up to provincial election campaigns, Oppal insisted. He was especially confident because he'd persuaded his colleagues to reduce the period covered by the near ban from 120 days to 60 days.
Oppal told reporters. "I have no difficulty saying that in my view, 60 days is reasonable and will pass constitutional muster." Mind, he quickly added: "I can't predict what a judge may do."
Predicting "what a judge may do" is an important part of lawyering-kc
Of course we know that the law was completely overturned, but we still had to pick up yet more court costs as the government, through OUR lawyer, appealed for a delay (until after the election - go figger) in the judgement taking effect. If Wally was MY lawyer, I would be looking for replacement counsel. The people of Delta in particular and the province as a whole have a chance to not only replace our attorney, but our CEO and board of directors. This could be the last chance to save our province, before it is all in the hands of our CEO's corporate buddies, so hopefully people will pay attention!
We certainly don't want to have to say that British Columbia USED to be the Best Place on Earth!
* Apologies to William Shakespeare for this paraphrase from Henry VI - Part 2
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers".
- (Act IV, Scene II).