Letter to Social Justice Prof. Joanne St. Lewis: Please drop legal fee demand on student re: Court transparency
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From: Joseph Hickey
To: Professor Joanne St. Lewis
Date: April 2, 2012
Subject: Prof. Joanne St. Lewis: Please withdraw excessive legal fee demand on student re: court transparency
Dear Professor Joanne St. Lewis,
As you are a law professor concerned with social justice issues, the Founding Director of the Education Equity Program in Common Law at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the International Founding Committee of The Real News alternative media network, I bring the following matter to your direct attention as it concerns me personally and as it is a matter over which you have control.
On Wednesday, March 28, I brought a Motion to Intervene in favour of public observation of out-of-court cross-examinations in your defamation action against Mr. Denis Rancourt. As you must know, University of Ottawa President, Allan Rock, Chair of the Board of Governors, Robert Giroux, Dean of Common Law, Bruce Feldthusen, and you will be among those who will be cross-examined on affidavits submitted on motions in the case.
My expressed sole interest and concern in intervening was to argue for court transparency, and not to argue or present evidence about any of the other issues in the case, such as the issues of defamation or champerty. As you know, I have previously attended and reported on two out-of-court cross-examinations in this case. Furthermore, I have been publicly supported by the Civil Liberties Association of the National Capital Region in my endeavour to obtain public observation of these out-of-court cross-examinations (see: here).
On Wednesday, your counsel, Richard Dearden, strenuously opposed my intervention, arguing that I was nothing but a “mischief-maker,” a “meddler,” and a “partisan supporter” of the Defendant. As you must know, I have informed your counsel, Mr. Dearden that these allegations are false and I have repeatedly asked him not to attack my character in this way, but he continues to do so.
Following two hours of debate, between four parties (your counsel, as Plaintiff, the University of Ottawa’s counsel, as Intervener, the Defendant, and myself, as proposed Intervener) the Justice made the decision not to allow me to intervene on the public observation issue. Then Mr. Dearden submitted a costs outline demanding that I pay you the maximum allowable charges, at the “substantial indemnity” rate, for Mr. Dearden’s legal fees, in the amount of $3,876.95. As you must know, substantial indemnity charges are intended to punish litigants who commit egregious abuses of the court process.
As a graduate student, I am a low-income member of society. The amount that you are demanding I pay for your legal fees incurred to oppose my proposed intervention in favour of public observation of the court process amounts to one third of my annual income.
Professor St. Lewis, I am a graduate student, a student representative to the University Senate, and a member of the student media who simply wanted to observe the University President’s and others’ sworn testimonies regarding their use of student tuition money to fund one side of a high-profile lawsuit that raises important societal questions, and to observe the behaviour of lawyers on both sides in cross-examining affiants and witnesses.
I am currently attempting to finish my Master’s of Science thesis in Physics, completing my teaching assistant work, and campaigning for re-election to the University Senate. Justice Smith has ordered me to submit my written submissions against your costs demand by April 17. For me to have to spend time and resources finding a lawyer to prepare my arguments for why I should not pay costs because my intervention was in the public interest as a media person and participant in University governance is an onerous burden that will disrupt my academic progress and delay my graduation.
For all of the above reasons, I ask that you please instruct your lawyer to withdraw your costs demand.
Otherwise, I will find it an unjust action on your part. I trust that you will make yourself sufficiently aware of this matter, since you instruct your counsel.
Please reply by Wednesday, so that I may plan my life in the coming days.
Will you abandon your demand that I pay you $3,876.95 for trying to obtain public observation of the cross-examinations?
M.Sc. candidate, Physics
Graduate Student Representative to University of Ottawa Senate, Sciences section
Cc: Members of Senate, concerned community members, media