Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Danny Williams in Contempt

Without Prejudice

This past Tuesday I was in front of Justice Orsborn requesting a date be set to hear my application that Danny Williams' lawsuit against me for defamation be thrown out. The grounds for striking the lawsuit were that Williams accepted being named to a court house building in Corner Brook that houses the chamber of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, and through which justices of the Court rotate through as part of their duties.

Justice Orsborn, quite seriously, put an end to the Court's involvement in the matter. He stated that neither he, nor any other justice of the Trial Division would hear the case, and that he had requested Chief Justice Green of the Appeal Court appoint an Appeal Court Justice to preside over the matter. In effect, Justice Orsborn recused himself and the entire Trial Division from hearing the matter. I was surprised. Williams' lawyer was in a state of shock. Then came the big one. Orsborn continued by saying he had written former premier Marshall on the naming issue, and had decided to give counsel a copy of the letter. The Court Clerk dutifully delivered us each a copy sealed in a vanilla-type envelope.

The letter, which is below, essentially raises many of the same concerns I had over the court house naming after Williams. Kind of common sense stuff, which doesn't seem to be so common in the Government of this Province.

I made the decision to release the letter to the media, because, in my mind, it was a very real matter of public interest, and a classic example of abuse of power and position. It most importantly illustrated that the sanctity of the Courts could be violated by politics, which then brings the independence of our court system into question. This is especially true given our judges are appointed by politicians. In effect this takes on the perception that powerful politicians become judge, jury and executioner.

The story went across the country. Williams, belatedly spoke to the issue. I was almost as shocked by his response as I was of the similar theme between Justice Orsborn's commentary and my own argument.

Williams actually attacked Justice Orsborn's integrity.

Here are some samples of what he said:

" Obviously, this Chief Justice Orsborn had an issue that he had dealt with privately, unsuccessfully, and then basically through another vehicle (that would be me) decided to table it and make it public"

Now, if I was Justice Orsborn, Williams would be waking up this morning in jail. Parse the above statement. " 'This' Chief Justice Orsborn." Really? As if he is speaking down to one of the top judges in the province, like a petty little school girl. Then, in the remainder of the sentence he accuses Justice Orsborn of willfully and with malice of using his courtroom and position in a way that would be an abuse of the bench. In my way of reading, if that isn't contemptuous of the position of Justice Orsborne, and the Court, then I'm not sure what the meaning of contempt of court would be. Black's Law Dictionary defines contempt of court: Contumacy; a willful disregard of the authority of a court of justice or legislative body or disobedience of its lawful orders. Contempt of court is committed by a person who does any act in willful contravention of its authority or dignity.

 I'll go with that last one. Willful contravention of the dignity of the Court. Also, It would also seem to me that Justice Orsborn has a very strong, and likely very expensive defamation case against Williams if he wants one.

"there were other judges there and: They didn't see anything wrong with it, but obviously Chief Justice Orsborn has a different opinion. That's probably the nicest way I can put it." So now Williams, typical to form, is pitting people against people to try and win a point. The problem with this particular comment is that he's referring to Justices of the Courts. It's as if he is not conscience of the fact that Judges shouldn't be endorsing political events. It's as if he doesn't care. It's as if "hey, everyone else is doing it, so it must be right, and you must be odd man out." It's childish and it's stupid, and it's contemptuous of the positions that judges hold, and have to hold, in our society. All this from a man that purports to hold a law degree.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society describes these 3 criteria for it's members:

2.1-1 A lawyer has a duty to carry on the practice of law and discharge all
responsibilities to clients, tribunals, the public and other members of the profession
honourably and with integrity

[2] Public confidence in the administration of justice and in the legal profession may
be eroded by a lawyer’s irresponsible conduct. Accordingly, a lawyer’s conduct should
reflect favourably on the legal profession, inspire the confidence, respect and trust of
clients and of the community, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

2.1-2 A lawyer has a duty to uphold the standards and reputation of the legal
profession and to assist in the advancement of its goals, organizations and institutions.

Seems quite obvious to me Williams has not followed these rules of his profession.

Williams is also quoted as saying:

"I was quite surprised, you know, that a current chief justice would have sent a letter to the Premier raising an objection, because you know, there's a clear distinction between the role of the executive branches of government, and you know, that crosses the line."

Really? What line? Williams' line, because Williams wants the ego trip of having a court house named after him? It's clearly a constitutional requirement that judges protect their independence from the appearance or perception of bias. You would think Williams would know that. Still, he ridicules the Chief Justice.

Then in an attempt to show just "how normal and non-controversial" the naming of the court house after him was, Williams says:

" The Court House in Grand Bank was named after Chief Justice Hickman who was the former Minister of Justice in either the Smallwood or Moores era I think, but he was alive at the time and of course there wasn't ever an issue with that, so."

Williams conveniently doesn't mention that after his political career, Hickman was Chief Justice for 20 years until he retired. Whether that remains a correct thing to do or not is up for debate, but it in no way compares to Williams situation. Justice Orsborn assessed it as such in his letter to Marshall.

All of this is the way Williams has attempted to rule Newfoundland and Labrador since at least 2003. Pit people against each other in an attempt to humiliate and marginalize his opposition. Ignore realities that don't suit and manipulate arguments to suit the purpose. Threaten those that disagree by accusing them of "crossing the line". For myself and the Telegram provincial newspaper that meant being sued by Williams for defamation. For Chief Justice Orsborn it apparently means being derobed of your judicial dignity and independence publicly by a man consumed by his own image - as he sees it.

It is time for Danny Williams to be brought down a whole lot of pegs. It's time that his abuse of his public position as former premier, that is to say using that position to threaten and demean those that see things differently than him, to end. Attacking a well-respected, extremely experienced and highly intelligent Justice like Chief Justice Orsborn is an outrage. Williams should be dragged through every editorial column in the land for even daring to attack the integrity of a Chief Justice. The Court should defend the honour and integrity of Chief Justice Orsborn, and its own, by throwing Danny Williams into jail for contempt, so that he realizes that nobody is above the law. Yes, not even Danny Williams. Or, perhaps, especially not Danny Williams. We have to know that the Courts and the media aren't afraid of the little man from St. John's.

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