Candidate bio description
I am a Trial Lawyer from Toronto, litigating commercial disputes and employment matters. I’ve been practising since 2002, initially as a partner in a small litigation shop, and since 2014 as Lead Counsel of Brown Litigation. Through my experience in the courts, I have come to recognize the special and historical role of lawyers as defenders and champions of individual rights and freedoms, and as a bulwark to government overreach. In May of 2017, I joined Dr. Jordan B. Peterson testifying before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee on government compelled speech. Testimony that has been viewed over 1 million times on Youtube. In October 2017, I spoke at length about authoritarian initiatives emanating from the Law Society in a series of Youtube discussions with Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and Professor Bruce Pardy of Queen’s Law. In February 2018, I participated in a CIJA/UJA panel discussion on the Law Society requirement for a Statement of Principles. I spoke against the compelled speech measure with Bruce Pardy, while Treasurer Paul Schabas and Paul Seguil (chair of the LSO’s Equity Advisory Group) attempted to defend measure. Most recently, I joined Lindsay Shepherd, Dr. Debra Soh, and Barbara Kay in a panel discussion on compelled speech. I am regularly cited by main stream media and professional publications on legal issues. My commentary on legal issues can be found online at www.brownlaw.ca including blog posts, articles, youtube videos, podcasts, and speaking engagements and through my twitter handle @litigationguy.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
The Law Society has abandoned its public interest mandate directly threatening the trust placed in our profession by the public, and threatening the existence of an independent legal profession. The Law Society has become a politicized tax and spend instrument of social policy, rather than an organization charged solely with regulating the legal profession in the public interest. The move away from the public interest mandate has resulted most recently in the Law Society erecting an ideological values test for lawyers in the form of the compelled speech Statement of Principles.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
The biggest issue facing the profession is the threat to the independence of the profession. The Law Society is one of the last self-regulating professional bodies in the world. It is a public trust. The Law Society was permitted to self-regulate the profession, free from state interference so long as it regulates the profession in the public interest. As the last bulwark against government and state overreach, independence of the profession is vital to the public interest. However, the increasingly navel gazing nature of the profession and the regulator have resulted in a regulator that prefers to tax, spend, and dictate social policy to the profession, rather than promote access to justice for the public. With a bloated budget approaching $150M/year, and annual operating deficits of $8M/year, the Law Society has become a threat to access to justice in Ontario. Rising annual dues, regulations, reporting requirements, and costly educational requirements, unfairly burden those just entering our profession, and those working closest to the margins. The Law Society continues to promote and erect unnecessary barriers to entry to the profession (wholly unrelated to competence) which only serve to preserve the monopoly conditions of the profession, and restrict entry of otherwise qualified persons (including the articling process, access to the LPP, and to some extent the good character requirement). The Law Society increasingly disregards the public interest by seeking to restrict the speech, conscience, thought, and expression rights of those practising law in Ontario. Seeking to shut down lawyers who exercise their speech rights (see Groia, J), under the slippery term 'civility', or compelling lawyers to promote certain ideologies and values under a Statement of Principles, undermines the public's ability to access justice and lawyers from diverse backgrounds, opinions, and abilities.
What would be your first priority upon election?
Program spending review to identify the full breadth of activities and initiatives of the Law Society and to identify those furthest from its mandate of regulating the profession in the public interest, and particularly those which represent primarily a tax on the profession or an effort at social policy best left to government. Examine all barriers to entry to the profession to ensure that only those that identify the required measure of competence remain. Any barrier to entry unrelated to competence should be reviewed and removed.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
Restore fiscal and program sanity to the Law Society in an effort to return the regulator to its mandate of regulating the profession in the public interest. Picking up the legacy of those Bencher voices that are no longer permitted to vote, or sit at convocation, but who were trusted to advocate for a leaner and more focused regulatory body. Increase access to the profession and thereby increase access to justice for the public through the elimination of unnecessary barriers to entry. Reduce the financial, regulatory, and reporting requirements for all members of the profession. Repeal and remove any political, ideological, of values tests. Repeal the compelled speech Statement of Principles.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Access to Justice - the Law Society has ring-fenced the profession with unnecessary barriers to entry, and then set out to tax the existing membership in support of an increasing number of activities and initiatives not related to ensuring access to justice for the public or regulating the profession in the public interest.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
No. The compelled speech Statement of Principles is a shocking intrusion on the thought, conscience, expression, and speech rights of the profession. It is a measure that ought to offend every member of the profession that swore to protect and uphold the rights and freedoms of all in society.