Thursday, July 17, 2008
"Justice delayed" after all,
"is only justice denied".
Robin Mathews went to The Vancouver Law Courts to attend the dog and pony show in BC Supreme Court otherwise known as the Basi-Virk Trial or my preferred title - the BC Rail Trial. As is typical for Justice Bennett's parlor, nothing much transpired other than more delay and more billable hours to be charged to the citizens of British Columbia, who would simply like to know - WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT NICE RAILROAD WE USED TO HAVE? Robin's observations of today's action (for lack of a more appropriate word) follow below: (kc)
Thursday in Courtroom 66
by Robin Mathews
Courtroom 66 saw 10 counsel file in and about seven of the public (including journalists) take places in the gallery. The question to decide was whether to permit the application by counsel (George Copley) for the Gordon Campbell cabinet to admit to Defence certain documents claimed as privileged between lawyer and client. The hitch: Copley requests, also, that they remain 'privileged' and (therefore) denied to the public.
Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett (whom I have described as being - in my judgement -unsympathetic to the concept of 'open' courts and to material on public record being available to the public) has read all the material argued over. She leans towards ruling in favour of the request. Fighting against it today was Roger McConchie (acting for Press interests). He had a very hard slog, since Defence has agreed to the Copley proposal and Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett is clearly sympathetic to it.
The question comes down to whether the court (Bennett) has jurisdiction to make the decision and to grant the request of July 14. And that will be argued further on Friday, July 18 at 2:00 p.m.
The apparent, coming short-changing of the public is not a surprise. (Even though it was, in the hallways, suggested that the material can't be kept secret if it is used in a trial and argued over in cross-examination).
George Copley was his usual self. I have come to wonder if he has been in so many covert, clandestine operations for the Gordon Campbell cabinet that he has trouble raising his voice above a whisper. Madam Justice Bennett doesn't say: "You are not only speaking to me, Mr. Copley. You are speaking to this room, which contains, in the gallery, representatives of the people who have put us here: British Columbians. If you will not speak clearly and audibly, I will ask you to repeat your statements. Every time you speak".
I don't think she says that because I don't think it crosses her mind. When she addresses counsel herself, she doesn't do it with any consciousness that she is in an "open" court being listened to by representatives of the people of British Columbia. If the gallery can catch what she says, fine. If not, tant pis for it.
That tiny matter is a sign, I believe, of what the courts in B.C. think of the population they serve.
George Copley made extended argument, from precedent, to uphold his application.
It was generally agreed to by all other counsel in the room, except for Mr. McConchie. He described the request - if granted - " a secrecy package". And he said, further, that the government is asking the court, in effect, "to create a new kind of solicitor/client relation".
He pointed out, moreover, that the Executive Council (through Copley) has intimated that it will not give the documents unless it gets the terms it wants. That seemed to some in the gallery to be a kind of threat. William Berardino, Very Special Crown Prosecutor, has made the same kind of suggestion, intimating that if he can't get an in camera meeting of a witness, without the presence of Defence counsel, he may close up the case. His suggestion didn't sway a majority of the three person Appeals Court which rejected it (two to one). Now, he has announced, he will (if permitted) take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
After tomorrow's hearing, there will be no further meeting until September 19, briefly, and then a series of court meetings beginning on September 29 - to give time for all Search Warrant material and related documents to be fully assessed.
Trial date? Pardon?
There is much more to say about todays transactions, and about a trial date. That will all take place, here, after tomorrow's meeting (at which Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett will very likely not hand down her decision on the request by the Gordon Campbell cabinet - through George Copley). Why should she? There's no hurry. "Justice delayed" after all, "is only justice denied".
See Bill Tieleman's blog this evening
Published: Friday, July 18, 2008
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