Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Basi Virk: When Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett, as a new QC, needed a silk robe ...

Vancouver tailor had the legal market all sewn up 

Tony Zeilinger, a fourth-generation Austrian-born clothier, outfitted lawyers and judges for decades

Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail -
Tony Zeilinger faced more judges than even the most recalcitrant of scofflaws. Pins between his teeth, a measuring tape draped regally around his neck, chalk and scissors at hand, the master tailor outfitted the cream of British Columbia's legal community.

His Matz-Wozny Custom Tailors, on the ground floor of a downtown Vancouver office block, was crowded with objects from his trade. Stacks of sample books teetered precariously. Bolts of cloth loomed over a snug fitting area.

At lunchtime, lawyers and judges from the law courts across Hornby Street shoehorned into the tiny shop to be fitted in the finest British woolens and the best Canadian polyesters.

The Austrian-born clothes maker, who died of heart failure on Feb. 3 in Vancouver, operated his shop with good humour, his wisecracks bringing a smile to the sternest jurist while putting at ease nervous customers only recently called to the bar.

He provided tabs, shirts, skirts and waistcoats, as well as robes, the cut and style of which seemed unchanged through the centuries.

The proprietor was aware many citizens did not share his opinion of his customers. “I'm the only guy around,” he once said, “who wants more lawyers.”

The tailor considered his humble outpost part of a centuries-old tradition launched by such esteemed firms as Ede & Ravenscroft, founded in London in 1689, which created robes for the coronation of King William III and his wife Queen Mary II.

While a paragon of discretion, Mr. Zeilinger took pride in having outfitted the Speaker of the B.C. Legislature for more than four decades. Robes were also made for Supreme Court justices in Ottawa.

He could often admire his handiwork on the national news, as one of his deluxe robes was favoured by Vancouver South member of Parliament John Fraser, who served as Speaker of the House of Commons for eight years.

At the time, in early 1992, the tailor's robes cost from $415 for a modest wool blend to $1,600 for Ottoman ribbed silk. A Zeilinger innovation involved extending a judge's vent in the seat, eliminating those undignified moments on the bench when m'lord squirmed to be freed of a trap of his own unintentional construction ...

{Snip} ...

A lucrative and happy trade involved the preparation of “silks” every year for those lawyers named Queen's Counsel. Tradition demanded these honoured lawyers replace their wool robes with elegant ones of hand-cut silk.

In 1994, Elizabeth Bennett earned the coveted QC designation, though she would be a rare Vancouver lawyer not to call on Mr. Zeilinger's services, she told the Vancouver Sun's Larry Still. She intended to use the silk inherited from her late father, a piece of clothing with which she was familiar, as he had allowed her to wear it as a child when she wished to canvass for candies on Halloween as Dracula.

Last year, Madam Justice Bennett was appointed to the B.C. Court of Appeal while presiding over the political corruption case involving the sale of B.C. Rail.

The shop also became a favourite for visiting actors and rock stars, many of whom stayed at nearby downtown hotels. Among the clients served by the tailor were Bob Hope, Tom Selleck, and Gene Simmons of the band Kiss.

{Snip} ... 


Delay in appointing top provincial judge raises questions

Potential controversy if the Liberals name Wally Oppal is likely the cause of the glacial pace of the selection process

By Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun February 17, 2010

"glacial pace" seems to be typical of the BC Liberals when it comes the judicial system in British Columbia, the Best Place on Earth.

Can you just imagine how the public is going to react if Wally Oppal is appointed by Cabinet even though he's not a sitting judge, which is a requirement.
Guess those most noble ones will have to adorn themselves from here on as us mere mortals, with cloths from China.

Knowing the Chinese like to find mass markets for their products,

we might have to wait until we have a police state in BC

before China gets interested in supplying the black robes for law-yers entering the Courtrooms of the nation.

Ha ha. (Gulp.)
Thanks for the lowdown on palmer's latest column NVG. I read it this morning and was going to post a comment here as soon as time permitted.

The suggestion that Wally should become the chief judge of the Provincial Court is bizarre, to say the least. He mostly distinguished himself during his time on the bench of the Supreme Court of the province by avoiding the onerous chore of actually 'writing' more than a tiny handful of decisions. Wally was along for the ride - as a quick glance at his record as a justice will prove.

Furthermore, far from distinguishing himself as the Attorney and chief law officer of the Province when he was in government, he avoided ASSIDUOUSLY every opportunity to act independently on behalf of justice and in the best interests of the legal system while providing fawning and facile cover for his cabinet colleagues' refusal to answer for their own responsibilities in both the house and at committee.

His general knowledge of the courts and their procedural traditions was threadbare even to the point of misrepresentation while his capacity for self-promotion and cant was limitless.

The thought that he might be appointed to the office of chief judge of the provincial court is a laughably bad joke – particularly in the ranks of the legal profession.

Palmer himself witnessed at least one example when the Attorney miss-spoke himself in public about his 'relationship' with a well known judge hearing a case with strong political overtones in this province.

As a responsible journalist, I'd have thought Vaughn might, even obliquely, mention that incident as another reason why the man is not to be trusted ever again in a senior position in the justice system.
I recall a fairly minor but unsettling time when we were trying to figure out who the guy was, in Basi Virk pre-trial hearings, who was busily taking notes which later we learned were being sent specifically to key government personnel in Victoria.

His name: Stuart Chase.

And when questioned in the Legislature, Stonewally as AG stood up to say -- for the public record -- that Stuart Chase was in court to help media understand the intricate details of the case and to guide the public.

The kindest way of describing that was: Stonewally had no idea what he was talking about.
The BC political / legal establishment seems to have an unfettered licence to indulge in a game of musical hats. I would like to believe that it's not this bad in other jurisdictions (but I don't actually know).

How can there ever be a claim that judges and other adjudicators are "independent"? I will soon be initiating another judicial review challenging the recently released "order" (F10-04) by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner granting the Attorney General the right to refuse the FOI request I initiated over two years ago. I will be appearing on my own behalf (and applying for indigent status) and facing lawyers from the Ministry of A.G. and representing the OIPC in a courthouse where I have already represented myself six times. Wally Oppal was named as a defendent in the tort action I commenced in 2007.

It should be clear to any intelligent person that we need fundamental reform of our principle governing institutions. For example, I'd suggest anyone who wants to become a judge, with the extraordinary power and privileges that entails, should be barred from ever running for an elected office. We could design a package of such reforms that would really, truly clip their wings.

I am now of the view that the privileged community of which Oppal is a member is collectively insane, or at least hopelessly intoxicated with the power they are so determined to abuse.

Personally I hope they give Oppal the appointment because that may bring us closer to the point where the public finally decides it has had enough of these self-serving idiots and refuses to support any of the existing political parties. If they lose all public support because they refuse to serve the public interest, then I would hope that a new type of political party will emerge.

This is no time for levity but your comment

... hopelessly intoxicated with the power they are so determined to abuse ...

makes so much sense especially when I apply it to the Olympic Games with its unbridled power to party-it-up and send the bill to Joe Citizen.

Hopelessly intoxicated with the power they are so determined to abuse describes so much more within the BC government. I'm starting to wonder if any are immune.

Thank you for your kind words of support on my latest post on who was behind the Tercon SCC case Mary. It seems the more I uncover, the more I see BC rail within the same pages.There is little irony in the fact that the BC rail deal, the raid and this Tercon case all occurred in the same time period.... Here is the link to the latest http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/tercon-contracters-ltd-vs-british-columbia-the-rest-of-the-story/
Obviously, or apparently, this is wrong, but quite awhile ago I thought I read somewhere that StoneWally had relinquished his right to serve on the bench again when he left the bench to enter the political fray - which made sense - ergo, not true!

But they people aren't supposed to instantly go from government to lobbying, but obviously they do! Or how about that Carole Taylor, one day a cabinet minister buttering the bread for the banks, next day big time banker bringing in the big bucks (rewards for services rendered)! It's a sick, sick system full of greed bags taking full advantage of most of us.
It's like I keep saying, Laila: BC Rail was the first example of Gordon Campbell's style of government.

We should never (collectively) have let BC Rail go ... but I don't think most people recognized the danger in those days.

The brave few who did see BC Rail as vital to the health of BC producers, were given the bashing of their lives.

But now we know better -- or, thanks to bloggers like you -- we are learning the awful secrets of gangland economics.

Stay strong. Many good wishes are with you in your investigations.
CC, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I've taken note and will follow it up.

But because this site is focused on BCRail, I cannot post it.

Stay vigilant ... and good luck!
I suggest we should try to stay on top of this story about Oppal. The comment that he may have relinquished his right to seek appointment to the bench a second time is very interesting. My view is that the establishment is breaking all the rules, but let's be clear about that - they make all the rules, they can change them at will, and they "interpret" them. Our sole recourse is to challenge such conduct in a courtroom - before one of the team.

Now, I recall that when Donald Brenner announced that he would be resigning as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of B.C. and Stonewally Oppal was unseated by Vicki Huntington there was one Canwest journalist who suggested that Oppal might be appointed to replace Brenner. I saw that suggestion mentioned only once, perhaps because it would actually have been in clear contravention of some rule or sacred convention. Given that we have learned about the current prospect for Oppal's future from Vaughn Palmer, and given the substance of his column (worth reading carefully), obviously they do think they could make this appointment without getting into any trouble. The reason, I suspect, for that is that the Provincial Court is a very different animal from the two "superior courts", and therefore he would not be returning to the same bench.

Nevertheless, this situation is ludicrous. Perhaps we can use the metaphor of polygamy, or alternatively serial polygamy, to describe the behaviour of the juristocracy and all the other cabals of adjudicators.

Around 1989, Rosalie Abella gave a speech in which she acknowledged and lamented the lack of independence in the tribunal community (at the time she was the Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board). In a linguistic flourish that is typical of her she said that tribunal adjudicators needed "herculean feistiness" in order to make decisions based solely on principle and not on political considerations. She made this statement as part of her argument that these adjudicators should be granted a measure of "security of tenure", the ultimate version of which is the lifetime appointment she now enjoys. All the "superior court" judges have lifetime tenure. This makes them "independent"? Not by my definition. Certainly not when they can do what Oppal has been doing. If they want the tenure, and other privileges, then they must accept significant constraints on their future options. One doesn't need a PhD in law to understand this. As I said before, it's time we clipped their wings.
Hi Mary, thanks for the note. I understand.

Here's another tidbit you may not have seen related to the internal machinations of the BC Court (that may help further illuminate those dark corners (dark robes/dark corners...) as they relate to BC Rail).

Here's a snippet. Once again, thanks to Sean Holman from PublicEye for the heads-up on this one: article link at: http://twitter.com/publiceyereads

Delay in appointing top provincial judge raises questions

Potential controversy if the Liberals name Wally Oppal is likely the cause of the glacial pace of the selection process


-Behind the placid facade of the provincial courts, there's an emerging power struggle over the appointment of the next chief judge.

The post has been vacant for almost 10 months, since Chief Judge Hugh Stansfield died last May 7. The position was filled on an acting basis by judge James Threlfall, who has ruled out any interest in the permanent posting.

The B.C. Liberals set about finding a replacement via a formal search process, launched following the spring election.

Newly appointed Attorney-General Mike de Jong invited current provincial judges to apply for the vacancy by expressing their interest in writing.

The applications would then be vetted by a de Jong-appointed panel of judges, lawyers and lay persons, which was supposed to produce a short list, then a final recommendation in relatively expedited fashion.

The full column goes on to say how the law stipulates that the appointee must be a sitting judge, and Wally Oppal is "out of work" at the moment... :)

Watch for developments there.
Update....I've just heard, from a very reliable but anonymous source, that the new chief judge of the Provincial Court will not be Wally Oppal...Vaughn Palmer to the contrary!
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