Ms Soapbox is grateful to Ezra Levant (and that’s not an easy thing to say).
Thanks to Ezra she’s discovered that journalism is not a profession (actually she suspected it all along); she’s also learned that “once a lawyer always a lawyer” until the Law Society says otherwise.
There may be 50 ways to leave your lover but there are only two ways to leave The Law—you get disbarred or you resign. Either way, whether you stay or go is not your decision, it depends on the Law Society.
Erza has been trying to leave the profession for eight years but people keep filing complaints against him so he can’t get a clear window of time in which his resignation request can be heard.
Poor Ezra. This time complaints filed against him by the Alberta Human Rights Commission and two lawyers who used to work there are blocking his exit.
Levant called the Human Rights Commission “crazy town” as in “you gotta get out your shovel and dig to get to the crazy that’s underneath the crazy.” He described a lawyer as a “bigot”, an “anti-immigrant racist”, and “a fan of racist revenge porn”.
The complaint alleges that Levant has been “publicly discourteous or disrespectful to a commissioner or tribunal chair” and his “public comments regarding [the Commission] were inappropriate and unbecoming.”
Ezra says he’s not going to resign while there’s a pending complaint against him. Actually he can’t resign in the face of a pending complaint because the Law Society won’t approve a resignation request unless an applicant has no outstanding conduct issues, or if there are outstanding conduct issues they aren’t bad enough to result in disbarment.
It says Levant will have to “address” his outstanding conduct issues with the three-person committee struck to consider his request. The committee will not make a determination of guilt or innocence, it will simply decide whether it’s in the public’s best interest to grant Levant’s request to resign.
In the past 15 years the Law Society considered fewer than 20 applications for resignation. The majority of these applications were made by lawyers facing outstanding conduct issues including incompetence, misleading other lawyers, lying to their clients and stealing trust funds.
These lawyers were allowed to resign after they admitted the facts alleged against them.
Levant argues that the Law Society doesn’t have the jurisdiction to consider these complaints, presumably because he was a non-practicing lawyer exercising his right of free speech and the freedom of the press when he made them.
He says he’ll either fight the complaint (which means a full blown disciplinary hearing not just a resignation hearing) and win and then retire (assuming he hasn’t triggered another complaint in the meantime) or the Law Society will drop the complaints (fat chance) and then he’ll retire.
One thing Levant is adamant about is that “There’s no way in hell I will ever apologize for my political journalism. I would literally go to jail before I retracted a political opinion and I’m not saying that to be dramatic.”
The Law Society’s Reach
Here’s where it gets interesting.
If the Law Society sticks to its position that it has jurisdiction and insists Ezra provide an admitted statement of facts and he refuses, it should deny his application. In so doing it will set a new precedent—that it does indeed have the power to discipline non-practicing lawyers for statements they’ve made in the non-legal arena.
It’s not much of a stretch to conclude that all non-practicing lawyers-turned-politicians would be open to Law Society censure for making egregious statements about their opponents and their policies and they won’t be able to shield such statements as political rhetoric.
Alberta has more than its share of non-practicing lawyers who’ve entered politics.
And while snarky comments like Jim Prentice’s “math is hard” to Rachel Notley would not rise to the level of “conduct unbecoming”; misleading or false statements like those made by Brian Jean about Bill 6 Farm Safety may be enough to land lawyer/politicians in front of the Law Society’s discipline committee.
And for that Ezra Levant I would be truly grateful.