Tuesday, August 10, 2010

G20, Sherry Good and the Class Action Cash Cow

A copy of this post was sent to The Law Society of Upper Canada.

A self-described "paranoid" is suing the Toronto Police Services Board and the Attorney-General of Canada for $45 million. Sherry Good claims her rights were violated while she mingled with G20 protesters and gawkers in downtown Toronto on that famous weekend in June 2010.

"I didn't think they had the right to tell me I couldn't go out and protest," she complained to the media. Of course, the police do not deny the right to protest. But the law they enforce describes what protest acts are criminal.

"I couldn’t sleep last night. I took the day off work. I’m so upset" at the way she felt treated by the police. "I don't believe human beings can do the kind of things they did to other human beings that weekend."

Precisely what she and her companion wearing a black-shirted with Russian markings were doing at the time of police confrontation, other than packing golf balls in her purse, awaits a convincing reply. The police claim she got "mouthy." That's a no-no when dealing with authority no matter what.

Ms. Good intended originally not to get involved with the law, but simply wanted to tell her story on the Internet. A couple of lawyers trolling for business picked up her complaint.

According to newspaper reports, Murry Klippenstein and Eric Gillespie approached and convinced her to be the representative plaintiff. And there we have a big-bucks class-action lawsuit. Is inducement to litigation legal or ethical? Law Society of Upper Canada -- lawyers' trade association -- thinks all is fine. The public has less flattering words for such behaviour.

Casting the money net even wider, The Globe and Mail reports, "It's these 800 people, as well as anyone else detained by police but never arrested that the lawyers are targeting in their class-action suit." To harness more citizens to this lawsuit, the lawyers organized a rally in Queen's Park.

In common class-action patter, Good (coached by her lawyers?) told reporters, "What happened to me and hundreds of others was very wrong." She now speaks for hundreds of others. It wasn't wrong enough to sue, until lawyers convinced her otherwise.

Why a press conference in Queen's Park to launch a lawsuit when the site of her complaint is at Spadina Avenue and Queen Street, and just north of the G20 meeting site? Many suspicions present themselves. Needless to say, lawyers Klipperstein and Gillespie featured prominently in the photo-op.

Full disclosure: I was downtown both days. I brought along my teen-age grand-daughter to demonstrate to her how to behave: No screaming, no smashing golf balls against store windows, no goose-stepping, no Nazi salutes. no insults by Courtney Winkels of B.C. assaulting Constable Adam Joseph by blowing soap bubbles at him.

Footnote: Police officer Adam Joseph is suing YouTube for defamation of character with regard to this incident. Go Adam, go.

On a dozen occasions, I approached the police lines. Stepping over occasionally abusive adolescents trying to look cool stretched out on the roadway, I thanked the officers for being there. I wished them well. They responded kindly.

Sidebar: The sinking of the Queen of the North ferry on March 2006 off the B.C. coast resulted in a class action lawsuit. Forty-five plaintiffs received a total of $140,000 or an average of $3,111.11. The remainder (60%) of the settlement, $213,000, covered legal costs.

In reply to my complaint, the Law Society of Upper Canada sent me two tightly-typed pages (single spaced, both sides of the paper) with this boiler-plate rationale:

"After reviewing the information you provided, we have found that the concerns you raise are not something that the Law Society can deal with. We can only act on complaints that provide information suggesting a lawyer has done something contrary to our Rules of Professional Conduct. It appears circumstances surrounding Ms. Good's hiring of [Klippenstein and Gillespie] are unknown."