Two days after Judge Weisberg's ruling in the Mann vs Steyn case, the offers to chip in for a legal defense fund are still pouring in. I'm genuinely touched by the kindness and generosity of readers. As most of you know, I resisted such offers during my Canadian travails and suggested instead that anyone who wanted to show financial support should take out a subscription to Maclean's. But the scale of expenditures down here is so much greater I may have to break my rule and pass the hat. We'll make a decision in the next few days. In the meantime, if you've got a few bucks to toss my way, there's an autographed copy of my book on free speech with your name on it, or some other item from the SteynOnline store. That way we all win: I get enough funds to fight a full-strength defense; you get some great reading matter, or listening matter, or chest-hugging matter.
The other thing I've been tremendously moved by is the number of lawyers offering their services. I'm thinking this one through very carefully after what happened this last year, but I am poring over the various bits of legal advice. One thing that's not going to change, though, is my inclination to speak up when judges play fast and loose. As I said to Mother Jones:
The misplaced reverence for judges in America is perplexing to me. In my cultural tradition, a judge is just a bloke in a wig. He may be a smart bloke in a wig, or he may be an idiot in a wig. But the wig itself is not dispositive.
After many years in America, I have never felt so foreign as reading the pile-up of commentary from supposedly sophisticated persons tutting about how my "assailing" the judge will not be "helpful" to the case. This absurd prostration before the bench is one of the biggest structural defects in this country. Jim writes to Mark's Mailbox as follows:
I'm certainly on your side on this one but would recommend not criticizing the judiciary or previous judges ("incompetence of the previous judge", "an act of jurisprudential hygiene", "procedural bungling", etc.) while the case is pending. The judges all work together and don't like litigants to take potshots at their colleagues and procedures. For a judge to bristle against comments like that is human nature and while it may not overtly cause the judge to rule against you on motions, etc., it is likely to subconsciously influence the judge against you.
Focus on the actions/claims of the plaintiff, not on the judges. You've apparently been through litigation before so you might have a strategy for doing this, but from my vantage point it's a bad idea.
So it's "human nature" for a judge to go into a big queeny huff because one of his supplicants is doing insufficient robe-kissing? So much for judicial temperament. David Appell headlined his post on the case "Who Knew? Judges Don't Appreciate Insults From Defendants" - implying (without evidence) that Judge Weisberg's ruling is some sort of pique at my dismissing his colleague Combs-Greene as an incompetent. As Mr Appell's first commenter responds:
It's a far bigger insult to the judge for you to imply they are not impartial - letting some perceived insult influence the case - than anything Steyn has said.
Exactly. Or as Tyler Null tweets:
If that uppity-peasant theory is true, we're all f**ked.
Quite so. At the very least, if a judge's amour propre is so easily unsettled, he's in the wrong business. As Jim mentions, I'm familiar with courtrooms around the Commonwealth, where I would say the attitude to the bench is rather healthier (especially when one considers how highly politicized the judiciary is in America). Six years ago, during my battles with the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission, I discovered that Judge Hadjis had agreed to the CHRC's demand that Marc Lemire's Section 13 trial be held in secret:
I couldn't quite believe this when I chanced to happen upon the "judge's" rationale, and I suggested en passant that we should get Maclean's estimable QC Julian Porter to file a whatchamacallit, a brief or motion or whatever, referencing precedents and other jurisprudential-type stuff, and put a rocket up these totalitarian buggers by treating their dank outhouse of pseudo-justice as a real courtroom subject to real law. Secret trials are for Beijing and Tehran, yet in the name of "human rights" they were introduced to Ottawa.
Julian wrote a terrific motion, indeed referencing Viscount Haldane and Ambard v Attorney General for Trinidad and Tobago and whatnot. And Judge Hadjis gave up his dirty little secret trial in favor of an open hearing, at which yours truly, my Maclean's colleagues and a roomful of Ottawa bloggers filled the benches. But my favorite part of that winning motion was this passage, where Julian called out the judge directly, by name:
9. I address this argument to you, Athanasios D. Hadjis, as you are trying this matter. Will you as the "judge" be indifferent to the evidence; agitated by the evidence; angry at the evidence or just plain blasé? Will you radiate a sense of hurried justice? Or will you exhibit judicial restraint in the tradition of Patrick LeSage? We don't know. That is why the press is entitled to be present.
10. The public can only tell if justice is being protected if it can see and read of your reactions, the nature of the court, the attentiveness of the participants. After all, the keyhole to justice requires eyes. It is crucial we observe how you react to testimony about the very conduct of the institution you represent and champion.
Hadjis was a lazy hack who had hitherto been the same obliging rubber-stamp for the CHRC as the FISA judge is for America's NSA, and had faithfully upheld the CHRC's 100 per cent conviction rate on Section 13. Once Julian had opened up his courtroom to sunlight, he changed his tune very quickly, to the point where he suddenly decided Section 13 was unconstitutional and announced its immediate suspension.
Julian is a courtly Queen's Counsel, a world away from these tough-talking attorneys down here. But, when it counted, he had no fear about taking it to the judge direct, and reminding him that his performance would also be on trial. I wish we'd had him at the DC Superior Court, instead of kissing judicial butt for a year and getting nowhere. And I wish my colleagues at National Review had understood that "the keyhole to justice requires eyes" - and, as Maclean's did, sent a reporter to the courtroom.
I like to think I'm a reasonably assimilated immigrant, but, when it comes to fawning and groveling before judges, sorry, I pass.