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Despising a client "sometimes" good enough to get off the record?
March 19, 2014

Despising a client “sometimes” good enough to get off the record?

I recently came across an unusual decision (R. v. Gregory Goodridge, 2011 ONSC 7556) where counsel was applying for costs payable by a trial judge who had refused his application to get off the record at the start of a criminal trial for threatening bodily harm. I wasn’t able to find the underlying decision but I did find a Globe & Mail story reporting on it: Judge refuses to let defence lawyer drop a client he despised.

Apparently the lawyer’s unsuccessful application to get off the record was based primarily on his dislike for his client. The story goes as follows:

The parade of legal oddities began on Oct. 7, 2010, when Mr. Slansky made his motion over the protestations of Mr. Goodridge, who faced a trial for threatening bodily harm.

“It is impossible, in my view, to represent his interests when I despise him,” Mr. Slansky told Judge Ritchie. “I’ll repeat that because Mr. Goodridge apparently didn’t hear me. I despise him.”

In his 24 years as a lawyer, Mr. Slansky said that had never sought to drop a client until Mr. Goodridge came along.

Even if I do my best to maintain my professional obligations to represent him professionally and vigorously, I know that subconsciously, I cannot do so because I want him to go down, so to speak,” he said.

But Judge Ritchie turned Mr. Slansky’s motion down flat, out of concern that Mr. Goodridge might not be able to find another lawyer to replace Mr. Slansky. “The trial is going to proceed,” Judge Ritchie announced. “Madam Crown, put your first witness on the stand.”

Flabbergasted, Mr. Slansky refused to participate. He accused Judge Ritchie of prejudging his application and creating “a travesty of justice.”

Mr. Slansky appealed Judge Ritchie’s decision to Ontario Superior Court, arguing in a legal brief that the hearing before Judge Ritchie had degenerated into “a circus atmosphere.”

He alleged that Judge Ritchie had been biased, dishonest and ought not be allowed to preside over the case.

Mr. Slansky also reiterated his disgust for his client. “The applicant does not care what happens to Goodridge,” he said. “In fact, it would give the Applicant some personal satisfaction if Goodridge was found guilty and went to jail.” I

In January, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Judge Todd Ducharme quickly reversed Judge Ritchie’s decision and removed Mr. Slansky as counsel.

 

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The outcome of every legal proceeding will vary according to the facts and unique circumstances in each individual case. References to successful case results where the lawyers at Murphy Battista LLP have acted for clients are not necessarily a guarantee or indicative of future results.