Another victory — and payday — for my old friend Lawrence Greenspon against silly-thuggery by the Ottawa police.
The impressively-coiffed defence legalist and scourge of overzealous flatfeet everywhere, readers may recall, was the first to catch up with the Abdirahman Abdi ambulance after the unlucky Somali immigrant’s fatal run-in with Ottawa’s finest last summer. He signed up the deceased’s family as clients and promptly convened the first of what will doubtless be many, many press conferences.
Greenspon, whose thirst for publicity (shurely ‘justice?!’–ed.) knows no surcease, wrapped up last year with yet another score on the cops, Tremblay v. Ottawa Police Services Board.
The plaintiffs, Richard Tremblay and his wife Johanne Mongrain, sued after complaints by neighbours stemming from a prolonged feud and lawsuit over a drainage pipe (!) somehow culminated in the Ottawa Police Tactical Unit breaking down their door and hauling Tremblay off in handcuffs in front of his children. (Of no bearing on the matter, of course, was that among the neighbours involved in the dispute with Tremblay were Patrick Walsh, and Jennifer Côté, members of the Ottawa Police Service.)
Tremblay’s increasingly nutso behaviour (constant surveillance, parking an old van adorned with spray-painted messages on the property line, attempting to crash a realtor’s open house next door) had sufficiently freaked out neighbours Pierre Huppé and Deanna Perry that they complained to police, saying they feared for their safety.
Enter the Tac Team numbnuts, who on Oct. 16, 2006, descended on Tremblay’s house, smashed in the front door when nobody answered (because, er, nobody was home), searched the premises, seized (registered) firearms and ammo, and, when Tremblay arrived home, bundled him off to the coppe shoppe, releasing him in the wee hours of the morning on a promise to appear.
Tremblay was charged with two counts of intimidation (acquitted), two counts of criminal harassment (ditto), and one of mischief (conviction overturned on appeal). He sued the cops for negligence, false arrest, infringement of his constitutional rights, woof, woof, quack, quack.
To prosecute the dispute, he tapped that old cop-stopper, M. Greenspon, who, it must be said,
knows something of how disruptive careless police invasions of the domestic peace can be.
Seems like only yesterday the cops called the home of then much-married Larry. He was out for the evening, so wife Jo-Ann answered the phone, only to be informed that the security alarm at an address on Renfrew Street had been tripped. The coast is clear, but the alarm needs to be shut off.
But we’re on Echo Drive, she replies. No alarm going off here.
Well, we’re showing Lawrence Greenspan as the key holder. On Renfrew.
Whoops! Turns out that Larry and a legalist buddy had rented a pad on Renfrew for, er, entertaining, and that’s where he and new playmate Louise Côté were getting a leg over. Exit Jo-Ann, and thanks a lot, Officer Cockblock.
But je digresse. Greenspon worked his magic, and in a decision released Dec. 31, Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken awarded Tremblay and his wife just under $51,000 in damages, for whch she found Ottawa Police and lead investigator Sgt. Jeff Aylen jointly and severally on the hook.
But Larry’s bril’ defence of civil liberties didn’t come easy — or cheap. In her ruling on costs, released May 5, Judge Cathy confessed to a bit of judicial sticker shock at the whopping bill from Greenbacks and his associate, Marissa Victor: $118K, well over twice the damages awarded.
“This litigation lasted eight years. In Reply Costs Submissions, the Plaintiffs’ counsel provided a Bill of Costs showing the steps taken by the two lawyers who worked on the file and the time assigned to each step. The hourly rate of the lawyers during each of the eight years when the file was open was not indicated, even though it must be assumed that the lawyers charged less per hour in 2008 than they charged in 2016. All of Mr. Greenspon’s time over the eight years was charged at $375 per hour, and Ms. Victor’s at $250 per hour. This is inappropriate.
“As well, considering the recovery in this action, having both a senior and a junior lawyer assigned to the file and attending each day of trial cannot be justified. As well, considering the award ultimately made following the trial, for costs purposes, it is hard to justify having a very senior lawyer handling the file.
“It appears from the Bill of Costs that no step taken on the file received a docketed time of less than .2 of an hour, or 12 minutes – even if the step involved the review of an email. Sixteen hours were docketed by the Plaintiffs’ counsel for attendance at discoveries but, according to the Defendants’ counsel, the discoveries took only three hours and 20 minutes. Several days were docketed to research, preparation of Books of Authorities, and trial preparation by both of the Plaintiffs’ lawyers. At one point, each docketed a full day for meeting with the other to discuss trial preparation. Both attended the trial and charged counsel fees for that attendance.
“In summary, the docketing on the file was heavy; the file did not justify the high fees of a very senior lawyer maintaining carriage of the matter; and the file could not support two lawyers docketing extensive time to all aspects of trial preparation and attendance.
“This leads to the important consideration of proportionality and the factor enumerated in r. 57.01(0.b), namely ‘the amount of costs that an unsuccessful party could reasonably expect to pay in relation to the step in the proceeding for which costs are being fixed.’ The Defendants did not provide any evidence as to what their reasonable expectations were in regard to the likely costs of the Plaintiffs. Nevertheless, I find that it would be doubtful that the Defendants in this proceeding would have reasonably contemplated that, in order to recover approximately $51,000.00, the Plaintiffs would have incurred legal fees and disbursements in the range of $118,000.00.”
In the event, Aitken awarded the $65,000 in costs, HST and disbursements inclusive, less $3,750 in costs owing the cops’ legalist, Jeremy Wright.
Trebles all ’round! (Larry’s buying).