A Place to Stand
On Green Island
The Charlottetown Courthouse - formerly known as the Henry Davies Law Courts Building, and in the process of undergoing a name change to the Green Island Central Fairness Council which was being opposed by some influential people in the old legal system - was located on the Charlottetown waterfront, on a street called Water Street, which ran along the harbour from the Hillsborough Bridge to the Old Armory at the mouth of the North River. It had been refurbished in the 1980s, and sported a copper roof that had caused no end of leakage problems and was on the list of infrastructure upgrading things to do some day soon. The interior had been leaking justice pretty steadily and heavily before and after the new roof, an old Island (and Canadian and Western 'Civilization') tradition that was proving very difficult to do anything about, but the new Green Island government was trying. We were actually pretty close to getting a lot of problems fixed up, having most of our changes ready to go as soon as one or two serious roadblocks were removed, but there were still a couple of big days left in the old building this week.
Brittany entered the front door with Zistis Singhszinghs her lawyer - she had told them she might as well appear alone and not take up their time, as she felt that all their legal planning should be directed towards preparing for the much bigger Green Island vs Government of Canada case in front of the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada that was suddenly looking quite imminent, but Stephen and the others had over-ruled her and, truth be told, she hadn't argued that much - she did not have much experience in official courts, and she knew that very often such lack of knowledge could cause problems, so having an experienced lawyer you could trust, assuming you were lucky enough to know such a rare beast although things were better these days on Green Island, was nothing more than following proper precautionary principles in such uncertain times. Singhszinghs was one of the senior partners of Mulholland, Singhszinghs and Paterson, one of the few relatively honest firms on the Island (or in Canada for that matter), whose partners actually believed that the search for justice should not be subsumed to the search for large bank accounts in the service of the modern robber barons, leading 'investors' and large corporations. Unfortunately here on the old Prince Edward Island - as in the rest of Canada - closely related to the sense of greed that was so fostered and dominant in the modern corporate world, the large bank accounts had won handily over the search for justice, and although we had had great success in opening people's eyes to many things the last few years, the deeply entrenched 'justice' system, with much support from the ROC and its bedrock of big money, was still far from anything we might call 'green', in fairness or openness.
Brittany approached the secretary's window on the first floor, gave her name and appearance info, and asked which courtroom her 10 AM case was being heard in.
The secretary looked quickly down to whatever book she had below the window, then looked up again with a small smile, "Courtroom number 3, dear, up the stairs and to the left."
Brittany and Singhszinghs were well enough aware of where the assigned courtroom was, and found their way up the stairs through the almost deserted large foyer in front of the court rooms and opened the door to number 3. It was empty, and the lights were not on. Brittany turned to Singhszinghs, a small frown on her face.
"Well - that's a bit of a surprise! I expected at least Black's lawyer or lawyers to be here, and the court secretary should be setting up by now..."
"Hmmm," answered Singhszinghs, "It is a bit odd. I don't know about the lawyers, but the court personnel are perhaps busy with things for this afternoon - and if it's nothing more than some brief formality, they wouldn't have much preparation just yet. Let's have a seat, anyway, and get ready - they should be along in a minute or two. Things are normally on time here, I'll give that to them all ..."
And they made their way to the front of the room, after switching on the main lights from the switch beside the doorway, where prosecution and defendant - or, in this case, appellant and respondent - desks were sitting waiting. They took the table on the left, the normal respondent's table, and Singhszinghs set his briefcase on the surface and opened it. There was not much inside - they had had only had less than two days warning, and the brief from Black's lawyer had been rather short, indicating little more than that due to 'irregularities' in the original transfer of the property known as Greenways to Brittany, primarily some questions as to the legal status of the respondent, Brittany, the appellant - Black - was petitioning the court to have it restored to his ownership. Given that dearth of particulars or specific charges to answer (the document Black and Hewlett had given to Brittany the day before was not included in the papers they had received, and Singhszinghs had thus felt they could not respond to its contents beyond some discussion about it) they had been unable to undertake much preparation, and had thus assumed, after some discussion, that this morning's hearing would be nothing more than some sort of formality, laying out some more specific information about what the grounds were for the attempted suit.
As they waited, Singhszinghs looked over at Brittany.
"Well," he said, "any new ideas yet about what all this might be about?"
Brittany shook her head once again, as she had been doing a lot of the last two days.
"No, Zis, no idea at all - everything went through the original case smoothly, right here actually in this very court room if I'm not mistaken, and there was nothing at all after that aside from working out the visitation details until Monday, as I told you - you have all the information I have, and I've heard nothing from either Black or Hewlett since then. I knew that Black was unhappy with the awarding of Greenways to me, but that was ages ago, and he seemed over the years to accept the decision of the court - I think his unhappiness had a lot more to do with simply wanting to deny it to me, as he knew how much I loved it even then, than for any great desire he actually had for it himself - he never liked it much really as far as I could see, high-rent apartment blocks are more along his lines than marginal farm land way out in the boonies."
"Well, anyways, I don't think there's much to worry about today - no court action can occur without a decent hearing, and before there's any kind of hearing there have to be charges or accusations, and pleadings and a defence, and a trial, all sort of formalities to go through - and we don't even know yet what actual grounds they have for initiating this action to take Greenways away from you - as we've talked about, in every legal way imaginable you are a Canadian resident now and have been for almost 40 years, and the simple fact you have not formally applied for citizenship doesn't hold any water at all that we can find. I can't think that today will be any more than some kind of arraignment, if you will, although you're not being charged with anything - but a case where some lawyer will present his client's case or petition before a judge, with the grounds for that petition, and get permission to carry on or set a date for further hearings or something along those lines. So I really don't think you have much to worry about."
"Well, let's hope so, anyway," said Brittany, a brief smile on her face, "as there's more than enough to worry about with everything else - the case in front of the Supreme Court of Canada that looks to be happening soon sure seems serious enough - there's some heavy duty constitutional stuff going down, by the sounds of things, and although we all figure everything is on our side - that may not be how the Supremes see it. And those RCMP ..."
"Yes, well, let's leave that for later as well, one problem at a time is enough, so let's get through this one first." Singhszinghs shuffled the brief around the desk for a minute, then looked up at the court room clock on the wall, which now said 10:07, and frowned.
"Damn, I don't like this, Brittany," he said, "I think maybe we ought to go and see what's happening - I've never heard of a 10:00 case, the first of the day, not starting on time, or at least the court reporter being in the room and set up, and the bailiff arriving and turning on the lights and whatnot, some activity of some kind should be happening here."
"Yea, I agree, let's go have a look around," said Brittany, who had also been wondering with some concern at the lack of activity, and Singhszinghs placed the brief back in his briefcase and they got up and walked back down the aisle between the two rows of seats to the door. Outside in the hall, they looked around, but there was nothing happening out there either.
Not having any better ideas, Brittany took a few steps to court room 4, and pulled open the heavy door. Inside the lights were on at the front, although the spectator seating area lights were dimmed, and as she opened the door she saw a judge talking with a lawyer up at the front of the courtroom, who was standing between the appellant table and the raised dais of the judicial bench at the front of the courtroom.
"....that the documents I have provided are clear enough that you can issue the order...." the lawyer was saying to the judge, his words echoing a bit through the large almost empty room.
"But I want it understood that ....." - as the judge began answering the lawyer, he looked up at where Brittany was standing at the open door. She turned and waved to Singhszinghs, and a second later he grabbed the open door and then followed her into the court room.
The judge lowered his head to look over the lower half of the bifocals he was wearing.
"Ahhh - is that you, Mrs. Black, then?"
Brittany frowned, walking forward down the aisle between the rows of spectator benches ('good term, spectator,' she thought as she walked, for no particular reason, just one of those thoughts that come into one's head at times, 'just like a freaking Roman circus in these places sometimes') towards the small gate that opened onto the stage area, where the plays were performed in the great theatre of justice in Canada. "I've been divorced for over 7 years, Your Honor - my name is Forrest, now, again ..."
"Ahhh - yes," replied the judge, "well, of course, that is one of the matters at dispute here today. Mr. Black's attorney was just informing me of the many irregularities in the case...."
"Excuse me, Your Honor," interrupted Singhszinghs, who had joined Brittany, the two of them standing rather hesitantly in the open area between the defence table and the bench, "are you suggesting that you have been discussing this case with the lawyer of the Appellant, without either the Respondent or her representative present? Isn't that a bit irregular?"
"And who might you be?" quizzed the judge, looking down with a small frown over his glasses this time.
"I am Zistin Singhszinghs," answered Singhszinghs, "and I have been retained to represent Ms Forrest in this proceeding...."
"Your Honor," interjected the lawyer at the other desk, taking a step towards the bench, "If I might interject here - we have had no notification of any other attorney appearing here, and as I have informed you, and as the documents quite clearly indicate, there are matters of rather serious National Security concerns involved here - it would be highly irregular to allow anyone not cleared by the America--, ah, excuse me, Canadian Secret Service people to hear what is happening here today..."
"I beg your pardon!" began Singhszinghs, "I ....".
"Quiet!" ordered the judge, now a distinctly stern look on his face, "Mr. Maggotryzooble has explained the situation to me already, and I have agreed with him - this is indeed a matter involving some quite serious security concerns, and the National Security of Canada could well be in jeopardy if unauthorized persons are allowed access to this information. I have nothing here indicating your authorization to appear here today, Mr. - what is it? Singsing? - whatever, I have no record of any authorized attorney for the defendant, so I will have to ask you to leave now. Now!!"
"I must object most strenuously, Your Honor! This is highly irregular! I - " - and he got no further.
"Bailiff!!" shouted the judge, face reddening a bit, banging his gavel loudly on the desk in front of him.
"Your Honor!" barked a uniformed guard who had been standing beside a door at the back of the room, where the judge entered and left the chamber, jumping forward to stand in front of the judge's bench.
"Remove this man immediately!" said the judge, pointing to Singhszinghs.
"This is highly irregular.... !" began Singhszinghs once again.
"One more WORD out of you and you will be in jail for a good long time for contempt of court!" thundered the judge, half rising from his bench, "This is a VERY serious matter, as Mr. Maggotyzoots has explained to me in detail, with very serious National Security implications, and I will NOT have my court room used for terroristic purposes! Bailiff!"
"Your honor!" said the bailiff once again, this time having crossed the short distance between the bench and the defendant-respondent desk where Brittany and Zhistin had moved to, where he took Singhszinghs firmly by the upper arm (the bailiff being rather a large, young man, crewcut blond hair, brown shirt with lots of impressive red insignias stitched to it, and metal buttons and things, and Singhszinghs being rather an older, smaller man, there was no question of physical resistance). Brittany stood, eyes wide open in amazement at this turn of events, reaching futilely for Singhszinghs as he was pushed unceremoniously towards the court house door.
Just before they reached the door, the judge's voice rang out once again; the other lawyer had taken a couple of steps towards the bench and spoken some words to the judge as the bailiff was doing his work.
"Wait!" he said, and the bailiff turned with Singhszinghs.
"I am placing these entire proceedings under National Security Directives as well - you will NOT say a word - not a single word! - about what is happening here this morning to the press or anyone else, under penalty of a charge of treason, do you understand me? This is a most serious charge, I remind you!"
Singhszinghs looked the judge in the eye for a long moment, and then at Brittany and back to the judge, before responding.
"I understand, your Honor," he replied.
"Very well - be sure you don't forget it or there will be consequences, you can count on it! Bailiff! Continue - and place a guard outside the door to make sure we are not disturbed again!"
"Sir!" replied the bailiff, and a second later he and Singhszinghs were gone behind the heavy door leading in and out of the courtroom, leaving Brittany alone with the judge and the attorney for the plaintiff.
Getting a grip on herself, and telling her that whatever was going on with Singhszinghs she - they - would have to deal with it later, but for now she had to finish what was happening around her, do what she must to protect her Greenways, that she sensed was now under an attack somewhat more dark and serious than she had imagined, she turned back to the judge, who was watching her over the tops of his glasses, lips pursed, frowning. The lawyer named Maggotyzoots took a step towards the judge, raising an arm, his mouth opening as if to speak.
The judge raised his own arm, turning to Maggotyzoots.
"Not now. Let's get on with this - we have other much more important business to attend to today and tomorrow, all of us..."
He then turned to Brittany.
"Well, Mrs. Black - or Ms Forrest, whatever, it hardly matters - I have before me a rather serious document, indicating that you have lied egregiously to the Canadian government, and through these lies, among other things, obtained a rather valuable property here on Prince Edward Island called Greenways, defrauding a rather prominent Canadian citizen during the process of the said acquisition. Joseph Black, through his esteemed attorney Festus Maggoty of Maggotryzoots, Drool, Vulture and Carrion, the premier law firm of Bay St in Toronto recently acquired by Bashy Maggots of Mordorhattan, the leading US law firm for the President of the United States, no less, has brought these serious charges in front of me, and presented compelling evidence as to the justice of his claim, and, given the length of time this most unjust situation has already prevailed, and the amount of anguish the appellant has already suffered needlessly through these lies, I see no reason not to award him this property in full, today. Can you tell me any good reason I should not do this?"
Brittany's mouth dropped half open, and her brain went all woozy for a second at hearing the judge speak.
"I - I - what evidence are you talking about?" was all she could think of to say, "I have no idea what lies Joe Black or his lawyers have been telling you..."
"OBJECTION!" roared Maggotyzoots, leaping to his feet from where he had only a moment ago returned to his seat behind the prosecution-appellant table, "She has no call to be using a slanderous word like 'lies' without at the very least offering compelling evidence to back up her statements!"
The judge frowned down at Brittany. "Sustained!" he said sternly, "And may I caution you, Ms. Forrest or Mrs. Black, whatever, to be careful what you say here - Mr. Black and his lawyer Mr. Maggotyzootses are upstanding Canadian citizens in Canada, and you are leaving yourself quite vulnerable to some serious slander charges if you continue to speak in this fashion and endanger their reputations. Not to mention contempt of court, for bringing the administration of justice into disrepute with your foul accusations!"
"I - I - well, your honor, how can I answer the charges if I don't even know what they are??? I - "
"Mrs Black!" interrupted the Judge, "What do you mean, you do not know what the charges are? Mr. Maggotyzoots assured me you were served with the appropriate documents earlier this week, in plenty of time to prepare such defense as you might have, and he has presented me with receipts as well for service! Were you or were you not served with these documents? What is that I see on your table?"
Brittany turned back to the defendant table, where Singhszinghs's briefcase lay open, where he had placed it upon first arriving in the room and had not been allowed to retrieve before being escorted out, with the appellant brief there in plain sight on top of it. She picked it up, and turned back to the judge.
"Well, if this is what you mean - " - and she read the full title of it - " - I guess I have been presented with it. But it doesn't tell me anything about what 'lies' I am supposed to have told to the Canadian government or anyone else, or how anything has made me guilty of this 'fraud' charge you're talking about ..."
"Enough!" roared the judge again, "I must caution you once again, Ms. Black or Mrs Forrest whatever, you are getting into very dangerous waters when you accuse the court or honorable officers of the court of preparing or sanctioning poor or misleading documents! The information in that document you have is all that the National Security Advisors to this court deemed safe to release - you do understand, Mrs Black or Ms Forrest whatever, that we live in very dangerous times, and that the Security of Canada depends on not allowing terrorists, who are hiding in every nook and cranny in our open society and terribly abusing our great freedoms for terrible, nefarious purposes, access to information which they might then use to Destroy our Great and Free Democratic Canada??? What objections can you, lowly ignorant citizen that you are!!!, have against Protecting The Homeland??"
Brittany stared in some horror at the judge, wondering fleetingly if this was just a bad dream of some sort, as he paused for breath, half raised from his seat and leaning on his arms glaring at Brittany, a drop of spittle dripping from his lower lip, evidently on the verge of a major psychotic episode, and said nothing, now starting to understand that simply getting out of this court room this morning rather than being transferred to some dungeon somewhere might be the best she could hope for - and Stephen and others certainly needed to be alerted to this festering monster that had suddenly appeared in their underbelly.
After a minute or so, and several deep breaths, the judge regained his composure, and lowered himself back to his seat, straightening his glasses, fingering his gavel lovingly while taking a couple more deep breaths.
"Well, then, Mrs Black, as I was saying, can you offer me any compelling reasons not to find in favor of Mr. Black's suit before the court today?"
"I am sorry, your honor," answered Brittany, not wanting to ignite another outburst but having to say something in her defence, "but having no idea of what the specific charges are against me, I find it impossible to refute anything. But I would like to say that ....."
"Enough! Mrs Black," interrupted the judge, "If you have no defence to these most serious charges - and it is evident that you do not, and indeed if I might say so, cannot, since the evidence I have before me indicates no defence is possible - I find that in these circumstances, it is evident to me that some serious irregularities have been allowed to occur in the Canadian justice system, irregularities that cry out to be immediately corrected. An outstanding member of the Canadian community has been deprived of some very valuable - both financially and personally - property for several years now, a loss based on a number of thoroughly egregious lies it is clear to me, and this is quite enough to justify this shortening of normal lengthy procedures and ordering you, the Defendant-Respondent in this matter, to undertake the immediate evacuation of the property known as Greenways, so that the rightful owner, Mr. Joseph Black, the Plaintiff, can resume the enjoyment of his rightful property. I so find, and Order so made. I will be generous, Mrs Black, and give you 72 hours to evacuate the property. Mr. Black has been denied his land for far too long - and I have prepared appropriate documents to authorize the occupation of Greenways by Officers of the Court this coming Saturday morning to ensure the return of this property to Mr. Black. I would strongly advise you to have vacated the property by that day, or there will be consequences, Mrs Black, there will be consequences."
And with a long, fierce glare over his glasses, he raised his gavel to finish the proceedings.
Never without courage even in the face of the worst adversity, which this was, Brittany stepped to the front of her table, a document in hand, looking to buy a bit of time to think, hoping that maybe Singhszinghs was marshaling the posse or something.
"Your honor, please - I do have some evidence to present!"
The judge, frowning in annoyance, looked down at Brittany, rather pointedly not lowering the gavel. "What is that you have?" he questioned, gesturing to her document.
"We have prepared a history of my ownership of Greenways, from the divorce proceedings in this very courtroom several years ago, including the legal ownership papers, and evidence of the many improvements I have made to the property, and so on, that I would like to at least present. I do not know what information you have, but at least you can compare it to what I have here - if there are any irregularities, perhaps you can at least call for another hearing, where you can determine whether - or which, that is - party is - um - giving you more accurate information....."
"That's quite enough, Mrs Black!" interrupted the judge, "As I said in my judgement, I am quite convinced I have full and clear information concerning the history of this property and the individuals appearing in the case, and I have heard no reason to change my mind, and you might remember you need to be very careful of impugned slanders of honorable people, at least in this Canadian court! If you wish to leave a copy of your brief with the court secretary, I will look at it later - but my Order stands. So be it! "
And he slammed his gavel on the top of his bench, and rose to leave.
Brittany was not quite finished yet, however - her fine temper was normally controlled, but there were times when the unbearable unfairness of life just got to be too much, and things were said that occasionally it was later wished had not been said.
"Your honor! I will be appealing this case, the documents will be registered in this courtroom by the end of the day, and I will NOT be leaving my property until these appeals have been heard in front of a REAL court somewhere with a REAL judge! And don't you people plan on having Black taking over my property anytime soon - we haven't yet cleaned up this court system, but the police here are Green Island police now, and I think you'll find a bit of trouble in enforcing these orders through the GRIPPS police force, who at least are honest!"
The judge, who was now standing behind his bench, looked one final time at Brittany, over his glasses, a small enigmatic sort of smile on his round, red, old face.
"Oh," he said, "I wouldn't be too sure of anything like that, Ms Forrest. I think you'll find yourself, dear, that your little pretend GRIPPs police won't be running decent people anywhere, anymore - your little utopian socialist experiment is about to come to an end, finally, and decent people will once more be running this Island, as they ought to be. It won't be the GRIPPs, but a rather more legal - and compelling - force who will be escorting you from that property come Saturday morning, if you dare to still be there."
And with that comment, he turned and disappeared through the door the bailiff, having appeared once again through the same door during the 'proceedings', hastily pulled open for him, and closed behind his broad black back.
Brittany watched helplessly, mouth slightly open in disbelief. She turned to Maggotyzoots, who was watching her from his seat behind his desk, fingers steepled in front of his face, and a truly disgusting little smirk on his little hyena face, then turned back to Zhistin's briefcase on the table, dropped her papers in it, closed it, picked it up, and, head high, marched back down the aisle of the court room and through the door. But the fun wasn't over. It was just beginning.