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Suspended Vancouver lawyer ordered to pay neighbor $30,000 dollars for the time spent on a pseudo-legal lawsuit

A suspended Vancouver lawyer who lost a “senseless” lawsuit against her neighbor over a glass partition has been ordered to pay the woman nearly $30,000, likely to end a case that legal experts described as highly unusual.

Naomi Arbabi pleaded guilty to trespassing on the property of her neighbor Colleen McLelland. McLelland declined to be interviewed, but her lawyer spoke to CBC News on Tuesday.

“She feels both pleased and somewhat vindicated that she received a reasonable amount of compensation for being dragged into the proceedings that she was dragged into,” said Greg Palm, managing partner at Hamilton Duncan Law Corporation.

One expert in pseudo-legal arguments described the case as “magical gibberish,” while another said it was “extremely rare” for such a claim to be made by a practicing lawyer. The judge who discontinued the case stated that it bore the hallmarks of claims made by Parties to an OPCA Dispute (Organized Pseudo-Legal Commercial Arguments).“ — legal theories favored by fringe groups such as the Sovereign Citizens and Free People of Earth.

Settlement offer for PLN 14,000. dollars

In her original lawsuit filed in October, Arbabi accused McLelland of trespassing on her property by blocking her view of the mountains when a 4-foot-tall privacy partition of opaque glass was installed in the strata of their Fairview apartment building on McLelland’s rooftop terrace.

In January, a judge dismissed the case and ordered Arbabi to pay special costs – money “typically awarded as a punishment for conduct that a court finds reprehensible,” Palm said. The only issue to be resolved was the amount Arbabi had to pay.

According to Monday’s ruling, McLelland offered Arbabi a deal: They could settle the costs for just over $14,200 if Arbabi paid by March 8.

Arbabi agreed to a dollar amount, but said she would pay in installments over the next 40 years.

McLelland refused to wait until 2064, so the case returned to court.

In her decision, special secretary Meg Gaily found that Arbabi must pay McLelland just over $29,500 to cover the time and money she spent representing herself, adding that McLelland must spend more time familiarizing herself with and learning civil procedure , “to deal with the OPCA dispute than it otherwise would have.”

A man in a suit carries a briefcase as he goes to work in the city center on a sunny morning.
A man walks outside the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver in October 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Gaily said special costs will also go toward reimbursing Palm and the legal team that helped McLelland pro bono.

“Ms. Arbabi has chosen to conduct the legal proceedings in a manner … repugnant to the oath she and I took when we became lawyers to uphold the rule of law and refrain from bringing proceedings on flimsy pretexts,” Palm said in a speech on why she took the case free.

“Ultimately, this award reflects the fact that there are consequences for such actions.”

Arbabi has the right to ask the court to review the registrar’s decision within 14 days. CBC News contacted Arbabi for comment through her guardian, who is a practicing lawyer appointed to manage or terminate her law practice. The superintendent referred the inquiry to the BC Law Society, which declined to contact Arbabi, citing confidentiality.

In dismissing Arbabi’s original claim earlier this year, British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Justice Susanna Hughes said the “frivolous and vexatious” lawsuit was an attempt by Arbabi to exploit the court “for the purposes of her sham court.”

The judge found that the lawsuit lacked a reasonable legal basis and demonstrated “many of the hallmarks” of the claims raised by the OPCA litigants.

The costs award said Arbabi accepted responsibility for the claim but “denied that she was a party to the OPCA dispute.”

In January, Arbabi surrendered his law license

In her original lawsuit, Arbabi identified herself as “I, the woman” and stated that the case would be heard by the “Naomi Arbabi court”.

She wrote that “this is a claim based on state law and not a complaint based on legislation or statute” and is seeking damages of $1,000 per day for each day the glass partition was in place – which would mean ” By the time the claim was denied, the total was more than $130,000.

When Arbabi appeared in court in November to oppose McLelland’s motion to dismiss her lawsuit, she stated that she presented herself as a “living, breathing, living woman” rather than a lawyer, and denied any affiliation with organized pseudo-lawyer groups.

Hughes ordered Arbabi to pay special costs for violating an oath taken by all lawyers called to the bar in British Columbia, which includes a promise not to “promote trials under flimsy pretenses.”

At the time she filed her lawsuit last fall, Arbabi was a lawyer in good standing with the Law Society of British Columbia. She surrendered her provincial license to practice law in January this year, weeks after her license was suspended in connection with the case against McLelland.

The photo, taken from Google Maps' street view feature, shows a low-rise, beige apartment building.
Arbabi and McLelland are neighbors in this west Vancouver apartment building. (Google Maps)

Arbabi agreed to meet with a reporter in November to discuss her lawsuit, but upon arrival she refused to answer any questions. Instead she read it Attention a warning against legal consequences if the story is published without her consent.

In a later podcast interview, Arbabi described her legal approach as “law for humanity.” Arbabi said she started taking courses through a website called Sovereign’s Way after having what she called an awakening during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said she began to understand the legal system as a board game she preferred not to play.