Sep 26/95: Gustafsen Lake-Support from ex-U.S. AG


LAWRENCE W. SCHILLING                           Law Offices
                                                36 East 12th Street
                                                New York, N.Y. 10003

                                                September 26, 1995

Hon. Nicholas Friesen
c/o The Registry Office
350 Barlow Ave.                                 BY FAX
Quesnel                                         AND MAIL
British Columbia V2J 2C1
Dear Judge Friesen,

I am appalled by press reports of your handling of the persons arrested and charged following the peaceful resolution of the Gustafsen Lake confrontation and attorney Bruce Clark who is counsel for choice for some of the arrested Indians.

Whatever the facts may ultimately prove to be, the appearance of justice is an essential part of justice itself. The appearance of injustice in your conduct was atrocious.

Knowing of the emotions and distrust on all sides built up over a period of months between two historically contending peoples, you condoned the lack of respect and the indignities inflicted on Indians by the police and you arbitrarily denied the Indians arrested the right to consult with or be represented by the attorney they relied on, and trusted, Bruce Clark. The arrested Indians were being humiliated by the police to whom they surrendered, deprived of their clothing and brought into your court in white paper garments. Your partisan support for the police created new tensions and the perception of injustice.

By denying the Indians representation, you subjected them to lengthy interrogation under extremely coercive conditions by the police. Any lawyer worthy of the calling would plead zealously for the right of individuals at such a critical stage of criminal proceedings to be represented by counsel of choice. When Bruce Clark did so, you brushed aside the legal issues he sought to raise and he was physically subdued by officers in your courtroom. If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police could exercise restraint for weeks during an armed standoff and achieve a non violent resolution of a highly emotional confrontation, surely this use of violence could have been avoided. Now Mr. Clark is threatened with assault charges, though the real charge would seem to be "resisting assault." This was a common law enforcement practice during the civil rights struggles in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S.

Bruce Clark was returned to your court after arrested Indians had directly informed you they wanted him as their lawyer. On your own initiative you ordered Mr. Clark to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he is mentally fit to be charged and stand trial for contempt in your court, thus punishing him severely without any adjudication. The meaning of this could hardly be lost on the Indians, or counsel who might agree to represent them. It is so inherently improbable that you could have doubted Mr. Clark's mental competence that you have created the appearance of an outrageous abuse of judicial power to deprive persons accused of crime of their counsel and to deliberately humiliate that counsel and his clients.

Your own words express both animus and your imperious abuse of judicial power. When you said, "I've had jurisdiction for 25 years... I have jurisdiction until the Supreme Court says I do not," you usurp the institutional power of the court which alone may have jurisdiction, substituting your own will. You have made yourself a personal protagonist. You then called Mr. Clark's argument a "preposterous proposal," without reading his papers, or hearing him out. You were unwilling to address, analyze and explain the law, resorting to perjorative exclamation instead of reason and judicious comment.

Not content with confining Bruce Clark for a mental competence examination, you taunted him in a public courtroom where you had him brought in ankle and wrist chains after being deliberately deprived of sleep over the week end by suggesting to him he might "blow his stack," when he became aware of some anonymous allegation, then reading from an unidentified document, you said "seems to me you may have a problem in the way of paranoia." Have you no sense of judicial ethics, or common decency? Is this a matter to be spread on the public record without waiting for the medical examination you ordered and without regard to medical privacy? You give the appearance of an arrogant and hateful tyrant determined to humiliate Indians and destroy the professional and personal reputation and the livelihood of their lawyer.

Do you expect Indian peoples to believe they can receive justice in your court? And where will the Indians obtain independent, courageous and effective counsel to represent them in your court?

You should dismiss the contempt of court charges against Bruce Clark, cancel the unwarranted request for a psychiatric evaluation, order his immediate release and recuse yourself from further involvement in these cases.


Ramsey Clark

cc: Hon. Allan McEachern,
Chief Justice of British Columbia

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh,
Attorney General of British Columbia

Law Society of British Columbia

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