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Judge flays Engel for legal tactics: [Final

Edition]

Rusnell, Charles. Edmonton Journal [Edmonton, Alta] 12


July 2005: B2.
EDMONTON - A judge has issued a scathing rebuke of the judgment
and legal tactics employed by controversial Edmonton lawyer Tom
Engel.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Frans Slatter scolded Engel for how he
conducted a legal case on behalf of Ron Robertson. The former
detective was dismissed from the police service after an internal
disciplinary hearing found he had made baseless allegations against
former Chief Bob Wasylyshen and other officers.
Engel sought a judicial review of the disciplinary hearing. That review
was also heard by Slatter, who ruled against Robertson. The tactics
employed by Engel in the judicial review so angered the Edmonton
Police Service that it brought another application seeking to have him
made personally liable for some of the service's legal costs.
Slatter found that while Engel's conduct was not bad enough to justify
costs against him personally, "it is by no means an example of how
litigation should be conducted."
"It was argued that (Engel) merely pursued a difficult case zealously
on behalf of a client and this was 'in the finest tradition of the Alberta
bar,' " Slatter wrote in a judgment released last week.
"In my respectful view, excessively lengthening proceedings by taking
an excessive number of procedural steps, calling unnecessary
witnesses, tendering irrelevant evidence, engaging in meaningless
cross-examination, and making unpersuasive arguments does not
reflect any tradition of the Alberta Bar."
Slatter was particularly critical of Engel for entering the evidence of
former Det. Vern Colley, who had alleged that Wasylyshen had been
involved with prostitutes while he was a police officer.
Engel should never have introduced the "scandalous and irrelevant
evidence" of Colley, Slatter said, adding that it had no probative value.
Entering it into evidence only served to allow the media to "circulate
unsupported defamatory material" about Wasylyshen.
"Mr. Engel seemed to think that he was entitled to defame and
attribute improper motives to anybody who stood in the way of his
client's success in this litigation," Slatter said.
Reached Monday, Engel did not accept Slatter's criticism.
"With all due respect to Justice Slatter, I disagree with his assessment
and my position, and my client's position, is that these were not
improper tactics," he said.

"I have to be careful about what I say because there is always


potentially an appeal, and in fact, there already is an appeal of Justice
Slatter's main judgment in the Robertson case."
After an internal investigation, a police hearing panel found Robertson
guilty of 14 of 15 charges of misconduct laid against him under the
Police Act and the Police Service Regulation, including multiple charges
of breach of confidence, discreditable conduct, deceit, neglect of duty
and insubordination.
Robertson was suspended in 2000 and charged in 2001 after raising
concerns about improper contacts between police officers and
motorcycle gangs. After insisting the department was not investigating
his concerns seriously, Robertson took them to the police commission
and the media. At the time, he was a detective and provincial outlawmotorcycle gang co-ordinator for northern Alberta.
Three investigations, including a task force made up of RCMP and city
police, and another led by an RCMP assistant commissioner, concluded
there was no evidence to support the allegations.
Robertson has appealed his dismissal to the Law Enforcement Review
Board.
"There is a good chance that once that is heard in public it will become
more clear that there was a basis for the evidence and the arguments
that we were advancing," Engel said.
crusnell@thejournal.canwest.com