Sycophant, n. and adj. An informer, tale-bearer, malicious accuser; a calumniator, traducer, slanderer. Obsolete
Nobody likes litigious people.
Humanity has had a long abhorrence for those who abuse the law for their own ends by launching frivolous claims.
It’s a distaste that stretches back into antiquity.
Athenians, lovers of litigation
In classical Greece, the Athenians were popularly characterized as litigious.
Thucydides, the 5th century BC historian explains that foreigners had a special word for the Athenians: philodikoi, or “lovers of litigation.”
“There was a great deal of litigation in Athens. The rise of the Athenian empire in the middle of the fifth century b.c.e. resulted in a proliferation of cases, as the increase in population, wealth, and trade gave rise to more disputes, and the jurisdiction of the courts was expanded to include some suits involving citizens of subject states. The courts were in session about two hundred days a year, and could hear anywhere from four to upwards of forty cases in a day, depending on the type of case,” says the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History.
Even among themselves the Athenians recognized a class of vexatious litigants who were motivated by profit and the demise of their fellow citizen’s reputation. These they called “sukophantai”—or sycophants.
The Athenian comedic playwright Aristophanes satirized sycophantic individuals in several of his plays. Aristophanes used plays like “Birds” and “Plutus” to mock and point out the inherent evil of those who abused the democratic legal system, by painting them as self-interested individuals who have no concern for the greater good.
The human rights tribunal and sycophancy in Canada today
Although the modern usage of the word has changed, the practice is very real today.
In Canada, the pseudo-judicial human rights tribunal creates the conditions for sycophants to appear.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal was set up in 1977 by parliament through the Canadian Human Rights Act to ensure that “all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination.”
Canada’s numerous human rights tribunals hide behind the self-righteous veneer of “human rights” while also facilitating legal blackmail.
When asked for comment, D. Jared Brown, commercial litigation lawyer out of Toronto said that the tribunal is prone to ideological conformity.
“The Tribunal is comprised of political appointees typically with backgrounds as progressive human rights activists or lawyers. You’d probably be hard pressed to find a centrist or conservative member of the Tribunal. The Rules of Procedure, the Code, and the legally binding Policies developed by the Human Rights Commission, almost ensure that even if an adjudicator comes from a non-leftist/progressive ideological perspective, their decisions must be shaped and informed by leftist/progressive approaches to human rights.”
Businesses and individuals hauled before the tribunal often have no means to defend themselves and must curb in arbitration to avoid the consequences of a prolonged and expensive hearings process.
As employment lawyer Howard Levitt pointed out in a column in the National Post, the tribunal system has flaws.
No measures in place to deter abuse
In 2010, it was already becoming apparent that Canada’s human rights tribunal was turning out to be an extrajudicial kangaroo court.
As Levitt points out, one of the main issues is that claims are not screened for merit or investigated before they proceed into a tribunal hearing.
This means that all claims are considered equal. From a legal perspective this is both costly and inefficient. Claims made because of personal vendettas or for personal gain are placed in a queue alongside legitimate discrimination cases.
Another glaring flaw is that the tribunal system has no penalty for those who bring forward false claims. In a normal court of law the losing claimant would have to pay the winner’s legal costs, but this is not the case in the human rights tribunal.
“There is no deterrent whatsoever. There is no fee for filing a complaint, and no cost consequences should the complaint be without merit or even vexatious. The complainant is afforded free legal representation on request, regardless of the quality of the complaint. The legal support is not from the arm’s length provincial legal aid system, but rather from an in-house legal support department,” said Brown.
In the tribunal if a claim is false, the individual who successfully defended themselves against the slander would be left with a hefty legal bill and nothing to show for it.
In a world where false allegations are plenty, accusers get off scot-free. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal breeds the dangerous idea that if you make an accusation you must be a victim.
Litigiousness will be our ruin
In some ways the human rights tribunal hearkens back to the pervasive amateurism and private litigation practiced in Athens over two thousand years ago. Except even the Athenians had a system in place to deter sycophantic behavior. It seems that we in Canada have failed to have the foresight of the ancient Greeks.
Several past and ongoing tribunal cases are making it clear that individuals are willing to weaponize frivolous lawsuits to get what they want and blackmail others. The maliciousness of this behavior is a threat to civil society, especially when it is wielded with the power of the state.
The existence of the Human Rights Tribunal paves the way for an alternative legal court that doesn’t play by the same rules as the rest of us. Canada has no room for two legal systems.
“All decisions of the Tribunal are inherently arbitrary as the Tribunal is not bound by the common law legal tradition or stare decisis. Further, the Rules of Procedure, the Code, and the Policies of the Commission are set up such that the subjective whim of the adjudicator is unbridled in any way, save and except to encourage a decision based in contextual analysis rather than black letter law,” said Brown.
As the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History notes, litigiousness grew at the height of Athenian prosperity. Perhaps Canada, like Athens, is facing a similar trajectory.
When citizens face no external threat and are coddled by an enabling state apparatus, they find adversaries in each other.