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TAKING ON 'THE MAN'

By Matt Mernagh

Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers and Lawyers
by Alan Young
Published September 2003
Key Porter Books
304 pages

Osgoode Hall law professor Alan Young befriends the misfit clients he defends, something few lawyers would even consider attempting. Who wants to consort with society’s so called undesirables? He has donated over half a million dollars in pro bono legal fees defending medicinal marijuana activists, bawdy house operators, and other miscreants who simply want ‘The Man’ to get off their back so they can enjoy their vices. Young is an Oxy pad trying to scrub the law clean of “moral hygiene.”

For the record, the slightly eccentric lawyer makes me feel like my literary hero Hunter S. Thompson. He’s the ten pound shit-hammer I keep in my arsenal, hopefully never to be used, in my actions as executive director of the Niagara Compassion Society. Our relationship goes back a few years when I set out to interview him for High Times publication. Part of my in with Alan comes from my extremely early membership in the Toronto Compassion Club. I’ve had the pleasure to conduct lopsided interviews, where I simply press record on the tape deck and allow Alan to rant maniacally until he simply runs out of steam.

For such a colourful and unique character, Young’s most recent book, Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers & Lawyers, fails to capture the ranting, Lenny-Bruce-meets-Buddha-inspired legal crusader. It’s as if his personality is being restrained in the dungeon of the Bondage Bungalow, by his client, dominatrix Terry Jean Bedford. Maybe Young was seeking mainstream acceptance and toned down the personality and upped the intellect in Justice Defiled. Then again as far as pot smoking lawyers writing books are concerned – this is way out there.

The thesis of the novel is that laws should not be used to up hold morals. He argues convincingly that when the law is used as a moral witch hunt good people with a different set of values than “community standards” are persecuted. Young envisions a system where a local municipal code would be used to regulate activities that some might find morally bothersome or upsetting. Such as opening an S&M dungeon in the middle of the suburbs. Municipal codes, not police and court manpower, should be used to regulate activities that some in society might find morally offensive.

Arguing about hard-ons and gangsta rap in her majesty’s courtroom is truly a waste of court time and Young’s amazing intellect. The courts have been devalued because of these debates so that when a bastard such as Paul Bernardo comes along the courts and the legal profession are incapable of pulling itself together to truly act in the victim’s best interest. Young has been a victim’s rights advocate for years and sued the government on behalf of the two women for failing to live up to its Victim’s Bill of Rights.

Sadly, once again, Young proves that the law is full of good intention as long as someone doesn’t expect those in power to live up to those intentions. Even the judge in the case half-heartedly admitted the Victim’s Bill of Rights was a toothless sham.

He writes, “While listening to his [Bernardo’s] victims’ recorded pleas for mercy, I sat in court wondering what was being accomplished by this lengthy trial.” He refers to the trial as a “slow guilty plea.” Given all the media surrounding the case we are not one iota closer to gaining any insight to the sociopaths known as Bernardo and Homolka.

Instead of wallowing in their beautifully disguised filth Young calls on his fellow lawyers and judges to build a better criminal justice system. “A fundamental reformulation of the process could assist in making the criminal trial something other than an excise in futility.” This is a dire warning from one of the most influential lawyers in the country. Young sees legal corruption as ruining a system that is supposed to mete out justice for serious offences.

As an educator Young sees that law school has failed to create intellectual lawyers. Most of those attending law school want to learn how to file legal briefs and bill legal aid. They’re looking for more of a trade school while Young wants to broaden their horizons. This is a fellow who throws off first year students by arriving in class in sandals and kimono and asking them, “How the fuck you all doing?” Besides shit-kicking lawyers, law students, and the law, Young saves some wrath for judges. “I have met some very good judges who are dedicated to public service. But more characteristically I have met judges who reek from indifference, who strut around with pomposity, who engage in petty power games, and who are remarkably lazy.”

In his book, Young recalls spending months preparing a legal brief only to show up to court to have the judge ask the crown attorney where he can find this Section 7 that Young was going on about. One would believe a judge would know the Chart of Right and Freedoms like the Ten Commandments.

For someone who has been constantly on the losing end of court cases and intellectual arguments I wonder how Young continues to pull himself together to fight ‘The Man.’ There is no financial gain in it. Most people he represents can’t even afford photocopying and binding of legal briefs let alone paying for the hours of legal genius. This is where Justice Defiled fails.

What is it about Alan Young that makes him want to take up these lost causes? Does he just like hanging out with perverts, potheads, serial killers and lawyers? Tell us Alan. [BY MATT MERNAGH]



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