I was, in my youth, somewhat of an enthusiast for Marxism. Our society seemed to me to be based on greed and corruption, and I thought a good dose of Marxism would solve a lot of social ills. Of course, I knew that the Soviet Union was an oppressive, unjust society. I just didn’t think the Soviet Union represented Marxism any more than I thought the United States represented Christianity. In each case, the high ideals of the state religion was propounded but the actual practice was ruthlessly materialistic. Nowadays, I suppose I could be called a liberal.
There are days when I miss the idea of overthrowing the established order. Like today, when I read in the Toronto Star about Alan Eagleson’s friends.
Alan Eagleson has been charged with more than 44 counts of fraud committed since 1994, when he was head of the National Hockey League Players Association. Among other things, he stole money from players he represented and he colluded with the owners to keep player salaries low.
Some players now say they did kind of wonder about why their union leader was spending so much time on the owner’s yachts. They did, did they?
There is not much dispute about his guilt: Eagleson has admitted to some of the charges, and has been sentenced to 18 months so far, of which he will probably serve six. He is presently serving his time in Mimico Correctional Centre.
The Law Society of Upper Canada, hilariously, is now trying to decide whether or not Eagleson has engaged in conduct “unbecoming a barrister or a solicitor”! Like what? Did he donate some of the proceeds of his fraud to a charity?
In the same article, the Toronto Star reports that Mike Gillis, a former Boston Bruin, sued Eagleson successfully in 1996 for $40,000, part of a disability payment which Eagleson had swiped from him. Gillis was awarded $570,000 but Eagleson has appealed. The trouble is that almost all of that money is going to go to Gillis’ lawyers. Conduct unbecoming? Eagleson is a crook precisely because he behaves like a lawyer.
Look at this system! A man is owed $40,000 by a lawyer. The lawyer refuses to pay. Is he arrested? No, hell he’s a lawyer! So the victim of the fraud has no recourse but to go to court. The judge says, you can’t represent yourself– get yourself a…. lawyer! So the victim hires another lawyer to get his money back. But he can’t afford to pay this lawyer, you see, because he lost his money to the first lawyer. So the second lawyer says, no sweat, we’ll sue for what he owes you and for what you will owe me!
Now, you might observe that Mike Gillis, having been enlightened as to the courageous, unselfish, righteous needs of his own lawyers, has the solution. This solution is carefully suggested and facilitated by his lawyers: he sues Eagleson not only for the $40,000 he is owed, but for an additional $500,000 to pay his lawyers. The lawyer says, “I’ll help you get back your $40,000 and while we’ve got him down, I’ll rob him blind.” The man doesn’t care because it won’t come out of his pocket. So the system “works”.
Everybody’s happy, right? Consider Eagleson’s lawyer. Does he mind? Hell, no. He will charge Eagleson at least $500,000 himself, to spare him from having to pay out $40,000! But if he does a lousy job and loses the lawsuit, does he give the $500,000 back? Now, don’t laugh yourself silly. If he was going to do that, would he have advised him to fight the lawsuit in the first place, knowing it would cost a lot more than any possible out of court settlement would cost?
The truth is that this system is insane. It is absolutely, totally, completely, irrevocably insane. And everybody knows it. This system destroys everyone consumed by it…. except, of course, for the lawyers. And who, pray tell, makes these laws under which these cases are heard? Who is the judge? Who is the defense, the prosecution? What profession is represented in our legislature at numbers all out of proportion to their share of the population? Lawyers!
Are we really so surprised that they have cleverly evolved us a system that pays only them?
And now the most distasteful part of this particular story. Eagleson’s loyal friends have written him letters of commendation. Eagleson is a good man. Eagleson is honorable. Eagleson is a loyal friend. Eagleson never done me wrong. Here’s a list (side bar) so you can remember their names. If you bump into Bobby or Willard on the street, please restrain your desire to punch one of them in the nose. And remember that Bobby Clarke is the hero of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series for breaking Valery Kharmalov’s ankle with a wicked–and unpenalized– slash in game 5. Sittler? Shame on you.
Yes, this is how it works. These are Alan Eagleson’s friends.. So while he was cheating Mike Gillis and Glen Sharpley and Bobby Orr, he was carefully cultivating loyal friendships with Bobby Clarke and Paul Henderson and John Turner. What does this tell us? That, contrary to the testimony of Gillis and Sharpley and Orr and all the others that Eagleson was actually an honest man? That’s what these “gentlemen” want you to believe. Their signatures on their letters are a slap in the face to all the honest, hard-working NHL players whom Eagleson has cheated over the years. Paul Henderson is saying, “hey– he didn’t cheat me. Why should I care if he cheated you? Go to hell, Orr…”
The only thing their letters prove is that even a brilliant lawyer like Alan Eagleson couldn’t screw everybody at the same time.
We often hear about the two tiers of justice in this country, but we don’t often get such an intimate glimpse into how it works. You rob a string of banks of various amounts up to $40,000 and get caught and brought before a judge. If you don’t have your friendly letters from wealthy members of the establishment, judges, members of parliament, and retired professional hockey players, you can look forward to a long stay in prison. But if you are a lawyer and you rob a disabled hockey player of $40,000, and numerous others, and if you have invested that money wisely by acquiring the clothes and cars and boats and homes that allow you to move within the ranks of the privileged and blessed… you’re not likely to serve any time at all. Well, maybe 6 months. In mean old Mimico Correctional Facility.
Eagleson moves in conservative circles and was a member of the provincial Tory caucus at one point. I wonder if he ever partied with Mike Harris, who grew almost hysterically angry at the teachers who defied the law and went on strike last year. At moments like this, it seems transparent to me that the law has nothing to do with justice or fairness or good order. The law is there to hold you down while the lawyers rob you blind.
Who wrote letters asking the courts to be lenient on Alan Eagleson?
- Bobby Clarke
- Paul Henderson
- Douglas Fisher
- John Turner
- Darryl Sittler
- Willard Estey
- George Gross
- Darcy McKeough