Fall 2007 forum: Lawyers Without Rights

Munich lawyer Dr. Michael Siegal Munich lawyer Dr. Michael Siegal (1882-1979) complained to Munich Police Headquarters in early April 1933 when one of his clients was taken into “protective custody.” He had the legs of his trousers cut off and was led through Munich’s inner city streets barefoot with a board around his neck that read, “I will never complain to the police again!” Siegel managed to flee to Peru as late as 1940, where he died in 1979.

Imagine what would happen if half of BC’s lawyers were summarily disbarred, the legal system transformed into an instrument of tyranny and the rule of law disappeared. If individual rights and freedoms were threatened, who would stand up to protect them? An internationally acclaimed exhibit that chronicles the fate of Jewish lawyers before and during the Holocaust is coming to Vancouver and Victoria this November to remind BC lawyers and all citizens to stay vigilant.

The Law Society is joining the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in presenting Lawyers Without Rights, a travelling exhibit that demonstrates what can happen when the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of all citizens are undermined by state interference. As part of this exhibit, the Law Society will present an evening public forum on November 22 at Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre, examining why it is so important to have a legal system that is independent of politics, what happened in Germany and what is happening around the world today in societies where the independent legal system is threatened.

The German Federal Bar and the German Jurists Association, in partnership with Israeli lawyer Joel Levi, initiated Lawyers Without Rights. Since its inception, the exhibit has been presented around Europe, Israel, the US and more recently Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Lawyers Without Rights will run from November 1 to 25 at Harbour Centre Tower Atrium and at the University of Victoria from November 28 to December 9, with a round-table discussion on November 29.

Stay tuned for more information in the next issue of the Benchers’ Bulletin and at lawsociety.bc.ca.