Lawyer ordered to pay $500 for swearing at judge in Toronto court

A lawyer has been reprimanded and made to pay $500 over a contretemps with a Toronto judge that was sparked by court delays and ended with an expletive directed at Her Honour.

Winfield Corcoran was in Justice Donna Hackett’s courtroom last fall at the 1000 Finch Ave. W. courthouse, waiting for his client’s case to be called to enter a guilty plea.


After a judge asked for an apology from a lawyer at Toronto’s 1000 Finch Ave. W. courthouse, the lawyer declined and swore at the judge, according to a a court transcript.  (Chris So / Toronto Star file photo)



Hackett was busy dealing with an “agitated mentally ill prisoner who had just tried to jump out of the (prisoner’s) box,” whose case was being dealt with as a priority so he could be taken back to jail, according to an agreed statement of facts filed as part of Corcoran’s discipline proceedings at the law society tribunal.

Having apparently waited 45 minutes for his client’s case to be heard, Corcoran interrupted the proceedings without introducing himself and asked to be excused for the morning, according to the statement of facts and a court transcript. He told Hackett he felt cases with lawyers should proceed before those of unrepresented accused persons.

“I’ve been a lawyer for a long time and usually lawyers’ matters get heard first instead of — it’s been over 45 minutes and we haven’t even dealt with one lawyer’s matter. ... I find that ... it’s a little hard to accept. It’s tough. It’s hard to sit there and see unrepresented clients going ahead. That’s all,” he said.

After a “beg your pardon” and an “excuse me” from the judge — and Corcoran repeating that it was hard to see the case of an unrepresented accused person go before his — Hackett said to him:

“So a sick man potentially who may have a medical emergency who needs his medication, you would rather go ahead of him?” she asked.

“Well, that’s fine but I’m sure that could be resolved without me waiting in court,” Corcoran replied.

Hackett then told Corcoran to leave. The lawyer returned in the afternoon when his client pleaded guilty to violating his curfew. Once the case was over, Hackett asked Corcoran if there was anything he wished to say about his conduct earlier that day, describing it as “very disruptive, rude and unprofessional,” according to the court transcript.

“Nothing at all,” Corcoran replied, to which Hackett said:

“Well, maybe we will send the transcript to the law society then. Thank you, sir. Good day. Next matter, please.”

“What did you expect me to say?” Corcoran said.

“A good old fashioned ‘I’m sorry,’” the judge said.

But Corcoran said he wasn’t sorry. And while Hackett was telling the court reporter she was ordering a transcript of the day’s proceedings, Corcoran said:

“F--- yourself.”

According to the agreed statement of facts at the law society tribunal, Corcoran didn’t intend for Hackett to hear the comment, but it was picked up by the microphone.

Corcoran did not return the Star’s request for comment. Hackett is out of the country without regular access to email, a court spokesperson told the Star.

Read more:

‘It’s actually shocking how archaic’ Ontario’s criminal courts are

How the underfunding of legal aid is clogging up the justice system

Corcoran admitted at the law society tribunal that he committed professional misconduct. Aside from the reprimand, he was also ordered last month to pay $500 in costs.

The lawyer, born in 1944 and called to the bar in 1992, is based in Hamilton and has no prior discipline history.

He had at first told the law society during its investigation that he did not believe he had been uncivil in raising an objection and responding to the judge’s questions.

“I am entitled to my views,” he told the law society investigator last December, according to the agreed statement of facts. “I was not at all disrespectful. I stand by what I said and I am not the least apologetic. The judiciary are not immune to criticism. Perhaps I should make a complaint to the judicial council and make an innocent and truthful event into a full blown fiasco. That’s all I have to say.”

But after reading a transcript earlier this year and seeing what he had said, Corcoran wrote the judge an apology. “I ask you to believe me and to allow me an opportunity to express my most sincere apology for my conduct and words,” he wrote.

He sent another written apology a few weeks later. Hackett did not respond to either one.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

Another classic example of how lawyers intimidate, harass and punish those who are not represented by a lawyer.

Justice in Canada is like the Ritz Hotel. If you can't afford a lawyer, your case generally gets put

at the last on the list. By that time, everyone concerned is tired, and at an extreme disadvantage.

Its part of the intimidation and punishment judges inflict on those who do not have a lawyer.

This is just another example of the sickening attitude of lawyers and generally Judges who generally, have a pathological hatred of those who could not afford a lawyer.


At the same time, career drug dealers, career criminals qualify for legal aid, that is if they ill-gotten gains are not used to retain the best privately retained lawyers.

Even legal aid lawyers go before self represented litigants.

That's the sickening attitudes you too can experience if you end up being refused

legal aid or having your certificate cancelled on secret information provided by the complainant

that you are never told about in a criminal or family matter.


Ottawa Mens Centre