Saturday, April 26, 2008

Here goes - wish us well!

Mr. Ronald D. Coleman
Hoffman Pollard & Furman PLLC
Attorneys At Law
220 E 42 Street
Suite 435
New York, N Y 10017

Telephone: (212) 338-0093
Facsimile: (212) 338-0093
www.hpf-law.com
Rcoleman@hpf-law.com

Dear Mr. Coleman:

Our Blog, www.CyberSmokeBlog.blogspot.com is a Canadian site based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Its precursor www.CyberSmokeSignals.com was sued for alleged defamation during May 2005.

A Brief Chronology

(1) The Plaintiffs are the Manitoba Metis Federation and its Board of Directors. The MMF is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province. It's annual budget is approximately $25 million

(2) CyberSmokeSignals first began publishing during the Summer of 2000. It was critical of the Federation because of what it considered inappropriate expenditures of taxpayer dollars plus a lack of organizational transparency and financial accountability

(3) In mid-September, 2003 a very reliable source advised us the Federation's Board of Directors had passed a Motion to have one of its lawyers (presumably Murray Norman Trachtenberg - www.ptlaw.mb.ca/Contact.htm; mtrachtenberg@ptlaw.mb.ca) monitor CSS.com looking for litigious material. In effect, we were placed on a defamation watch

(4) Shortly thereafter, a Winnipeg Legal Aid Metis solicitor (Lionel R. Chartrand) was subsequently approached by CSS.com publicly agreeing to serve as CyberSmokeSignals' pro bono General Legal Council. He wrote several articles (published on CSS) strongly disagreeing with the approach MMF President David Chartrand (not related) was taking in negotiations with the provincial government over Aboriginal gathering rights

(5) In late January, 2004 Mr. Lionel Chartrand wrote a petition (calling for MMF election campaign reform) and authorized it's posting on CSS.com. We have the black print (i.e. e-mail) firmly establishing this to be true

(6) February 9, 2004 lawyer Lionel Chartrand and the registered owner of CyberSmokeSignals (Terry Belhumeur) received defamation warning letters regarding the petition from MMF Counsel Murray Trachtenberg. For reasons unknown I was not served

(7) During late May, 2005 the Federation issued a Statement of Claim against CSS.com. Registered site owner Terry Belhumeur and I (wrote many of the articles appearing on CyberSmokeSignals) were named as Co-Defendants along with a third person (Vanessa Everton) who had been identified as the online Petition Co-ordinator

(8) Unbelievably, our attorney (Lionel R. Chartrand) was not named in the suit. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we later learned he had signed a retainer agreement ($2,500 monthly - I saw a copy) with the MMF to provide legal advice in respect of Manitoba Metis hunting rights. We later witnessed a letter (dated mid-December, 2004) in which President Chartrand wrote to Lionel Chartrand offering him a contract to be drafted by Federation Counsel Murray Trachtenberg if solicitor Chartrand were interested

(9) In the intervening years, we have agreed to sign requests by three MMF Board of Director Plaintiffs for Notices of Discontinuance removing them as litigants. A fourth never agreed from the get go. Also, Petition Co-ordinator Vanessa Everton endorsed a letter saying she was unaware of any malfeasance on the part of the Federation and, in return, was dropped from the lawsuit. We have a copy of said missive but Manitoba Queen's Bench Rules block us from publishing it verbatim on the internet although we've made reference to it on several occasions

(10) The Federation's lawyer (Murray Trachtenberg) charges at least $250/hour. We have seen several copies of his invoices for other MMF related work he has done. To date, we estimate his total billables are somewhere in the $150,000 range and remember he's paid using Canadian taxpayer dollars

(11) Early February 2006, Co-Defendant and registered CyberSmokeSignals owner Terry Belhumeur arbitrarily changed the site's password and username effectively blocking my access. He then tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal with the Manitoba Metis Federation to have his name dropped from the action. In March, 2006 CyberSmokeBlog was born

(12) As an unrepresented Co-Defendant I am within my rights to post any and all correspondence from the MMF's attorney which is exactly what we've done

(13) If you go to the Manitoba Justice home page, you will see to date approximately 120 documents have been filed in this case the vast preponderance by solicitor Trachtenberg on behalf of his clients [http://www.jus.gov.mb.ca/; click "File Search Number" (on left) and enter CI05-01-41955]

In summation, this case is not about defamation - far from it. Rather, it's a shoddy, expensive attempt by a publicly financed organization with a dictatorial regime to misuse our legal system in an attempt to bully, threaten and intimidate those who dare criticize it publicly.

Our Questions

(i) Although we're a Canadian site, would it be possible to become a Member of the Media Bloggers Association?

(ii) If yes, could we display your logo on CyberSmokeBlog in the capacity as a Member?

(iii) If no to (i) and (ii), could we still post articles about this lawsuit on MBA links?

(iv) Could we exchange links with the Media Bloggers Association?

Finally, approximately 3-4 years ago there was an article in a major Canadian newspaper (The National Post) about then employment search firm Bernard Haldane (now J.L. Kirk &Associates) concerning complaints registered by clients against its Canadian operations. We will source it and send Katherine Cobel a copy.

Thank You!
Clare L. Pieuk
cc info@mediabloggers.org

1 Comments:

Anonymous Samuel T. Charleston said...

Do you know how I might be able to contact Rudolf Carlyle Evans? (And if you don't could you please post this message on your website? - as I am quite desprate to find out, post haste.) I should like to purchase his book THE RESURRECTION OF ARISTOCRACY, and quickly, but I am unable to locate new copies any where.

8:48 AM  

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