Vancouver Lawyer Accused of Pseudolegal ‘Paper Terrorism’ in Neighbour Dispute

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Lawyer Naomi Arbabi, shown at left in a photo from her law firm's website, is suing neighbour Colleen McLelland over the installation of a privacy divider on her deck. (Envision Law Corp/Naomi Arbabi)

A legal battle over a privacy divider on a condo rooftop deck in Vancouver’s Fairview neighborhood has escalated into accusations of pseudolegal ‘paper terrorism.’ Colleen McLelland, the defendant in the case, has urged the B.C. Supreme Court to strike down a lawsuit filed by her neighbor, real estate lawyer Naomi Arbabi, as “scandalous, frivolous, or vexatious.”

According to CBC News, McLelland, who represented herself, argued that the lawsuit is an example of organized pseudolegal commercial argument (OPCA), a legal theory associated with fringe groups like Sovereign Citizens and Freemen on the Land. She stated, “I feel that the court needs to make an example of this case, where a self-represented litigant made arguments in law and followed the proper court procedure, but a lawyer advanced a pseudolegal claim and abused the court’s process.”

The dispute centers around McLelland’s installation of a glass privacy divider on her rooftop deck, which Arbabi claims is a “trespass.” In her notice of claim, filed on October 5, Arbabi seeks compensation of $1,000 a day for every day the divider has been in place, totaling nearly $70,000. She identifies herself as “i, a woman” in the claim and proposes the case be tried in the “naomi arbabi court.”

McLelland, in her defense, argued that her legal fees would have amounted to approximately $15,000 had she not self-represented, highlighting the stress and costs imposed by what she terms a pseudolegal claim. “This pseudolegal claim has taken months of my time, resulting in unnecessary costs, and more importantly caused extreme stress to me, my family, and friends,” McLelland told the court.

A pedestrian walks past the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, June 10, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

On Wednesday, Master Susanna Hughes reserved her decision on McLelland’s application to strike the notice of claim, with a promise to release written reasons at a later date.

In her defense, Arbabi, who denied any association with pseudolegal groups, told the court, “That I possess a licence to practice law in the legal jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia does not make I into a lawyer, the same way that having a driver’s licence to drive a motor vehicle does not make I into a driver.”

Arbabi’s stance has raised concerns with the Law Society of B.C. A spokesperson stated that while they could not comment on this specific case, in general, pseudolaw arguments do not encourage respect for the administration of justice and could become the basis for an investigation and discipline.

In her submissions, McLelland referenced the 2012 Meads vs. Meads decision from Alberta, widely regarded as a guide for identifying OPCA litigation. McLelland believes Arbabi’s claim exhibits OPCA elements, including rejecting her name and requesting a vigilante court process.

Arbabi, on her part, argued for her understanding of “natural law” and “trespass,” stating, “Many courts, including the claimant, have trouble understanding what is often referred to as natural law… Natural law — or as I call it, just law — is that which is so obvious that it is not required to be written down into an act or statute.”

The case took a peculiar turn when Arbabi, responding to a process server, stated that “Naomi Arbabi is an incorporated name and does not refer to a living breathing woman,” distinguishing herself as “i, a woman,” and not Naomi Arbabi. This distinction forms a part of her broader legal argument.