The legal dispute over a New Brunswick man’s estimated $250,000 estate being left to an American neo-Nazi group will be heard in September.
The Court of Queen’s Bench case could set precedent in Canada, according to one of the lawyers involved. It is expected to focus on the limits of free speech.
Robert McCorkill, who also went by McCorkell, left his valuable collection of coins, artifacts and investments to the National Alliance when he died in Saint John nine years ago, but the estate remains unsettled.
Earlier this month, his estranged sister Isabelle McCorkill, of Ottawa, received a temporary injunction blocking disbursement of the estate to the white supremacist group, which is based in West Virginia, or any transfer out of New Brunswick.
Marc-Antoine Chiasson, her lawyer, said the will should be null and void because it violates Canadian policy and is against the law because it would be financing a hate group.
On Wednesday, a lawyer representing McCorkill’s executor, Fred Streed, who represents the National Alliance’s interests, asked to cross-examine the sister to determine if she is a genuine plaintiff or someone simply standing in for the civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
“She has no right as an heir,” argued John Hughes.
“She was not named in the will, she was unknown to the respondent [Streed]. It was a complete surprise,” Hughes said.
He wanted to ask Isabelle McCorkill why she waited nine years to get involved and who is paying her legal expenses.
Hughes contends the Southern Poverty Law Centre is behind the whole matter and recruited her.
This is “a skillful operation by people who have done this many times, not only to bankrupt their opponents, but to enrich their own organization,” he said.
But her lawyer dismissed Hughes’s suggestion that the Southern Poverty Law Centre is pulling strings as “a conspiracy theory.”
“Where is the evidence? You can’t just come to court and throw wild accusations like that without any shred of evidence,” said Chiasson.
How his client pays her legal bills is a matter of client-attorney privilege, he said.
Justice Peter Glennie ruled against allowing the cross-examination.
“Cross examination under these circumstances should not become an application for discovery,” he said.
The judge also ruled the temporary injunction should continue until the hearing on Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, another hearing will be held before that to decide whether to allow the New Brunswick government, the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs intervener status.
Anti-racism groups want to try to stop the National Alliance from receiving the valuables, fearing they could be sold and help spark a rebirth of the neo-Nazi group that has been in decline since its founder died more than a decade ago.
A date for that hearing has not yet been set.
A 24-hour message line for the National Alliance lays out the group’s policies.
“We favour a free, strong, proud, white America,” it states.
The group’s lawyer says it represents the “interests of freedom of speech” and exists within the limits of free expression in the United States. It is not breaking any laws and should be allowed to receive the money, said Hughes.
The case, he said, is based on “the rhetoric of hysteria.”
Isabelle McCorkill’s lawyer said he fully expects free speech will be one the main arguments he will face at the hearing.
But he contends hate speech is apparent in the group’s literature, particularly a document that talks about carving out a “white living space,” and the “racial cleansing of the land.”
“I can’t see any good coming out of this,” said Chiasson, referring to the estate going to the National Alliance. “Only evil would come from that.”
McCorkill’s collection includes: Greek and Roman coins that are thousands of years old, an ancient Iranian sword, Neolithic arrowheads and an Egyptian stone tablet from the 13th Dynasty, according to a 55-page appraiser’s report from August 2010.
Parts of the collection have been exhibited in Saskatoon and Ottawa.
Neo-Nazi’s will dispute heads to court in September
July 31, 2013