Supreme Court to rule on Robert McCorkill estate dispute

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to decide today whether it will review a New Brunswick ruling that barred an American neo-Nazi group from inheriting a Saint John man's estimated $250,000 estate.

Ontario group seeks leave to appeal N.B. ruling that barred a neo-Nazi group from inheriting $250K estate

Robert McCorkill, who died in Saint John in 2004, bequeathed his estate to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in West Virginia. (Southern Law Poverty Center)

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to decide today whether it will review a New Brunswick ruling that barred an American neo-Nazi group from inheriting a Saint John man's estimated $250,000 estate.

The Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) is seeking leave to appeal the Robert McCorkill case, arguing it is "of national importance."

Paul Fromm, director and founder of the non-profit Ontario-based group, contends it is "the most important property rights case of the decade."

"Freedom of belief, freedom of expression and property rights are on the line," he has said.

McCorkill, also known as McCorkell, died in 2004 and bequeathed his valuable collection of coins, artifacts and investments to the National Alliance, a white supremacist group based in West Virginia.

Last July, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick upheld a decision to void the will because the activities and communications of the National Alliance were deemed hate inspired, which is both illegal in Canada and contrary to public policy.

Fromm, whose group has lobbied for Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zundel in the past, has described the decision as "horrific."

"It opens the door to endless litigation whenever a bequest is made to a controversial person or organization," Fromm has said. "It nixes the right of a person to dispose of his property as he sees fit."

At issue is whether the character, morals and actions of an intended beneficiary or the likely use of bequest by the intended beneficiary can be considered when deciding whether to uphold an otherwise valid will, and whether the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick judgment is in conflict with jurisprudence in other provincial courts of appeal.

Collection exhibited in Saskatoon, Ottawa

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 an appraiser's report from August 2010.

Parts of the collection have been exhibited in Saskatoon and Ottawa, where he had lived and worked over the years.

McCorkill's estranged sister, Isabelle McCorkill, had argued the bequest to the National Alliance should be declared void as being illegal or contrary to public policy.

Anti-racism groups also wanted 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.

CAFE's application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was filed on Sept. 29, 2015. The respondents are Fred Gene Streed, executor of McCorkill's estate, Isabelle McCorkill, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the New Brunswick government, represented by the attorney general.

All materials related to the application have been in the hands of Supreme Court Justices Thomas Cromwell, Richard Wagner and Suzanne Côté since Feb. 29.

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