British Columbia

Pseudolegal 'expert' banned from acting as a lawyer in B.C. courtrooms

An Ontario man who claims he can help people fight COVID-19 restrictions using bogus "common law" arguments has been barred from acting as a lawyer in B.C. courts.

Christopher James Pritchard claims he can fight COVID-19 rules using bogus 'common law' arguments

Christopher James Pritchard calls himself a 'Canadian common law expert' and claims the only valid law comes from God. (awarriorcalls.com)

An Ontario man who claims he can help people fight COVID-19 restrictions using bogus "common law" arguments has been barred from acting as a lawyer in B.C. courts.

According to a June 24 order from a B.C. Supreme Court judge, Christopher James Pritchard is permanently prohibited from appearing as counsel, drafting legal documents or calling himself a lawyer unless he actually goes through law school and passes the bar.

The order comes in response to a petition from the Law Society of B.C., which says it became aware of Pritchard when he was involved in a civil case against provincial officials filed by Mak Parhar, a vocal member of the Flat Earth conspiracy community who has boasted about breaking COVID-19 quarantine laws.

Parhar's civil claim for "trespass," which was roundly rejected by the court, described Pritchard as his "counsellor at law" and said he has "full authority to act in all capacities for 'Parhar Court' " which is where Parhar said he wanted the case to be heard.

Pritchard appeared at a virtual pre-trial conference and spoke on Parhar's behalf in January, illicitly posted a recording of the hearing online and then asked his followers to donate to the cause, according to the law society's petition.

Pritchard, who also goes by Christopher James, markets himself as a "Canadian common law expert" and claims Canadian governments can't create laws because the only valid law comes from God in the form of the Ten Commandments.

His arguments bear all the hallmarks of an "organized pseudolegal commercial argument" — a thoroughly debunked type of legal theory favoured by fringe groups like Sovereign Citizens and Freemen on the Land — according to the B.C. judge who tossed Parhar's claim.

People who use these arguments claim they are exempt from the authority of government and the courts, and believe anyone who wants to avoid paying taxes or obtaining their driver's licence, for example, simply needs to learn the right words and phrases.

Like other pseudolegal gurus before him, Pritchard has yet to see any success in court. His arguments have been rejected by judges as frivolous and vexatious, just plain "gibberish", and in Parhar's case, "patently absurd and nonsensical."

Nonetheless, Pritchard has found a ready audience among COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and has helped a number of them across the country draft pseudolegal claims related to pandemic restrictions. He posts documents from his "case work" on his website.

Pritchard's website also includes what appears to be his response to the B.C. Law Society's petition.

The six-page document, titled "Living Testimony in the form of an affidavit," is difficult to decipher or summarize, but it appears to suggest the law society cannot take legal action against him because Pritchard has not signed a contract with it.

Pritchard's document says the law society is "using and abusing my given name without my knowledge … a form of kidnapping of assets on paper" and suggests it is violating the Palermo Protocol against human trafficking.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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