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Judge tosses suspended B.C. lawyer's 'vexatious' claim, issues penalty

Lawyer Naomi Arbabi ordered to pay neighbour Colleen McLelland an award of special costs after failed pseudo-legal litigation over a privacy screen.
B.C. lawyer Naomi Arbabi has been suspended following a rare interim-action board decision on Dec. 28, 2023.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rebuked a presently suspended B.C. lawyer who filed a trespassing claim against her neighbour not based on any legal codes but rather the “law of the land.”

In dismissing real estate and corporate lawyer Naomi Arbabi’s claim against her neighbour Colleen McLelland, Associate Judge Susanna Hughes also issued a to-be-determined award of special costs against Arbabi. (Such an award is typically intended to condemn and deter litigation misconduct, notes Vancouver law firm Whitelaw Twining.)

McLelland stood accused by Arbabi of erecting a privacy screen on her rooftop condo deck at 1092 West 8th Ave. just south of downtown Vancouver. Arbabi took issue with the screen and filed a lawsuit against McLelland last year.

The judge concluded in her written submission that Arbabi “does not set out a reasonable legal basis for the claim brought in this court,” adding the claim is “frivolous and vexatious insofar as it denies the authority of the Court.”

Hughes further added that Arbabi abused the court process, including by filing “her initiating document as an attempt not to litigate legitimately in this Court, but instead to utilize this Court's infrastructure for the purposes of her fictional court.”

Hughes was referring to Arbabi’s “notice of requirement of court” filed at the registry.

The notice laid out eight rules of court.

Referring to herself as “i: a woman; naomi arbabi” Arbabi stated “I, require the man who at times acts as judge or magistrate to give oath to the following at the naomi arbabi court.”

Arbabi claimed McLelland committed trespassing resulting in loss of enjoyment and loss of value of her property. Arbabi’s claim seeks relief of $30,000 from the outset of the claim plus $1,000 for each day thereafter the divider remains up or “the trespass has been remedied in court.”

While seeking remedy in court, Arbabi took the position “this is a claim based on law of the land, and not a complaint based on legal codes acts or statutes.”

McLelland had called for the court to dismiss Arbabi’s claim, which McLelland said “is in the nature of an organized pseudo-legal commercial argument (“OPCA”), which claims have been found to be frivolous and vexatious by a number of courts.”

Hughes agreed with McLelland, noting Arbabi’s “actions bear many of the hallmarks of claims made by OPCA litigants.”

“Although she has commenced a claim in this court, the plaintiff also seems to deny that this court has jurisdiction over her, as the claim says that her use of mandated court forms ‘should not be construed by any man or woman as the submission of i, to any legal titles, legal codes, acts or statutes,’” noted the judge.

Hughes wrapped up her judgment by noting as a member of the Law Society of BC, Arbabi “has an enhanced obligation to uphold the rule of law” and “the oath taken by all lawyers called to the bar in B.C. includes a term that the lawyer ‘will not promote suits upon frivolous pretences.’”

Between the hearing on Nov. 29, 2023 and Hughes’ judgment on Jan. 19, Arbabi received an interim suspension on Dec. 28, 2023, from an interim-action board of the society, which determined “extraordinary action was necessary to protect the public.”

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Editor's note: This article was edited to correct the name of the judge.