SLAPP me silly…
$Million$ SLAPP Suit Abandoned: Matulic Totally Triumphant over KRG…
“Scared absolutely shitless…”
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On May 1, 2013, I received a lawyer’s letter informing me that, effective immediately, I, the journalist, would be permanently banned from the property of Joyner/Waddington’s in Toronto, Ontario. Oh, and also banned was my wife… and presumably my Labrador, Fanny, as well.
Joyner Canadian Fine Art and Waddington’s are two fine art and memorabilia auction houses, hundreds of whose auctions I have religiously attended since the 1990s.
Now I, and my relatives, are permanently banned from both auction houses, because I wrote and published an article which made a number of observations regarding a Morrisseau painting “Nature as One,” Lot 126, being sold on Nov. 25, 2011, at a Joyner fine art auction, a happening I personally researched, witnessed, documented, and have verified, as correct in all particulars.
My article (See: the Bad & the Beautiful) noted that:
Sudden Dump – Joyner had delisted a genuine Morrisseau painting, “Nature as One,” without warning, literally at the last second before the start of a fine art auction on Nov. 25, 2011.
Months to Examine – Joyner fine art experts had long before, accepted the painting as a genuine Morrisseau, as further vetted by a respectable Maslak McLeod gallery label. Joyner fine art experts had had the painting for many weeks, even months, to professionally examine it, and declare it a possible fake, and had not done so.
Lack of Due Diligence – Lydia Abbott, whose photo is posted alongside her credit as Joyner’s “Senior Canadian Fine Art Specialist,” had apparently (my call) not done professional due diligence, in a timely manner, in suddenly and unceremoniously dumping it with literally only seconds to go.
A month before the auction, we had phoned Joyner’s requesting the contact who was responsible for the Morrisseau painting “Nature as One.” We were informed it was Lydia Abbott who is listed as the Senior Canadian Fine Art Specialist on the corporate website.
We contacted her and she emailed us photos of the front and back of the painting.
Weeks later, at the close of the last day of preview it was still offered for sale.
No Notification – The owner of the painting had not been told before the auction, and was – understandably – upset about having her painting, dumped, defamed, and devalued, by Joyner’s in this manner.
Panic Move – Joyner’s was responding, in panic, it appeared to me, possibly because of a threatening phone call from a Conspiracy Theorist, who slanged the painting at the last possible moment. I have documented these guerrilla art terrorist attacks on business competitors of Toronto’s Kinsman Robinson Galleries elsewhere. (See: the Case of the Missing Pictures)
Desecrate as a Fake – Rather than Joyner’s doing due diligence, standing by their painting, and behind their consigning client, and/or hiring a forensic expert to assess the painting, they just dumped it, irresponsibly (my call), as a “fake,” which was certainly the talk I overheard among staff (during the preview on Nov. 23) and bidders on the auction floor on November 25, 2011.
Damage Canadian Heritage – In acting this way, Joyner’s was damaging Canadian heritage, by falsely, without cause, or independently verifiable proof of any kind, slanging a genuine painting and damaging it – and thereby the art of Norval Morrisseau – for a generation, as a worthless fake. I have a long and distinguished career promoting Canadian heritage. (One of Canada’s Top Visual Artists)
Responsibility for Fallacious Defamation – I believe Joyner’s had a responsibility for the fact that Conspiracy Theorists were now publicly slanging the painting, which its fine art experts “dumped,” as a forgery because Joyner’s and Waddington’s “say so.”
Collateral Damage – By its action, Joyner’s also recklessly defamed longtime Morrisseau expert and dealer Joseph McLeod of Maslak McLeod Gallery since the dumped painting was listed in the Joyner catalogue as originating and having been authenticated by him. (When you slang a work of art you are also slanging the gallery and its principals who authenticated it and the corporate label that represents them.)
For years, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, and its business associate, Ritchie Sinclair, have directed their venomous attacks (physical and verbal; in public, on websites, and in court) against Joseph McLeod since they perceive him as KRG’s main Morrisseau business competitor. Joseph McLeod has been dealing with Norval’s paintings and has kept contact with the Morrisseau family since 1960. This was, of course, decades before Robinson or Sinclair had ever even heard of Morrisseau.
Ouchh… In 2013, Judge Paul Martial went out of his way to say (in Hatfield v Artworld of Sherway) that he regarded McLeod as a trustworthy witness, in the same breath as he was dismissive and said he “rejected” – repeatedly – all of Donald Robinson’s Morrisseau and related fine art testimony, as completely biased by a “hopeless conflict of interest.” He totally dismissed Ritchie Sinclair’s testimony as well.
Not so Mum… When we enquired, shortly after the auction, why Joyner’s had so suddenly dumped “Nature as One,” its experts refused to disclose the information. But, said one staff member, “This will fix that damn Joe McLeod.” This was just more proof that Joyner’s experts had succumbed to propaganda from either Kinsman Robinson Galleries staff or Ritchie Sinclair, or both.
SLAPP Suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) Warning:
SLAPP suits, initiated to try to shut up investigative journalists with threats of expensive lawsuits, thereby hoping to prevent them from searching out what is going on behind the scenes of events that are clearly in the “public interest,” are banned in Quebec. Ontario is also aggressively moving in this direction.
SLAPP suits – clearly specious in origin, and designed to intimidate public affairs commentators – have been notoriously launched or threatened against investigative journalists seeking to expose “the biggest fraud in Canadian art history,” involving so-called Morrisseau forgeries, and those businessmen and Conspiracy Theorists promoting them. Investigative journalists, utterly certain of their evidence, and the clear public interest importance of the issue, have utterly refused, in any way, to knuckle under to any of these threats from predatory lawyers.
On June 4, 2013 Ontario’s Attorney General John Gerretsen introduced a bill designed to curb “strategic litigation against public participation” (SLAPP) suits. This is being done for two reasons: to prevent the court process from being tied up with nuisance lawsuits, and stop the courts from being used to intimidate journalists or bloggers in an effort to limit debate on a controversial issue.
Gerretsen said the majority of SLAPP suits are filed as defamation claims of libel and have so little merit that they are often withdrawn before going to trial. (See: Morris v Johnson; and Kinsman Robinson Galleries v Matulic.)
Mayo Moran, Dean of the U of T’s Faculty of Law welcomed the legislation banning SLAPP suits, as they damage a “robust debate on issues of public importance.”
David Sterns, the Ontario Bar Association’s public affairs chair, welcomed the legislation to help expedite court hearings for “legitimate claims” and not tie up the courts with specious suits.
“Public confidence depends on the ability of our justice system to operate efficiently and to enhance democratic principles. Both of these goals are threatened by the bad-faith litigation that this new legislation is designed to curb.” (Toronto, Star June 4, 2013.)
SLAPP’d Down – On Oct. 22, 2012, former Aurora mayor Phyllis Morris, who had launched a Six Million Dollar SLAPP suit against three different website bloggers, was found by a court (in Morris v Johnson) to have made legal threats in an attempt to silence her critics. Even though she had finally abandoned the suit, about a year later, the judge ordered her to pay the main blogger’s legal costs of $21,275.
Specious & Unfounded Allegations – Some weeks after I published the details regarding the distressing auction handling of “Nature as One 1977,” I received a typical “way-over-the-top” lawyer’s letter – read threatening SLAPP suit – from Joyner’s and Waddington’s, which ranted that I was guilty of the following:
Libel & Slander – The accusation was that I, a professional historian for some 46 years,(Curator’s Choice of 264 Heritage Items) and an award-winning investigative journalist, (Scared Absolutely Shitless as an Investigative Journalist) was writing libelous and slanderous articles about their clients. (A totally ridiculous charge, from a lawyer who didn’t even know that slander does not apply to the written word, and, of course, without offering any credible proof of any kind to back up the unsubstantiated allegations.)
Sexism – I was accused of being guilty of sexism, in picking on Lydia Abbott, and was ordered to remove her picture and references to her from my blog, as she was “hurt” by my comments.
I confess to having taken for granted that if Ms. Abbott was listed on the Joyner corporate website as “Senior Canadian Fine Art Specialist,” she had some professional responsibilities there. Including, obviously, when Joyner’s suddenly “dump” a genuine painting by Canada’s top Aboriginal artist, without cause, and without explanation, and quite effectively defame it, and totally devalue it, by doing so.
The Joyner dumped painting was immediately posted to Ritchie Sinclair’s notorious website as a fake, with “provenance” of the defamation referenced to Joyner’s and Waddington’s.
Is it a stretch to assume Ms. Abbott was responsible or involved?
Journalist Banned for Life – That, as a result, I – the journalist and author – would be banned permanently from Joyner’s and Waddington’s property, auctions, etc.
“Wife of” Journalist Banned for Life – That my wife – for some unknown sexist reason – would also be similarly banned. Even though it is made utterly clear that I am the sole author of this blog. You know, the typical sexist “wife of,” guilt by association, seems to be the call on this one…
And, no doubt, any of my progeny, in this world or the next.
Fanny Banned for Life – And presumably also any family pets, which includes “Fanny” my lovable Yellow Lab. (Isn’t it strange how dogs take after their masters?)
Fanny, is named in memory of an unsung genuine Canadian original heroine, a truly intrepid single mom, Fanny Colwill Calvert, an early Canadian painter from Guelph, Ontario, whose son, Will Colwill, was the architect who built the Carnegie public library there and in Galt, where Fanny (the artist not my dog) personally carved the capitals on the columns.
I’ve bought many of her paintings at Waddington’s, over the years, in order to help promote and publicize her and her son’s important roles in Canadian heritage. (See: Fanny Colwill Calvert)
Now Fanny is banned at Waddington’s… And Joyner’s…
Banned from Bidding – I bought the last Carruthers Gould Wilkinson jug sold at Joyner Waddington’s in June 2003. (See: Carruthers Gould WWI Generals)
Since my Joyner’s and Waddington’s accounts were shut down, I will not be able to put in a bid on the 11 Wilkinson jugs being offered for sale, at the Waddington’s Decorative Art Sale on June 19, 2013, the very first time a complete set of these rare jugs have ever been auctioned in Canada.
I don’t dare show up; I might risk getting shot by their security guards. (I knew Joyner’s doesn’t fool around. I remember several years ago it had several commandos bristling with high-power automatic rifles – I kid you not – circulating through their preview crowd.)
But investigative journalists are a courageous lot. They are more worried that the targets would be family: my wife or my dog…
(For several nights, I had nightmare visions of John Wayne’s dog Sam, with a lance through his body, killed by Indians intent on giving a “message” to “Hondo,” in a movie which I remember seeing in a theatre in 1953.)
Shooting the Messenger – Talk about shooting the messenger… and his relatives… and their clients, to boot…
Shooting the Client – Joyner’s and Waddington’s are doing a huge disservice to all the people who consign fine art with them, by banning longtime and loyal buying clients, their wives, and relatives.
We have spent well in excess of $100,000 for art and memorabilia at these two auction houses, over the years. Our under bidding has also boosted their sales by literally many hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Is this a smart way to treat a client who has, over the years, added a million dollars to the Joyner Waddington’s bottom line?
(In fact, top auction houses knowingly treasure their under bidders as every bit as valuable as the winning bidders. Without them the winning bidders wouldn’t be forced to pay top dollar.)
Joyner’s Welcomes Discredited Conspiracy Theorists – Even though Donald Robinson’s notorious and multiple allegations of so-called Morrisseau fakes, were totally and utterly discredited, in every particular, by Judge Paul Martial in his damning 39 page judgment, regarding so-called Morrisseau fakes in the Hatfield v Child case, released on Mar 25, 2013, we assume Mr. Robinson is still welcome as a high-spending buyer, at Joyner’s and Waddington’s, where we have been banned.
Judges back me up… And this despite the fact that all my “allegations” about the “greatest fine art fraud in Canadian art history,” have been supported, totally, in every single particular, by Judge Martial’s finding, and that of every other judge before him and since.
Scientists back me up… And I have some seventy separate findings, by three of Canada’s top forensic experts and handwriting analysis experts, proving that some 70 paintings, all alleged to be forgeries by Donald Robinson, are in fact, with DNA certainty, authentically signed by Norval Morrisseau. Without a single dissenting finding…
STUNNING! Kinsman Robinson’s Million Dollar SLAPP Suit Dismissed – Barely a week after Judge Martial announced his devastating judgment that totally discredited Donald Robinson, and his testimony, his expertise, his expert report and his credibility as an unbiased and objective Morrisseau expert, KRG requested an out-of-court settlement for a million dollar SLAPP lawsuit which KRG, Paul Robinson, and Donald Robinson had launched in 2010, against blogger Ugo Matulic, alleging libel. They conceded without demanding any penalties or prohibitions against him whatsoever, whether past, present, or future.
They had originally demanded one million dollars for the damage they claimed was caused by his alleged libel, demanded he shut down his blog, demanded he delete posts mentioning KRG and its staff members, and demanded he refrain from mentioning the names of KRG or its principals, ever again, in any way.
Matulic totally and utterly refused to give in on a single demand made by KRG lawyers.
For some five years Matulic had worked tirelessly to promote genuine works by Norval Morrisseau. He has repeatedly accused Kinsman Robinson Galleries and their Conspiracy Theorist business associates, of a “conspiracy” to fix prices by defaming, and devaluing genuine Morrisseau paintings that were in the hands of their business competitors. To support his damning allegations he has amassed the largest Morrisseau-related archive of documents compiled by anyone, in this world or the next.
KRG, still reeling from the huge body blow dealt by Judge Martial to the believability of its chief Morrisseau expert, started, in total desperation, to cut and run from a lawsuit they had been pursuing for over two years.
Running for Cover – KRG chose not to make Donald Robinson available for the second day of Discovery of the KRG v Matulic case, when they would have been forced to produce documents that they have carefully kept hidden away from public scrutiny since they began spreading false stories of “thousands of fakes by umpteen forgers” in 2001, aided by a compliant press.
When, late in the day of Discovery Day 1 Matulic was suddenly told that a proxy (Robinson’s son Paul) would appear, next day, on Donald Robinson’s behalf, on the Plaintiff’s Discovery day, “due to (Donald Robinson’s) health issues and lack of preparation,” Matulic angrily aborted, demanding that Donald Robinson had to appear.
Snider, for the Plaintiffs, agreed to pay half of Matulic’s $200 Discovery cancellation fee, but did not offer to pay towards his flying and accommodation expenses after making him take a trip to Toronto from Calgary, take a leave of absence from his work, and attend a judicial proceeding that was completely useless to him, and for which he exacted not a single benefit for himself or his defence. And then to be subjected to what both Matulic and his lawyer considered was clearly a last minute evasive tactic by the Plaintiff.
An understandably vexed Matulic demanded Discovery be rescheduled for May, 2013, and insisted this time, that the Plaintiffs provide Donald Robinson in attendance to answer questions, and for him to bring a large pile of documents that Matulic listed and demanded he produce and provide, as was his right to request by law.
Matulic Wins a Totally Stunning Legal Victory –
Weeks before the rescheduled Discovery date, KRG lawyers contacted Matulic, asking for a complete out-of-court settlement without any penalties, admissions, or undertakings of any kind by Matulic. He would not admit libel, nor wrongdoing of any kind, on any level. He would not remove any materials or posts from his blog. He would not cease publication of anything on any topic.
Kinsman Robinson Galleries had abandoned every claim and demand which it had listed in its 2010 Plaintiff’s Claim, including a million dollars – later amended to $12,000, and finally settled at $1. (That Dear Diary, is one buck and no admissions or prohibitions.)
All of Matulic’s past posts would be accepted as they had originally been written. Standing intact for the ages, would be everything he wrote, over the years, saying Kinsman Robinson Galleries personnel were involved in a “conspiracy” to fix prices and control the market with their bogus allegations about so-called “Morrisseau fakes.” Something Joe McLeod had said on CBC television years ago, and was believed by almost all fine art dealers and Morrisseau collectors in Canada, and the world.
Matulic would be totally free to write as before, about Donald Robinson, Paul Robinson, John MacGregor Newman, and Kinsman Robinson Galleries, as their activities relate to his exposing the Hoax of the so-called “fakes” they allege.
For the second time in two months, Paul Robinson, Donald Robinson, and Kinsman Robinson Galleries have suffered a stunning, and an absolutely total judicial defeat, for their allegations about so-called Morrisseau “forgeries,” and in trying to use the Canadian legal system and the compliant mainstream media, to perpetuate “the greatest art fraud in Canadian history.”
It was the very first time in history that Donald Robinson, Paul Robinson, and KRG had ever taken anyone to court regarding “thousands of fakes by umpteen forgers” in 13 years since they launched these totally unsubstantiated allegations. And tellingly and damningly, they had targeted a journalist with a SLAPP suit, and not a forger, a forgery, or a seller of forgeries…
And then, when confronted with the massive documentation that utterly discredited their allegations on every level, in every particular, and in every way, folded, like a cheap suit, rather than produce their evidence for public examination, or worse, dare put it in front of another judge…
But the out-of-court settlement did have one negative result for Matulic and many others involved in exposing the Hoax. In agreeing to settle, before Discovery, it meant that Matulic gave up his legal opportunity to demand that the Plaintiff, KRG, divulge to the public, many vital, but secret, documents KRG claims as “proof” that so-called “forgeries” exist. As a result, KRG and its “outreach workers” at the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, would continue to be able to hide their so-called “proof” from the Canadian public and from Canadian forensic document examiners as we have been pushing for. Especially the notorious Wanker 16. (See: Hiding the Wanker 16)
In fact I am absolutely certain this court-mandated enforced disclosure was a Doomsday Scenario that KRG principals and the NMHS, feared worse than death – having to disclose secret documents they have successfully hidden from public view for thirteen years. It would have been the last nail in the coffin of the Conspiracy Theory they have promoted, against all the evidence, since 2001.
UPDATE: In May, 2013, the latest set of forensic reports, by one of Canada’s top handwriting analysis experts was released, proving with DNA certainty, that a new set of seven paintings – previously dismissed as forgeries by Donald Robinson and members of the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, were authentically signed by the artist. And compoundingly, “that there are no elements disclosed within these signatures which would contradict authenticity.”
DOUBLE WHAMMY! – Note: Forensics in court are always referred to as extremely high “probabilities.” Meaning that if a signature is “80% certain,” it amounts to a forensic scientist’s “absolute certainty.”
But Conspiracy Theorists diss the scientists by saying their own expert – Donald Robinson – is 100% certain the forgeries are fake, so pretending to having a higher standard of verification than Canada’s top internationally credited and certified scientist, Dr. Atul K Singla, M.A. (Forensics), Ph.D. (Forensics.) (Donald Robinson, you may recall, is the so-called “expert witness” whose so-called expertise was utterly “rejected,” multiple times, by Judge Martial in Hatfield v Child.)
Which to amateur observers could be possible, since the scientists apparently can’t account for 20%, which so might be seen as possible anomalies left by a forger that discredits the signature. NOT SO, say Canada’s top forensic scientists, who address this very fact in every verification they have ever made, with terminology similar to what is quoted here.
In the case of all seven new paintings that were analyzed, the scientist addressed the possible misinterpretation of the so-called 20% anomalies when he stated “that there are no elements disclosed within these signatures which would contradict authenticity.”
The anomalies result, then, not from betraying DNA from a so-called forger’s mistakes, but from degraded, faint, or minimal writing, which is commonly encountered with Norval’s signatures because he did them with “drybrush” technique, where he pinched off most of the paint before signing and writing on the back of his paintings.
In fact, in this lot of forensics, one painting was not certified by the scientist, NOT because he thought it looked like a fake to him, or had fake elements, but because the signature was too minimal, and the comparative data, on known Norval Morrisseau printed letters, too lacking, for anyone to make scientific conclusions on anything. As a result, a growing database of authentic printed letters by Norval is now being assembled to give scientists a better comparative tool to work with, in future, for signatures of this type.
Forensic Summary: So not only is the evidence for seven different authentic signatures, totally overwhelming, but the supplementary finding is just as important: the scientist found no evidence, of any kind, among any of the seven signatures, of an attempt to tamper with, or fake, or forge a signature.
Hey, wouldn’t a Stupid Forger, like the so-called Morrisseau forger clearly is, copying pictures Norval was selling for $20 or $30 on the street, slip up at least once, among seven signatures, and leave his forgery DNA behind…?
It gets worse: in over seventy independent findings by three of Canada’s top handwriting analysis experts, not once, have any of them, found any evidence of a forged signature. Not even once.
And we promise: many more forensics are coming…
Though Donald Robinson has found no friends, or supporters of any kind, anywhere in the Canadian judicial system, he apparently has them at Joyner’s and Waddington’s. Now why should that be?
Could it be because he paid $59,000.00 for a Morrisseau from Joyner’s in 2010? (which he then offered for resale at KRG for $350,000.00) (See: Animal Unity)
(Note: of the $59,000 paid to Joyner’s, over $20,000 goes directly into the pockets of the auction house for services rendered, NOT to the consignor/owner of the painting.)
Joyner’s is, no doubt, eager to show its welcoming appreciation to him, while they slam the door in our face.
So we are punished for exposing the evidence that makes utterly clear that a Hoax, long promoted as a reality by Donald Robinson – and totally debunked by every court and out-of-court settlement in history – has totally destroyed many millions of dollars of Canadian Aboriginal art valuations. Especially paintings by Norval Morrisseau, Canada’s top Aboriginal artist.
I happen to believe that auction houses should strive to be something more than just the local household “dump,” or mass marketeers of cultural cast-offs that people no longer want; that they should learn to see themselves as having an important stewardship role, and start to practice “due diligence” when handling cultural treasures that are an important part of the national fabric, and help give us our identity as Canadians.
I believe Joyner Canadian Fine Art and Waddington’s should send a letter of apology to Joe McLeod for their actions, which – whether intentional or not – have wrongly impugned his personal reputation and that of his gallery. And send a cc to the lady in Nova Scotia whose painting was wrongfully dumped, defamed, and devalued. It will show good faith and go some distance to undo the damage their actions have caused.
I believe Joyner and Waddington’s should publicly apologize to the consignors they have so grievously wronged, and to their clients for the damage their impetuous action has done to Canada’s art heritage, and promise, that in future, they will research art work properly, and not just respond thoughtlessly and hastily, to any old wild rumour, conveyed by persons with personal motives driven by greed and/or malice, and dump it, as if it were some cracked household dinnerware set, in a panic at the last moment.
And not become passively compliant dupes in advancing a bankrupt Conspiracy Theory of so-called Morrisseau “fakes” that has been totally and utterly discredited in numerous Canadian court actions, by Canada’s top forensic document examiners and handwriting analysis experts, and by knowledgable Morrisseau collectors around the world.
(Even though the small print in their consignor agreements allows them to do whatever they want – including “dumping” without explanation at a moment’s notice – with every artwork that trusting consignors give them.)
And maybe tell Fanny that she is welcome again at Joyner’s and Waddington’s.