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Vancouver lawyer resigns licence after filing 'frivolous and vexatious' lawsuit against neighbour

Lawyer Naomi Arbabi, shown at left in a photo from her law firm's website, sued neighbour Colleen McLelland over the installation of a privacy divider on her deck. Two workers are shown installing the glass divider in September 2023. (Envision Law Corp/Naomi Arbabi - image credit)
Lawyer Naomi Arbabi, shown at left in a photo from her law firm's website, sued neighbour Colleen McLelland over the installation of a privacy divider on her deck. Two workers are shown installing the glass divider in September 2023. (Envision Law Corp/Naomi Arbabi - image credit)

A Vancouver lawyer who filed a frivolous lawsuit tinged with pseudolegal hallmarks has resigned her licence to practise law, according to the Law Society of B.C.

Naomi Arbabi gave up her licence earlier this month, ending an interim suspension that had been in place since December, a law society spokesperson told CBC News.

Her resignation would not mean the automatic end of any investigations into Arbabi's actions, according to the law society. However, the spokesperson said they couldn't confirm if there is an ongoing investigation, explaining that all investigations remain confidential until or unless they lead to a citation or consent agreement.

The news follows the dismissal of Arbabi's lawsuit against her neighbour Colleen McLelland, whom she'd accused of trespass for allowing the strata of their condo building to install an opaque glass privacy divider on her rooftop deck.

The associate judge who heard the case said Arbabi's lawsuit bears "many of the hallmarks of claims made by OPCA [Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments] litigants" — a thoroughly debunked and wholly unsuccessful class of legal theory favoured by fringe groups like Sovereign Citizens and Freemen on the Land.

Arbabi has not responded to requests for comment about resigning her licence.

However, she posted on Instagram on Monday to say "You may think I've gone mad, but … from within me it all makes so much sense that I don't always realize how crazy it might seem to the outside world."

In Arbabi's notice of claim, filed in October, she identified herself as "i, a woman" and said the case would be tried in the "naomi arbabi court."

Arbabi wrote that "this is a claim based on law of the land, and not a complaint based on legal codes acts or statutes."

The statue of Themis, goddess of justice, stands in the atrium of the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
The statue of Themis, goddess of justice, stands in the atrium of the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Arbabi claimed her 'trespass' lawsuit would be tried in the 'naomi arbabi court.' (Peter Scobie/CBC)

When she appeared in court to fight an application to dismiss her claim, Arbabi said she was appearing as "a living, breathing, alive woman," not a lawyer, and denied any association with organized pseudolegal groups.

She told the associate judge that she would refer to herself using a lowercase "i."

"That i possess a licence to practise law in the legal jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia does not make i into a lawyer, the same way that having a driver's licence to drive a motor vehicle does not make i into a driver," Arbabi said.

'An abuse of process'

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Judge Susanna Hughes wrote in a Jan. 19 decision that the claim was "frivolous and vexatious insofar as it denies the authority of the court."

She went on to call the lawsuit "an abuse of process insofar as the plaintiff has filed 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 pointed to several areas where the arguments matched those of OPCA litigants, pointing to the landmark 2012 Meads vs. Meads decision from Alberta.

The associate judge ordered Arbabi to pay special costs, saying she had violated the oath she took when she was called to the bar promising not to "promote suits upon frivolous pretences."

Arbabi agreed to meet with a reporter in November to discuss her lawsuit and the thinking behind it, but upon arrival, declined to answer any questions. Instead, she read out a notice warning of legal consequences if a story was published without her consent.

In a recent interview with a local podcast host, Arbabi described her approach as "law for mankind." She said she experienced an "awakening" during the COVID-19 pandemic related to "government overreach."

At the beginning of the interview, she joked, "I'm still a lawyer, but perhaps soon I won't be."