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Calgary lawyer resigns from firm after sending ‘disturbing’ and ‘misogynistic’ email

WARNING: This article contains graphic content, including sexualized and vulgar language.

A Calgary lawyer has resigned after sending an email described by his firm as “deeply disturbing” in which he twice refers to women as “a person with a vagina” and repeatedly mocks transgender people.

Rob Rakochey, who was awarded a King’s counsel (KC) title in March in recognition of his contributions to the legal community, resigned this week from his partnership at Field Law, the firm confirmed Thursday.

A King’s counsel designation is an honour for lawyers who exhibit the highest level of integrity in the profession.

Rakochey, who has been practising law in Alberta for the past 34 years, sent a 2,000-word email on May 7 to dozens of colleagues and lawyers in Calgary, inviting them to his annual Rob Rakochey Invitational golf tournament in Kimberley, B.C. 

“Probably leave the Ho’s behind this trip — there is enough talent in town,” he wrote in the email.

‘A person with a vagina’

Perhaps, says Rakochey’s invite, this will be the year a woman wins his golf tournament. 

“I long for the day that we can award the trophy to a person with a vagina,” wrote the senior lawyer.

  • Read the full email at the bottom of this story

With his new King’s counsel designation, Rakochey joked that his friends could genuflect as they walked by. 

“If you do plan on nodding repeatedly, as some do, please close your mouth lest people get the wrong impression,” wrote Rakochey. 

“Unless you are a person with a vagina, in which case I am in Room 408.”

Rakochey did not respond to numerous requests for comment on this story. 

‘Dick picks’

In his email, Rakochey also referenced golf tournament attendees taking a woman’s camera while on a past trip that was “filled … with dick picks/balloon knot shots late Saturday night after the last drop of tequila was consumed.”

The message details what to expect at the tournament, including the resort and golf packages available.

“You can come as often as you want — just respect your roommate and wipe up afterwards,” he says.

The three-night Finishers Package is for golfers who “know where we came from, where we are, where we are going and are comfortable.”

‘The issue of trans people’

A two-night stay was labelled the Transitioners Package. 

“Converting, changing, still a bit confused, but on your journey.”

“Back to the issue of trans people,” wrote Rakochey earlier in the email. “People born one way but later decide they want to be another.”

Rakochey also wrote about a golfer who switched from a left- to right-handed swing, writing that transitioning can be done “the natural way — no surgery, no hormones, etc.”

Email ‘not sanctioned’ by firm

In a written statement provided to CBC News, Field Law managing partner Jeremiah Kowalchuk says the firm is aware of the “inappropriate email,” which was “not sanctioned and relates to a social event that has nothing to do with Field Law.”

“The email was deeply disturbing, and its contents do not reflect the values and beliefs of our organization,” wrote Kowalchuk.

“Field Law prides itself on being a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all.”

Kowalchuk said the firm investigated as soon as it became aware of the email.

“[I] can now confirm the individual in question has resigned. Our teams are working to ensure a smooth transition for our clients.”

‘Disrespectful and misogynistic’

CBC News asked Kellinde Wrightson, a lawyer and professor at the University of Calgary, to  review the invitation.

Wrightson, who is also chair of the law faculty’s equality, diversity and inclusion committee, called the email “divisive … disrespectful and misogynistic.”

“It is astonishing that not just a member of our law society would think this was OK to put in writing but someone who’s just been appointed to King’s counsel,” said Wrightson in an interview with CBC News. 

“How do you further the well-being of our community when you do stuff like this, which openly and deliberately damages the well-being of our community as a whole?” said Wrightson.

‘100 years out of date’

The email specifically alienates members of the queer community and sends a message that they are “not acceptable,” says Wrightson.

“He’s about 100 years out of date, right?”

Based on the Law Society of Alberta code of conduct, Wrightson says she wouldn’t be surprised if the self-regulating body received complaints about the email.

“[That section] speaks specifically to dishonourable and questionable conduct in private life or professional practice, and as I read this, it’s certainly questionable, and I think it is dishonourable. It’s incredibly disrespectful. It’s irresponsible as well,” said Wrightson

In a statement provided to CBC News, the law society said it can’t speak to any complaints received.

“By statute, complaints and investigations are confidential, starting the minute we receive an expression of concern about a lawyer. Matters only become public when citations are issued, and a complaint is directed to a public hearing,” wrote the law society.

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