Court Cases & Orders

Judicial Quips of Mr. Justice Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice



Judicial Quips of Mr. Justice Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice

I’ve posted several times about the funny and oh-so-quotable judgments of Mr. Justice Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. While Justice Quinn clearly has a good sense of humour, he is certainly not the only member of the Bench who has a way with words.

In the recent decision in Martin v. Czarniecki, 2013 ONSC 46 (CanLII) [Link] the judgment started with some almost-poetic and poignant observations about the nature of Family Law disputes:

Almost all family law cases involve some degree of sadness – sadness for what was but is no longer, sadness for what might have been, sadness for broken promises and betrayals, sadness for lost opportunities, sadness for wasted time, energy and money, and all too frequently sadness for the battles still to come.

Later in the judgment, the Court was somewhat more direct:

The parties find themselves in this situation due to a litany of significant errors of judgement, misunderstandings, miscommunications, lack of communication, mistrust, and, occasionally, deliberate deceptions.

Another Judge with a literary bent is Mr. Justice Langdon, who was asked to rule on the proper sentence to be imposed in a criminal case called R. v. M.J.O., 2005 CanLII 50809 (ON SC) [URL:]. Justice Langdon began his lengthy opinion with the following:


[1.] In 1958 I entered law school. In the 1958-59 academic year I enjoyed the great privilege of being taught criminal law by G. Arthur Martin, Q.C. He was probably the finest criminal lawyer in Canadian legal history. I well remember my surprise when, in his opening lecture, he stated to the class that the least expensive way for society to deal with a car thief would be to give him a car. Of course, he was right. But society simply does not accept as justice that a criminal should be rewarded for his acts. The corollary of that position, however, is that society must pay the cost of due process. That is expensive.

[2.] Hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone south in the prosecution of these proceedings. Nothing would please me more than to have them end here. Sadly, we know that this matter is headed for appellate review. So be it.

[3.] Mr. M.J.O. has taken to these proceedings an inclusive approach to the admission of evidence saying that he wants all the evidence to be heard so that the truth can be discovered. He has testified and has told us his version of the truth. Other witnesses have testified to sometimes very different versions of the truth.

[4.] I have been a lawyer and a judge for 42 years. I do not have a monopoly on being right. On neither of the two occasions when I was appointed a judge, was I given a crystal ball that enabled me, either to look back, and find the truth infallibly, or to look forward and predict the future infallibly. I have been listening to witnesses for 31 years. I try to do so carefully and thoughtfully. I cannot promise to Mr. M.J.O. that what I have found is the absolute truth completely free of error. I have struggled to do that. However, unless I completely misapprehend the evidence, what I have found is the truth that the legal system will accept.

[5.] There is an old saying to the effect that one should be careful about what one asks for, lest one receive it. Because of the volume of material that I have to deal with, I must necessarily paint with a broad brush. What follows is the truth about the life of M.J.O., as I find it.

Court cases are not always the most interesting to read. Some cases offer pleasant little literary surprises.


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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.