Mr. Justice Quinn Says: “An Order is an Order, Not a Suggestion”
Devoted followers of my Blog will know that I have written several posts about the uniquely-blunt and funny judgments of Mr. Justice Quinn of the Ontario Court.
The latest in this series of posts involves the older decision in Gordon v. Starr, 2007 CanLII 35527 (ON SC) (http://canlii.ca/t/1sq55).
In that case, one of the spouses had been ordered, as an interim step in what the court called “unrelenting” custody and child support litigation, to pay a small amount in legal costs up-front. She did not do so, claiming that she was unable to pay; however the facts suggested that she was deliberately unemployed. In addition to lackluster job search efforts, she had unreasonably refused to seek work outside a fairly narrow geographical area, despite it being within a reasonable commuting distance. The claim that she had no money was also suspect in light of her 2-year delay in moving the child support proceedings along. As Mr. Justice Quinn wrote:
Her financial statement shows monthly expenses of $4,229.52. By resorting to friends, relatives and assets, she is managing to get by. She has a home, rental property, some rental income and the capacity to earn significant employment income. In short, she has the ability to satisfy the May costs order. She has deliberately placed herself in a position of non-compliance with the May costs order.
The other spouse had asked the court for an order striking out the pleadings or dismissing the upcoming motion. However, Mr. Justice Quinn concluded that such measures would be unduly harsh and not in the best interests of anyone.
Instead, after reviewing the circumstances, Mr. Justice Quinn barred her from participating in any further proceedings until she paid those legal costs first, writing:
Why should any litigant be spared from obeying a court order? …. Why should the court be available to those who disobey its orders?
When I made that order [to pay costs], I did not attach any provisos, conditions or exceptions. I did not say, for example, that Gordon need comply with the May costs order only if she felt like it or if it was financially convenient for her to do so.
Court orders are not made as a form of judicial exercise. An order is an order, not a suggestion. Non-compliance must have consequences. One of the reasons that many family proceedings degenerate into an expensive merry-go-round ride is the all-too-common casual approach to compliance with court orders.
Mr. Justice Quinn accordingly ordered that the child support motion that had been brought by the defaulting spouse was to be dismissed, and could only be reinstated once she paid costs as she had been ordered to do.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Gordon v. Starr, 2007 CanLII 35527 (ON SC) http://canlii.ca/t/1sq55