We have reported before about the seemingly-unending saga in the case of Beaver v. Hill, involving the support claims against a wealthy Indigenous man named Hill, by a woman named Beaver with whom he had a child. The case is legally noteworthy for the constitutional questions around whether native-Canadian law should govern Family Law disputes between Indigenous former couples.
But on a recent motion presided over by Mr. Justice Pazaratz, it was evident that there are limits to the courts’ patience with litigants, even on the context of determining such important issues.
Justice Pazaratz had been appointed as the case management judge after the Ontario Court of Appeal, which was hearing the same case, expressed its frustration over the “procedural morass” that the litigation had become, at the behest of a “phalanx of lawyers” whose “tactics have led to a proliferation of materials, skirmishes and arguments”.
In that role, Justice Pazaratz was asked to rule on Hill’s latest motion which was to prevent the previous judge on the case, Justice Sloan, from hearing any further matters. However, on the latest motion date Justice Sloan was not even scheduled to hear any upcoming matters, and for legal procedural reasons was likely not to be called upon again. As Justice Pazaratz observed:
So the reality is that [Hill’s] motion seeks to recuse Justice Sloan from having any future involvement with this file – even though Justice Sloan isn’t going to have any future involvement with the file anyway. …
But [Hill’s] counsel insisted that even if it is clear that Justice Sloan will not be presiding over any future events, they still want to proceed with this motion – seeking a court order that he not do something he isn’t going to do anyway.
With that observation in place, Justice Pazaratz cut to the chase:
That’s not just overkill.
That’s not just acting out of an abundance of caution.
If it sounds like there’s some sort of hidden agenda here, it’s because there is a hidden agenda.
“Hidden” in the sense that it’s not spelled out in the Notice of Motion.
But during submissions counsel were fairly candid about what they’re really hoping to accomplish.
Justice Pazaratz went on to elaborate:
In that context, [Hill’s] ultimate goal is not just to recuse this one Superior Court Judge. The unconcealed objective is to eventually eliminate all Superior Court Judges from dealing with his case. [Hill’s] sweeping criticism of the judiciary is evident in his motion documents …
Having observed that the recusal motion could be brought if-and-when Justice Sloan was actually assigned to sit, Justice Pazaratz’s was direct in his reproach:
The bottom line is that this court has an obligation to be sensible, even if the parties and lawyers aren’t.
Courts exist to resolve real disputes between parties. Not to provide opinions in response to hypothetical or academic problems. And certainly not to encourage or facilitate convoluted litigation strategies.
He ended his ruling by offering a scathing rebuke of Hill and his well-funded team of lawyers:
Some motions are merely misguided. Anyone can make a mistake.
But this motion needs to be viewed in context.
As the Court of Appeal noted, [Hill] “can easily afford” this litigation. The Applicant [Beaver] cannot.
When you give a team of very talented and expensive lawyers a blank cheque to dredge up every conceivable argument and motion you can think of, this is what happens.
It’s not just financially wasteful.
It’s gamesmanship which precludes honest settlement discussion.
Whether you call it oppression or a war of attrition – it’s basically one side trying to avoid the real issues, by creating as many legal hurdles as possible.
That’s the real perception [Hill] should worry about.
What are your thoughts on this ruling?
For the full text of the decisions, see:
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com