In some of my posts, I have reported on court cases, bits of which I have gone to see.
As I am not trained in the law, nor particularly knowledgable on this topic, I found it somewhat bewildering when cases were cited as precedents and passages from their judgments were quoted for the record. Of course, that is the way our common law tradition has evolved – and I would not change it for the world!
However, I found that not knowing what these cited/quoted cases were about was a handica….
So, I looked them up.
In case you are in the same boat as I, I will post the links to them here (along with a quick comment – by me – as to what I think this case is about. Again, I must warn that my comments are just my layman’s observations and that the actual text of the case itself is what one ought to draw their own conclusions from.
As I needed to look up more cases/rules in order to understand the latest legal rulings (or as people suggest), I will add them to this list.
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In this lawsuit, a ‘shock-jock’ was having a ‘debate’ with a local community activist on live radio. Predictably enough, the ‘debate’ quickly degenerated into name calling and the activist sued the radio station and the shock jock for damaging her reputation.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The ruling said that since no reasonable person would take ‘shock jock’ seriously, an average person would not have lowered his or her opinion of the activist based on this live radio spat and that therefore, no injury happened… No harm – no foul!
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This case is from British Columbia.
It is a defamation case and, to the best of my understanding, it concerns a letter written about the activities of some member of a local council which administered essential services. It is important in the context of ‘free speech’ because it further helps to define what the criteria are for ‘defamation’ versus ‘fair comment’.
It is also important not because of what the desicion was, but because of how it had been arrived at. Now, I may not be absolutely correct, so please, check it out yourselves, but my impression was that rather than going to a full trial, the case was decided based on a ‘motion hearing’ – a sort of shortened and simplified form of a trial, called ‘summary judgment’.
This case is one example of where the ‘mini-trial’ was found to be a good option.
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Legal proceedings can drag for years and can be very, very costly. This has given rise to ‘lawfare’ – filing lawsuits simply to put the defendant through the long-drawn-out, costly and stressful legal process. In order to make the legal system more user-friendly and punishing those who have been found to be guilty (as opposed to those who are forced to defend themselves, regardless of guilt), there is a ‘mini-trial’ option.
In Ontario, this is called ‘Summary Judgment’ and is defined under ‘Rule 20′ of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure. These have been recently updated. The link for the list of amendments is here,just scroll down to the ‘Summary Judgment – Rule 20′ to read the relevant passage.
If I understand this correctly, the judge in a ‘summary judgment hearing’ will decide if the matter is so complex that it requires a full trial or if the evidence is simple/clear/undisputed enough that she/he can rule on it directly.
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Most readers of this blog are familiar with this one – a CHRC lawyer continued his presecution of Mr. Levant in Civil Court. Unfortunately, Mr. Levant’s colourful antics were a little too effective in demonstrating the true nature of this silly bunny….and, in the process, damaged his reputation.
The judgment reflects this. In some instances, Mr. Vigna was quite capable of demonstrating his own incompetence and Mr. Levant had been found innocent on those counts. In others, Mr. Levant was the more effective party in these demonstrations and was thus found guilty of damaging Mr. Vigna’s reputation…