Ordinary Self-Represented Litigant or Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument Litigant?

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Ordinary Self-Represented Litigant or Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument Litigant?

Case commented on: Alberta v Greter, 2016 ABQB 293 (CanLII)

The September 2012 decision of Meads v Meads, 2012 ABQB 571, established a continuum of litigants, ranging from very commonly encountered self-represented litigants, to infrequently encountered vexatious litigants, through to the highly unusual sub-set of vexatious litigants that Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rooke labelled “organized pseudo-legal commercial argument” or OPCA litigants. For a number of reasons, it can sometimes be easy to conflate these categories. Vexatious and OPCA litigants are almost always also self-represented. And a few of the OPCA concepts and strategies that Justice Rooke described in Meads might the part of the ordinary self-represented litigant’s way of coping with unfamiliar legal processes, documents and jargon. In addition, the rising tide of self-represented litigants can be overwhelming for judges, trying their tolerance and patience. All of this has been documented in the research reports of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP). But whatever the reasons, conflating these categories is almost always detrimental to the ordinary individual who represents him- or herself in court simply because they have no choice. Although there are not enough facts set out in the judgment of the Master in Chambers, Sandra Schulz, to be sure, I wonder if Angela Greter, the defendant in Alberta v Greter, is simply an ordinary self-represented litigant and not the OPCA litigant questioning the authority and legitimacy of the courts that Master portrayed her to be. Continue reading

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Supporting the Unrepresented: Case Management of Self-Represented Litigants

By: Alena Storton

PDF Version: Supporting the Unrepresented: Case Management of Self-Represented Litigants

Case Commented on: Pintea v Johns, 2016 ABCA 99 (CanLII)

In Pintea v Johns, 2016 ABCA 99 (CanLII), the majority, Justices McDonald and Veldhuis, and dissent, Justice Martin, strongly disagreed on whether to uphold a case management judge’s decision to dismiss a self-represented litigant’s cause of action. Valentin Pintea brought this case against Dale and Dylan Johns for damages related to a car accident that had left Pintea in a wheelchair. In May 2014, after considerable time in case management, the case management judge directed Pintea to provide a witness list as a means of preparing the case for trial. Pintea did not comply (at para 24).

In July 2014, the appellant moved residences, but did not file a change of address with the court as required by the Alberta Rules of Court (at para 25). Following this move, all documents were served on the appellant at his former address and were not forwarded to his new address. Consequently, the appellant failed to respond to or appear at all subsequent applications and case management meetings (at para 25). When the appellant failed to appear for a case management meeting on January 21, 2015, the respondent’s counsel requested that the Statement of Claim be struck. The case management judge agreed to strike the claim if the appellant failed to appear for a meeting on January 30, 2015. The case management judge directed the respondent to serve notice of these conditions on the appellant, but dispensed with the requirement for personal service. The respondent left the notice in the mailbox at Pintea’s former address, which, again, resulted in it not being brought to his attention (at para 26).

On January 30, 2015, the case management judge found Pintea in contempt of court for having failed to obey earlier court orders and attend as directed. For those reasons, the trial management judge dismissed the case and awarded over $82,000 in costs to the respondent (at paras 27-28). Continue reading

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Community Consultation Is “Not Mere Window Dressing” in Development Permit Applications

By: Nickie Nikolaou

PDF Version: Community Consultation Is “Not Mere Window Dressing” in Development Permit Applications

Case Commented On: Thomas v Edmonton (City), 2016 ABCA 57 (CanLII)

Disputes between developers of new residential properties and landowners, especially in the context of mature neighborhoods, are common when variances are sought from local land-use bylaw standards. In Thomas v Edmonton (City), the Court of Appeal tipped the scales slightly in favor of landowners where the bylaw mandates community consultation. The Court held that where a development standard variance is required, and the applicable zoning bylaw mandates community consultation, that consultation is a condition precedent to obtaining a valid development permit. Moreover, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) has no authority to waive the requirement. Continue reading

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Access to Justice, Self-Represented Litigants and Court Resources: A Snapshot from Alberta Superior Courts for the Month of May

By: Jennifer Koshan and Drew Yewchuk

PDF Version: Access to Justice, Self-Represented Litigants and Court Resources: A Snapshot from Alberta Superior Courts for the Month of May

Cases commented on: Pintea v Johns, 2016 ABCA 99 (CanLII); Erdmann v Complaints Inquiry Committee, 2016 ABCA 145 (CanLII); JE v Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board), 2016 ABCA 147 (CanLII); HH v DB, 2016 ABQB 164 (CanLII); Pickett v Walsh, 2016 ABQB 222 (CanLII); McCallum v Edmonton Frame and Suspension (2002) Ltd, 2016 ABQB 271 (CanLII); R v Cullen, 2016 ABQB 272 (CanLII); Alberta v Greter, 2016 ABQB 293 (CanLII); ET v Rocky Mountain Play Therapy Institute Inc, 2016 ABQB 299 (CanLII)

As the Coordinator and Student Assistant for ABlawg, we review all Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal decisions each week for their blogworthiness. During the month of May, we noted several cases dealing with issues related to access to justice and the courts’ role in and resources for dealing with self-represented litigants. Of course, resource issues do not only arise in cases involving self-reps. On June 1, 2016, Justice Berger of the Court of Appeal chastised counsel for parties to protracted litigation with the following words:

I would be remiss if I failed to express serious concerns for that which I perceive to be a disregard on the part of counsel for the limited resources available to the judiciary, particularly at a time when the courts are functioning with less than a full complement (Weatherford Canada Partnership v Kautschuk, 2016 ABCA 173 at para 7).

This statement refers to the fact that Alberta is short of both Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal justices. The need for the federal Minister of Justice to make judicial appointments to fill these vacancies and to create new positions given the increase in Alberta’s population has been commented on by Alberta’s Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, as well as Chief Justice Neil Wittman of the Court of Queen’s Bench (see here and here). Chief Justice Wittman called the shortage a “crisis” as far back as October 2015, when he stated that the courts “are literally at the breaking point right now.” Continue reading

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The AER Provides Useful Guidance in a New Pool Delineation Decision

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: The AER Provides Useful Guidance in a New Pool Delineation Decision

Decision commented on: Proceeding 336 Application 1820596 Pool Delineation, Crossfield Basal Quartz C & V Pools, June 2, 2016, 2016 ABER 007

Alberta’s Oil and Gas Conservation Act, RSA 2000, c O-6 (OGCA) defines a pool as “(i) a natural underground reservoir containing or appearing to contain an accumulation of oil or gas, or both, separated or appearing to be separated from any other such accumulation”. Wells are identified as producing from particular pools and many provisions of the OGCA and the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules, Alta Reg 151/1971 (OGCR) turn on the question of whether or not a particular well is producing from a particular pool. For example, s 15(3) of the OGCA provides that “No person shall apply for a licence for a well for the purpose of obtaining production from the same pool as that from which another well is obtaining or capable of obtaining production in the same drilling spacing unit …”.

In this particular case, the applicant, Bearspaw Petroleum Ltd wanted its well classified as producing from the Crossfield Basal Quartz C Pool (BQ C Pool) rather than the single well BQ V pool in order to be able to gain access to the gas processing plant operated by the C Pool working interest owners – if necessary by means of a common processor order under s 53 of the OGCA. Since it is usually necessary to establish drainage as a pre-condition to obtaining a common processor order (i.e. that H’s well or wells are draining production from underneath B’s leased lands) (see Directive 065, Resources Applications for Oil and Gas Reservoirs, Unit 1, Equity) B first had to establish that its well was in the same pool as H’s wells. Continue reading

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