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Editorial: Not so vexatious

Justice David Stratas of the Federal Court of Appeal has delivered a balanced ruling on the thorny problem of vexatious litigants. As reported in Law Times, lawyers say the ruling litigant will bring greater certainty to when and how lawyers should bring motions to curb frivolous litigation.

In Canada v. Olumide, Stratas recommends litigants bring applications under s. 40 of the Federal Courts Act to weed out vexatious litigants as early as possible.

“Section 40 reflects the fact that the Federal Courts are community property that exists to serve everyone, not a private resource that can be commandeered in damaging ways to advance the interests of one,” he said in the ruling, which points out courts are a “community property” that “allow unrestricted access by default.”

In Stratas’ ruling, he eloquently defines how vexatious litigants affect all users of the court system, but he also preaches a tempered approach where “courts should treat all litigants — even vexatious ones — with dignity and respect.” In a time where the subject of court delays dominates the public discussion, the direction Stratas provides is much relief.

“This isn’t just a zero-sum game where a single vexatious litigant injures a single innocent litigant. A single vexatious litigant gobbles up scarce judicial and registry resources, injuring tens or more innocent litigants,” he said. “The injury shows itself in many ways: to name a few, a reduced ability on the part of the registry to assist well-intentioned but needy self-represented litigants, a reduced ability of the court to manage proceedings needing management, and delays for all litigants in getting hearings, directions, orders, judgments and reasons.” Wise words.

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