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Ex-Crown loses $1M suit over promised judicial appointment

|Written By Michael McKiernan

A former Crown attorney who demanded more than $1 million in damages for what he said was a broken promise to appoint him to the bench has had his claim tossed out by a judge.

Don Angevine claimed then-attorney general Howard Hampton called him in December 1992 to congratulate him on his appointment but told him that he’d have to wait to make it official because of a mix-up over the number of vacancies available.

Granting the province’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the claim, Ontario Superior Court Justice Dale Parayeski said in a Sept. 8 ruling that judicial appointments couldn’t be the subject of a contract.

“A judicial appointment is a discretionary, executive function of cabinet and of no one else,” Parayeski wrote. “Such a contract would impair judicial independence, would fetter the government’s discretion to act in the best interests of the public, and would undermine public confidence in the judicial system.

Because of these factors, a contract of this kind would be contrary to public policy and thus

unenforceable, if not illegal.”

Even if judicial appointments could be the subject of a contract, Parayeski said there wasn’t one in place in Angevine’s case. During his evidence, Hampton said he routinely called candidates he planned to recommend to cabinet, which had the final decision on appointments.

The chance to recommend Angevine never came, however, because within months of the phone call, Hampton left the attorney general’s office. He said he passed on Angevine’s name to his successor, but the appointment was never forthcoming.

“The plaintiff knew or ought to have known that the attorney general could not bind cabinet to accept his recommendation,” Parayeski wrote.

Angevine began working as an assistant Crown attorney in 1977. Besides the call from Hampton, Angevine claimed he met with the regional senior justice for Brampton, Ont., to discuss his new job and training.

He also said he was strung along by reassurances from an official in the Ministry of the Attorney General after Hampton had left.

Angevine spent the bulk of his working years in Brantford, Ont., before retiring in 2006, which is when he claimed the limitation period began on his action. But Parayeski disagreed, citing evidence that Angevine had begun drafting his claim as early as 2000.

That, he wrote, constituted “clear evidence that at that time, he had the requisite subjective knowledge of the material facts upon which his claim is based, if not sometime earlier.”

Even allowing for the most generous limitation period of six years claimed by Angevine, his move to file the action in 2007 fell outside the deadline.

Angevine has 30 days to consider an appeal. His lawyer says there’s no decision on that yet.

To read the ruling, see Donald Frederick Angevine v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario.

For more on this story, see "Former Crown seeks $1.2M over promised judicial appointment."

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