Ontario civil | Judges and Courts | Jurisdiction | Jurisdiction of court over own process
Two wealthy people were found murdered. Motive behind murders remained mystery and identity of murderer or murderers remained unknown. Applications for appointment of estate trustees were made to court. Files involved confidential material of potential relevance to police investigation. Application judge made order granting certificates of appointment of estate trustee. Judge also made protective order retaining custody of files. Journalist sought access to files but was advised that files were not available for viewing. Journalist and newspaper unsuccessfully brought applications seeking termination of protective order and full unsealing of court files. Journalist and newspaper appealed. Appeal allowed. Sealing orders were set aside. Motion judge’s analysis came down to proposition that because victims were murdered by unknown persons, for some unknown motive, individuals named as beneficiaries in their estates or as administrators of their estates were at risk of serious physical harm. Suggestion that beneficiaries and trustees were somehow at risk because victims were murdered was not inference, but speculation and it provided no basis for sealing order. Nothing in material filed on motion to seal files permitted any informed assessment of what motive, if any, there appeared to be for murders.
Donovan v. Sherman Estate (2019), 2019 CarswellOnt 6867, 2019 ONCA 376, Doherty J.A., Paul Rouleau J.A., and C.W. Hourigan J.A. (Ont. C.A.); reversed (2018), 2018 CarswellOnt 13017, 2018 ONSC 4706, S.F. Dunphy J. (Ont. S.C.J.).
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