Man deemed vexatious litigant after filing proceedings when courts had already dismissed claim
A father’s claims that were based on the premise that his daughter’s mother brainwashed her to seek emancipation amounted to an abuse of process after courts had already rejected it, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled.
The appellant had sole custody of his daughter and when she was still a minor in 2016, the daughter sought child support and a declaration to withdraw from the appellant’s parental control. Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY), a not-for-profit legal aid clinic, represented the daughter at the emancipation proceeding.
After the requested declaration was granted, the appellant unsuccessfully brought the following proceedings:
- an appeal of the withdrawal declaration
- complaints alleging professional misconduct against two of JFCY’s lawyers and seeking their disbarment
- private prosecution against the mother, which was stayed
- criminal charges against the mother in Florida, which Florida police refused to pursue
- a Florida suit asking for damages of $9.6 million against the mother for intentional interference with custodial rights and infliction of emotional distress
- an application for enforcement of subpoenas and letters rogatory in Ontario
The appellant also filed two tort claims. First, from the JFCY and three of its current or former staff lawyers, he asked for damages for their allegedly false representations seeking to block the release of records supposedly showing that the mother perjured herself and helped the daughter make fraudulent claims against the appellant in the emancipation proceeding.
Second, the appellant sought damages from the Flores respondents – who were family friends of the daughter and the mother who provided a safe haven for the daughter after she withdrew from parental control – for allegedly helping the mother circumvent the appellant’s sole custody order.
The JFCY and Flores respondents filed two parallel applications against the appellant under s. 140 of Ontario’s Courts of Justice Act, 1990. They asked the court to declare the appellant a vexatious litigant and to stay his proceedings against them.
In December 2021, Justice Sean Dunphy of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted both applications. He declared the appellant a vexatious litigant, stayed the existing proceedings, and barred him from bringing further proceedings without leave of the court.
On appeal, the appellant argued that his daughter was not acting of her own free will and was brainwashed by her mother to withdraw from his parental control. He claimed that the respondents conspired to assist in these brainwashing efforts.
Daughter not brainwashed
First, the appellate court ruled that the application judge correctly declared the appellant a vexatious litigant and found that his actions amounted to an abuse of process since they could not succeed without attacking conclusions already made by this and other courts. Several judges of the Superior Court and of the Court of Appeal had previously determined that the daughter was not brainwashed and was acting of her own free will.
Second, the appellate court rejected the appellant’s argument that the application judge should not have prohibited him from litigating in any court. Section 140(1) of the Courts of Justice Act enabled the judge to ban the appellant from commencing and continuing certain proceedings in any court without leave.
Third, the Court of Appeal denied the appellant’s contention that the judge erred by permanently staying his actions against the respondents. The court’s inherent jurisdiction and s. 106 of the Act gave the judge the power to permanently stay the underlying actions.
Finally, the appellate disagreed with the appellant’s claim that the judge wrongly treated the applications as consolidated. The judge did not consolidate the applications and was not asked to do so. Instead, he dealt with the applications as two parallel proceedings in which one application relied upon some evidence from the other, the appellate court said.