Saskatoon

'Fetch, Judgey! Get it boy!!!': Language in Sask. Queen's Bench ruling sends ripple through legal circles

A recent Court of Queen's Bench ruling by a Saskatoon justice is sending ripples through legal circles for its language and tone.

Justice Richard Danyliuk mocks lawyers for ill-prepared application

A recent Court of Queen's Bench ruling by Justice Richard Danyliuk has been a topic of debate in the legal community on social media. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

The very first lines of Justice Richard Danyliuk's three-page decision make it very clear this is not a typical Court of Queen's Bench ruling.

"I think this is an application. I'm not sure," Danyliuk wrote in the Feb. 18 ruling.

"I think I'm supposed to rule on it. But I cannot be sure of that, either. Confused, counsel? Me too. Here's why."

The application he ruled on was part of a civil suit filed at Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon. Justice Danyliuk rejected the application as presented.

In Danyliuk's view, the lawyers in the case did not do even the most basic work.

"I wouldn't treat my application as a legal stick flung for a judicial dog to chase, catch, chew on, and figure out," Danyliuk wrote.

"The Court cannot properly rule on a document carelessly flung in its general direction, with one of the lawyers yelling 'Fetch, Judgey! Get it boy!!!' The Court will not rule on such a thing even if it could properly do so."

Danyliuk then offers the lawyers some practical advice.

"Fill out the form. File the form. Work with me here: Fill out the form. File the form. Fill out the form. File the form. Eventually it will become muscle memory."

'Catnip for lawyers'

Since its release, the judgment has circulated widely in legal circles across the country and become a subject of debate on social media. None of this surprises University of New Brunswick law professor Kerri Froc.

"This stuff is catnip for lawyers," she said in an interview.

"When a decision is written in a way that departs from what we usually see as lawyers, it gets circulated widely."

Froc said that she came away troubled by the tone of the language. She said judges are encouraged to use plain language in their decisions so that the litigants can understand the decisions and that was not the case here.

"It's a use of a lot of vernacular, but it's not to ensure that the parties understand the judgment. It's, I think, to be entertaining to the people that read it, like members of the profession like me, but also to be sarcastic and ridicule counsel that's involved," she said.

Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul said that judges are independent, "and they can write as they see fit."

"I think it's fair to say that Justice Danyliuk was attempting to make a point using humour to do so, and did make the point that he was trying to make," Popescul said in an interview.

Chief Justice Popescul would not comment on whether he believed his colleague went too far in the ruling. He said different judges takes different approaches.

"Some judges use colourful language, some judges are very technical in their language. Some judges approach it one way and some judges approach it in a different way," he said.

"So sometimes a judge might be fairly blase in their approach and say, 'I'm not prepared to grant this order because the proper documents haven't been filed.' And sometimes the judge may use a different tactic in order to make a point."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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