Case: Taha v Clements, 2021 PECA 5 (CanLII)
Keywords: principle of judicial immunity; independence of judiciary; frivolous and vexatious
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, acting in her capacity as a Judge, dismisses two actions commenced by the Appellant, Mr. Taha. The actions are commenced against National Bank of Canada, and lawyer Pamela Williams. Both claims are dismissed by Chief Justice Clements, pursuant to Rule 2.1 of the Rules of Civil Procedure on the basis they are “frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an absue of process”. (See para. 2).
The Appellant then files a 190-paragraph statement of claim against the Chief Justice herself, claiming punitive and exemplary damages in the amount of $1,000,000. This matter too is dismissed pursuant to Rule 2.1. Campbell J. finds “nowhere in the entire statement of claim was any reasonable cause of action disclosed, and that on the face of it the plaintiff’s claim was without merit or substance.” (See para. 4).
The Appellant appeals this decision. The Court of Appeal finds “the interests of justice demand that the appeal be heard and dismissed”. (See para. 7).
The Court of Appeal set out two clear options for Canadians who are dissatisfied with a juridical outcome. In circumstances where a litigant believes there is an error in law, that litigant may bring an appeal. Alternatively, in circumstances where a judge has engaged in improper or inappropriate conduct, the litigant may file a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council.
Importantly, the Court of Appeal made clear in this case that dissatisfied litigants, as a matter of principle, cannot sue the judge who presided over their matter. The Court of Appeal outlined the principle of judicial immunity, pursuant to which judges have immunity from civil liability “for acts done in the performance of their judicial functions”. (See para. 8). For the Court of Appeal, judicial immunity is an “essential element” of the independence of the Canadian judiciary.
The Court affirmed the necessity that a judge must be “free to decide honestly and impartially…without external pressure or influence and without fear of reprisal of litigation by those who might feel wronged by their decision”. (See para. 10).
In this case, notwithstanding the application of the principle of judicial immunity, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Appellant’s appeal on the following basis:
There is nothing in the appellant’s notice of appeal or submissions that points to any legal error made by the Rule 2.1 motions judge. Hence, the matter is frivolous. The claim contains entirely unfounded and unwarranted inappropriate and scandalous allegations and aspersions regarding the person of the defendant judge. There is nothing on the face of the proceeding or in the appeal record to support Taha’s various bare allegations of bad faith made outside the defendant judge’s jurisdiction. Hence the matter is vexatious. In these circumstances, it was appropriate for the motions judge to find, as he did, that the proceeding was frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of process. (See para. 12).
Counsel for the Appellant: Sufian Taha (acting on his own behalf)
Counsel for the Respondent: Lynn Murray, Q.C. (Key Murray Law, Charlottetown)