|In the 19th Century, English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham warned against secrecy in the administration of justice: "Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial." Those words still ring true today. In countries sharing the common law tradition, the open courts principle is a fundamental, indeed a constitutional principle.|
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Over the last three months, I have been attempting to obtain transcripts of open court proceedings before Honourable Justice Horner, in actions which I am a party. Honourable Justice Horner heard applications and pronounced judgments but despite my best efforts I have not been able to obtain transcripts of these proceedings. It appears that the open court principle in Alberta is withering, or dead. At least some justices and some case management counsels in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary act as if it does not exist, as if the Courts are entitled to make arbitrary decisions in secrecy and without any accountability to anyone, as if we are not living in constitutional democracy but in some unsavory totalitarian system, and as if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not exist.
Over the last three years, I have been a defendant in the Family Law litigation commenced ex parte in September 2013, without notice to me and without any emergency and justification, by my ex partner, Ms. Rensonnet (Anne Rensonnet v. Jan Uttl, FL01-17010). Ms. Rensonnet's post-separation actions eventually resulted in another three lawsuits: Susan Mulholland v. Anne Rensonnet (Third Party Jan Uttl) (Action 1301-11131); Biomea Inc. v. Anne Rensonnet, Rensonnet Ventures Inc. and DuCharme, McMillen & Associates Canada Ltd (Action 1401-05840); and Jan Uttl v. Cory Clifton, Kara Clifton and Anne Rensonnet (Action 1401-05866).On October 26, 2016, the application was heard in Mulholland v. Rensonnet (Third Party Uttl) matter. The same day, applications were also heard in Biomea v. Rensonnet et al. and Uttl v. Clifton et al. All of these applications were heard in open court, with judgments pronounced during the hearings. Following the hearings, I attended at the Transcript Management Services ("TMS") and requested the transcripts of all proceedings and paid necessary deposit, just as I have done many times before. Being a non-lawyer, I can't argue and write down notes at the same time. I also cannot recall one hour long hearing verbatim.
Surprisingly, the TMS this time responded that I can not have the transcripts without an Order from Honourable Justice Horner. I sent letters to Honourable Justice Horner as well as to Ms. Christopher (Case Management Counsel) but I was not able to obtain the transcripts.
On November 24, 2016, the application were heard in Biomea v. Anne Rensonnet, Rensonnet Ventures Inc. and DuCharme, McMillen & Associates Canada Ltd. action again. During this hearing Honourable Justice Horner acknowledged the letters requesting access to the transcripts, did nothing to release the transcripts, and informed me that any future communication from me to her directly would be "shredded" without her reading it. I continued my efforts to get the transcripts by writing to Ms. Christopher. More than two months after I initially asked for the transcripts, Ms. Christopher responded that the transcript for Mulholland v. Rensonnet hearing would be available since Ms. Muholland appealed the judgment. She also wrote that there is no need for me to have the other transcripts.
In Ms. Christopher's view, the access to the transcripts may be justified only after the appeal is filed. She puts the cart before the horse - common sense (and case law) dictates that appellant must know what they are appealing.The refusal to provide access to these transcripts is truly astonishing in a constitutional democracy. No restrictions on access to the courtroom was in effect and no restriction on access to the court records was asked for, argued, or ordered, ever, unless it was done in complete secrecy by the Court, the Court's case management counsel Ms. Catherine Christopher, or perhaps by secret ex parte communications between the Court, Ms. Rensonnet, or Ms. Rensonnet's counsel Mr. Boddy from JSS Barristers. Ms. Christopher neither denied nor confirmed existence of ex parte secret communication between herself, the Court, Ms. Rensonnet and/or Ms. Rensonnet's counsel.
Having been stonewalled at the Court of Queen's Bench, I filed an application in the Court of Appeal of Alberta to get access to the transcripts on January 3, 2017. It was scheduled to be heard on January 17, 2017. On January 13, 2017, I received, by ordinary mail, a letter from the Court of Appeal of Alberta, stating, erroneously, that I am not a party to Mulholland v. Rensonnet action, and that I cannot apply for the transcripts to the proceedings in other actions because no appeal was filed in those actions, and therefore my application will not be heard.
It appears that in Alberta, we can no longer get access to the transcripts and the court records if someone somewhere decides, arbitrarily, in secrecy, and without hearing, to conduct justice in secrecy and out of the public scrutiny. Even litigants themselves can no longer get records such as transcripts to review what was argued, what findings of facts were made, and what judgments were pronounced.
Yet, the Supreme Court of Canada made it absolutely clear that the open courts and access to the Court records are the cornerstone of our justice system, that justice must be done and must be seen done, and that justice withers in secrecy. The open access to the Court records is a constitutional issue, it is people of Alberta right that can be restricted only in rare circumstances and only after the proper legal tests are applied.
I will attend at the Court of Appeal (TransCanada Pipelines Tower, 26th floor, 450 1 St SW, Calgary) and I will be asking the Court of Appeal for the direction on how to obtain the access to these Court records. Please come and join me to see whether the justice will be done and whether these records will be open as they must be or whether the Alberta justice is now the secret “justice” not to be open to public scrutiny and not to be open to even the litigants themselves. Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you are interested in attending at the Court of Appeal when I will be asking for the direction as to how to gain access to these transcripts given that all my attempts have failed.