Ottawa Judge Beaudoin Refuses to Hear Motion on Open Court Principle
Justice Robert Beaudoin refused yesterday to hear a motion to allow public observation of certain court processes in the defamation lawsuit of Joanne St. Lewis vs. Denis Rancourt. The motion was submitted by the defendant, former U of O physics professor Rancourt, who is being sued for $1 million in damages by U of O law professor St. Lewis. Ms. St. Lewis is represented by her lawyer, Richard Dearden. All of Ms. St. Lewis’ legal fees are paid for by the U of O.
Mr. Rancourt’s “Open Court Motion” sought to allow members of the public to observe cross-examinations of witnesses on their affidavits, which are submitted as evidence in procedural motions pertaining to the case. Justice Beaudoin summarily decided not to allow the motion to proceed, stating that affidavit examinations are “out of court” and therefore not subject to the “open court principle.” The Justice stated multiple times that he would not “delay” examinations in the case to deal with Mr. Rancourt’s Open Court Motion.
The case has been well-publicized in the mainstream and alternative media, and issues of public access and reporting of the legal process have featured repeatedly. I attended the Sept. 6, 2011 cross-examination of Mr. Rancourt’s affidavit in an earlier motion, and reported on this blog about Mr. Dearden’s aggressive cross-examination behaviour in that instance. Following my report, Mr. Dearden requested a ruling from Master Calum MacLeod on Oct. 6, 2011 that public observers would be excluded from a follow-up cross-examination on the same affidavit, to be held on Oct. 14, 2011. The Master’s ruling received comment on the SLAW law blog.
When informed of the Oct. 6 ruling, Justice Beaudoin informed the court 1) that Mr. Rancourt had missed the deadline to appeal that ruling, and 2) that he was “repeating the order” of the Master. At the request of Mr. Rancourt, the judge confirmed that his final ruling on the matter would say that he “explicitly refused” to allow Mr. Rancourt’s motion to appear before the court.
U of O President, Mr. Allan Rock will be among the upcoming witnesses in the case. Mr. Rock will be examined out of court on his affidavit in relation to the defendant’s Champerty motion, which argues for a dismissal of the suit on the basis that the University is improperly financing and benefitting from it.