To the Small Claims Court at Newmarket to see former Newmarket councillor, Maddie Di Muccio, attempt to extract $5, 000 in damages from Regional Councillor John Taylor for allegedly libeling her. Her claim is preposterous.
As is the way of these things, we spend hours twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the matter to come up. We are there at 9.30 a.m. Maddie Di Muccio and her rotund husband John Blommesteyn are sitting on a little bench outside the narrow corridor that leads to Room 2002, the Small Claims Court. Behind me stands John Taylor carrying two large satchel bags jammed full of ring binders and bundles of papers held together with bulldog clips.
Don’t let him in says Di Muccio
The clerk arrives and asks everyone to identify themselves. She says there will be some delay. Di Muccio immediately objects to my presence in Court on the grounds that I write a blog. This objection doesn’t fly and I file into the Courtroom with everyone else at 11.45am.
Deputy Judge Mark Burch is presiding. He has rapidly read through the paperwork and concludes that the parties (Di Muccio, the plaintiff, and Taylor, the defendant) may wish to have another settlement conference. I can hardly believe my ears. Settlement conferences take place to give the opposing parties an opportunity to settle their differences, under the guidance of the judge, without going to full trial. He says a full trial could take two to three days and that could be a year away. What utter madness!
Di Muccio’s libel action lodged too late
Di Muccio also brought the action outside the period specified in the legislation. It is a bit like sending in your tax return late and expecting the CRA not to notice.
In his September 2015 ruling, Judge Vincent Stabile ruled that Taylor should lodge an amended defence making it crystal clear that (in Taylor’s view) the action brought by Di Muccio was out of time and should be dismissed for that reason if for no other. Inexplicably, the Judge noted in his ruling that the Plaintiff (Di Muccio) “may request a new settlement conference”. And this is precisely what Di Muccio did earlier today. She demands a new settlement conference even though there is no possibility whatsoever that Taylor will offer any kind of apology or move towards her position in any way. If Taylor doesn’t get her action thrown out because it is out of time then he wants a full trial.
Now Deputy Judge Mark Burch is telling Di Muccio and Taylor he wants them to have another stab at settling their differences without going to trial. Fat chance!
The rest of us are politely asked to leave the Courtroom but the argumentative and boorish Bloomesteyn is allowed to stay. The judge tells us he has a pass as the plaintiff’s husband.
No Settlement today
I hear afterwards there is no settlement and the matter will now go to full trial at some indeterminate point in the future, wasting yet more public money and Court time.
So. What else did I learn at Court today? The administration of justice is massively inefficient. People are expected to hang around for hours waiting for things to happen. Judges speed-read huge volumes of paperwork at the last possible moment, and end up being unable to see the wood for the trees.
On trial, M’lud, is not just Di Muccio and Taylor but the whole crazy system.