A lengthy written judgment from the Ontario Court of Justice on a basic traffic violation case reveals the absurd lengths to which some citizens
will go to interrupt and delay proceedings.
The reflective and often witty March 26 judgment, in which Justice Fergus
O'Donnell references William Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll's Alice in
Wonderland, we're introduced to a Grimsby man named Matthew Duncan. He calls
Duncan, who chose to represent himself, "pleasant" but also "mildly
Duncan appeared in a St. Catharines court to face allegations he failed to
signal before making a right-hand turn into his apartment building's parking
lot at 3 a.m. one morning in 2011.
Two police officers who said they saw him make the turn told the court they
asked Duncan to produce a driver's licence but he refused, arguing that the
cops didn't have jurisdiction over him.
A scuffle ensued and one of the officers tasered Duncan and made the arrest.
The kerfuffle brought Duncan to O'Donnell's courtroom, where he pleaded not
In the 4,200-word judgment (footnotes included), O'Donnell muses that he
didn't think the case would be complicated, calling the interaction between
a citizen and police, especially one captured on grainy video and posted to
YouTube, the "bread and butter of provincial court."
But that was before he knew Duncan had discovered the internet, which the
accused used to once again argue the judge had no jurisdiction over him.
"Mr. Duncan provided me with an "affidavit of truth," a rather substantial
volume that appeared to me to be the result of somebody doing a Google
search for terms like "jurisdiction" and the like and then cobbling them
together in such a way that it makes James Joyce's Ulysses look like an easy
read," O'Donnell writes.
O'Donnell explains that he didn't look forward to sifting through the
"palaver, nonsense and gobbledygook" presented to him.
"Sadly, when human beings are let loose with computers and internet access, their work product does not necessarily compare favourably to. monkeys with
typewriters," O'Donnell writes.
The Judge then explains how relieved he was to locate a precedent-setting
case from Alberta, which freed him from having to address Duncan's mountain
"Such arguments are a waste of the court's time and resources, a selfish
and/or unthinking act of disrespect to other litigants and deserving of no
further attention, energy or comment," O'Donnell writes.
In the end, O'Donnell acquits Duncan after finding the right-hand turn
without a signal didn't harm any other drivers and the cops had no "lawful
basis" for demanding that Duncan identify himself.
The judge takes a moment to point out Duncan made a legitimate point right
before the trial - that he wasn't legally obligated to produce
"In that moment, before he continued down the Alice in Wonderland garden
path of trusts and jurisdiction and dollar amounts and contracts and natural
persons and administrators, Mr. Duncan momentarily hit upon the concept that
would ultimately lead to his acquittal, albeit not by the rather circuitous
and, with all due respect, silly path he wanted to go down," the judge
O'Donnell does not begrudge Duncan his acquittal, he writes. But he was
clearly peeved by Duncan's "regrettable descent . into foolishness."
"In assessing how much of the "freeman of the land" type of philosophy that
he wishes to adopt in future, a philosophy that appears to focus to an
unhealthy degree on freedom from societal obligations, he might, however,
wish to contemplate some more productive reading on the internet, reading
which emphasizes the importance of responsibilities as much as society's
ongoing and sometimes exclusive fixation on rights," O'Donnell writes.