Friday, 25 September 2015

First Appearances at Motion Court

Every law student envisions their day in court differently. But for most students, facing the judge is likely the scariest part of it all. Eleven days into articling, I attended my first motion at Brampton Civil court. It was a routine motion, but naturally, I was still very excited and anxious. Being the first of our student group to attend a motion, they were all anxious for me; “Our first motion!!” they said. In preparing for the motion, I spoke with a number of lawyers at the office in addition to the assigning lawyer. At the end of one conversation, I said “That’s very helpful, thank you, I just wanted to know what to expect”. The lawyer replied: “You can never really know what to expect.” Well, ain’t that the truth.

So the day came and I arrived at the Brampton court house...

So the day came and I arrived at the Brampton court house. There were about 15 matters on the docket in the courtroom I was at. I looked around at the other lawyers who all looked like they knew what they were doing, I tried to fit in. As the first few motions went by, I began to realize something I did not expect. The judge is a real person! This particular Justice’s interest was in family law. Whenever a family law matter came before him, he spoke to the parties about his concerns and the issues at stake. During civil matters, I heard him explain his discomfort in dispensing with service and reasoned why in the particular circumstances he would grant it. It was like my law textbooks had jumped to life! When it came time for my motion, I was considerably more at ease. Before I knew it, I had my first order. Four weeks later, I was asked to attend another motion, this time in Toronto. I remembered my lesson from my first attendance, and reviewed the motion materials by asking myself, “Why are we asking for this order from the court? What makes it reasonable?” I reminded myself that the judges are there to resolve the matter as fair and practicable as possible.

This proved even truer on my second motion attendance. Upon arrival, I was informed my motion had been redirected to another courtroom. When I got there, two counsels were getting very heated over their own respective calendars. The judge therefore asked them to consult between themselves outside the courtroom so he could get to the other matters. On a later matter, one counsel repeatedly would not schedule a trial even though several dates in 2016 were given, as he had a long trial around that time. The judge finally said to him: “Counsel, given that 97% of matters settle before trial, and in the interest of moving the [trial] list along, perhaps double booking trials in 2016 is not such a bad idea. Let’s not live up to the reputation that in Toronto, you have to book trials 3 years in advance”. The down to earth comment set a tone for the remainder of the scheduling matters and reminded everyone of the reality that surrounds every legal battle.

courtesy of Stuart Miles digitalphotos
As for me, it turns out that the Justice had already reviewed the file I was appearing for and was therefore familiar with it. He had moved me up to his courtroom because he did not want me to run into any issues in the other courtroom. After I spoke to the motion, he then told me he would sign the order and endorsement in his chambers since he had the file there. I was surprised at how he took the time and effort to ensure that the motion would be properly addressed.

I never expected to find myself in chambers on my second motion attendance, but there I was. You can never really know what to expect, indeed!

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