The Nadon Reference Case: What Really Happened (Gonzo Logic)

It’s time to put a decade long myth to rest: the Nadon Reference Case.

This was a 2013 challenge in Federal Court to the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. The specific issue was not his abilities, but where he had worked. Under Canadian law, Quebec is entitled — rightly or wrongly — to 3 out of the 9 spots on the Supreme Court of Canada. Judges from the Federal Court or Federal Court of Appeal can sit on the SCC, but not take those 3 positions.

Yes, there was an Application filed by “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” in October 2013. However, that’s not what decided Nadon’s fate. The Attorney General brought a Motion to stay (defer) the case, and an Order In Council (OIC) forward the matter to the Supreme Court. This was decided as a Constitutional Question. The case was deferred on consent, meaning all sides agreed to hand it over.

The original Application was eventually dismissed in 2014. However, it seems that costs were just as important — if not more so — than the principle of how SCC Justices are selected. This leads to the absurd idea that there is a “Constitutional right” to costs, even for lawyers who don’t actually win their cases. Gonzo logic!

The case was never “won on the merits”.

It was more a case of “thank you for bringing it to our attention”.

Ever wonder why no ruling is ever help up as a trophy? That’s because there isn’t one.

(A) Consent Order staying the 2013 Application

The above are a: consent to stay; SCC Reference, involving many Intervenors; and then three (3) subsequent dismissals. The earth shattering victory we are told about isn’t there.

Timeline Of Major Events

Now, the above is a lot to take in, so hopefully, this will clarify the details how events unfolded.

October 7th, 2013: A Notice of Application is filed in Federal Court, challenging the appointment of Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada.

October 22nd, 2013: Order-In-Council (OIC) 2013-1105 is signed, referring the issue of the appointment of Justice Nadon to the Supreme Court for a Reference.

October 28th, 2013: The Attorney General’s Office brings a Motion to stay (defer) the case, since it has already been sent off for reference anyway.

November 12th, 2013: Justice Zinn signs a Consent Order staying the Application, pending the outcome of the SCC Reference.

March 21st, 2014: The Supreme Court of Canada rules that Justice Nadon isn’t eligible to use any of Quebec’s 3 seats on the Court. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t sit on the bench in any of the other 6 spots.

September 26th, 2014: “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” files a Motion for costs, and for Leave (permission) to dismiss the case. He didn’t win, and wants it dismissed, but claims he’s entitled to costs anyway.

October 31st, 2014: The Attorney General’s Office files a Cross-Motion (a Motion of their own), asking that the original Application be dismissed, since the issue of Justice Nadon’s appointment if now moot. They also ridicule the demand for costs, since the Applicants didn’t actually win.

November 7th, 2014: Reply submissions (rebuttal arguments) are filed in the Motion for costs.

November 20th, 2014: Justice Zinn hands down a ruling dismissing the original Application, and awarding a lump sum of $5,000 in costs to the Applicants. This is in spite of them not actually winning their case. The Motion was “in writing”, and as the name implies, done without an oral hearing.

January 11th, 2016: The Federal Court of Appeal hears the Appeal on costs. This is not about Justice Nadon’s appointment, but whether there’s a “Constitutional right” to costs.

February 8th, 2016: Federal Court of Appeal hands down scathing rebuke, along with $1,000 Order for bringing baseless Appeal in the first place.

July 28th, 2016: Supreme Court of Canada denies Leave (permission) to file Appeal over the demand for costs. This was the second attempt at appealing.

Now, to expand more on these….

Application Was Stayed (Deferred) On Consent

Almost immediately after the Application was filed, the Attorney General’s office brought a Motion to stay the proceedings (or defer) the case.

The Motion references Order In Council 2013-1105, an “Order referring to the Supreme of Canada for hearing and consideration the questions related to the Appointment of Supreme Court Justices From Quebec”.

Justice Russel Zinn signed a Consent Order, which stayed the Application while the subject was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in the form of a Reference Question. By consenting, it was known to all — or should have been known — that it was surrendering control to the SCC.

This wasn’t a “win on the merits” by any means. However, it was an indication that the Federal Government took the issue seriously enough to forward it onward.

Many “Intervenors” For SCC Reference Question

Although the Supreme Court Reference is very lengthy, this is the main point. Should Justice Nadon be allowed to take a “Quebec spot” on the SCC if he’s sitting on the bench for the Federal Court of Appeal?

[109] This reference stems from the appointment of the Honourable Justice Marc Nadon to fill one of the three seats on this Court allocated to the Province of Quebec. Justice Nadon is a former member of the Quebec bar of almost 20 years standing. At the time of his appointment to this Court, he was a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal.

  • René LeBlanc and Christine Mohr, for the Attorney General of Canada
  • Patrick J. Monahan and Josh Hunter, for the intervener the Attorney General of Ontario
  • André Fauteux and Jean‑François Beaupré, for the intervener the Attorney General of Quebec
  • Sébastien Grammond, Jeffrey Haylock and Nicolas M. Rouleau, for the interveners Robert Décary, Alice Desjardins and Gilles Létourneau
  • Rocco Galati, on his own behalf
  • Sébastien Grammond, for the intervener the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges
  • Paul Slansky, for the intervener the Constitutional Rights Centre Inc

But what frequently gets overlooked is that there were many Intervenors — 3rd party participants — at the Supreme Court review over the Nadon appointment. It wasn’t just one person against the Government.

[8] After carefully considering the Attorney General’s motion for a stay (for a period of 7.6 hours, in Mr. Galati’s case), the Joint Applicants eventually consented to a stay of the Joint Application in exchange for the Attorney General’s undertaking not to oppose their application for intervener status in the Reference.

Some comments from the Federal Court of Appeal are pretty funny. If their 2016 ruling is to be taken at face value, it seems that the Attorney General didn’t even want him at the SCC Reference. It comes across as him only agreeing to the Consent Order if there was no objection to him being an Intervenor. That’s got to hurt.

What if the AG had opposed Intervenor status? Would he have held up the Motion to stay the case?

Now, if this Reference result really was a “win on the merits”, then it looks as though every Intervenor could make that same claim. All of them submitted papers, and all were allowed to speak.

The most charitable interpretation of this would be a “shared win”.

Now, the real fun begins.

Federal Court Dismisses Motion For Costs, Dismisses Application

After the Supreme Court decision, the original Application became moot. After all, Justice Nadon was gone from the bench, so there wasn’t a real issue to resolve.

However, a Motion was filed demanding costs. The “claim” was that lawyers who bring constitutional challenges are entitled to costs. Apparently, this wasn’t just about principle. There was money to be made on this.

There were obviously problems with this. The most prominent is that fact that there was no “win or success”, which is typically required to receive costs. From the Attorney General of Canada:

The Federal Government filed a Cross-Motion, asking that the original Application be dismissed, and that the Court refuse costs.

The reason for dismissing the Application is obvious: mootness. Justice Nadon is gone, so there’s nothing left to deal with. It’s unclear why “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” would seek leave (permission) to dismiss, instead of just discontinuing on his own. A cynic may think that it would be harder to claim “success” if he simply dropped the case.

Federal Court Takes Note Of Overbilling In Costs Motion

In their Cross Motion, the Attorney General argued that even if costs should be awarded (for an unsuccessful case), the amounts sought were unreasonable. They point out that for Ontario lawyers, even the most experienced ones litigation the most complex matters were only entitled to $350/hour. This Motion demanded $800/hour, more than double that.

In the 2014 reasons (dismissing the Application and the Motion for costs) the Court notes at paragraphs 5-7 that the amounts sought are “excessive and unwarranted”. They want nearly $70,000 for litigation was stayed at the very beginning stages. It’s even more absurd given the self-representation that was going on.

Almost as an aside, Justice Zinn remarks that if not for the original challenge, the SCC Reference would likely not have happened. From a certain perspective, it could be viewed as public service.

He ultimately awarded a lump sum of $5,000. This is still a fair amount of money, but less than 10% of what the Applicants had originally demanded.

Federal Court Of Appeal Dismisses Appeal For Costs

[12] Mr. Galati argued for an award of costs in his favour calculated on the basis of 56.4 hours of service at an hourly rate of $800, plus disbursements in the amount of $638, for a total award (including tax) of $51,706. The CRC claimed costs of $16,769 based on 14.55 hours of service by its counsel, Mr. Slansky, at an hourly rate of $800. In argument, Mr. Galati acknowledged that his regular hourly rate is not $800 as his clientele do not have the means to pay such an exalted rate. He advised that $800 per hour is the rate for substantial indemnity pursuant to Part 1 of Tariff A of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990 Reg. 194, for lawyers of his year of call and experience.

[13] The Attorney General opposed Mr. Galati’s and the CRC’s motions and filed a cross motion seeking the dismissal of the Joint Application. On the question of costs, the Attorney General argued that since, as of the date of the argument, no judgement had been rendered in the Joint Application, there was no successful party and therefore no basis for an order for costs. In any event, the Attorney General argued that there was no constitutional right to costs. If an order of costs were to be made, having regard to the factors mentioned in Rule 400(3) of the Federal Courts Rules, SOR/98-106, it should be a single award assessed on Column III of Tariff B.

[28] The difficulty confronting the Joint Applicants is that they were not successful in their application. The Federal Court found that the Joint Application “was derailed and supplanted by the Reference”: see Reasons at paragraph 12. It was therefore dismissed for mootness. Mr. Galati and the CRC take the position that because the Reference produced the result which they sought in the Joint Application, they were successful and entitled therefore to their solicitor client costs. It doesn’t work that way. The fact that their application apparently set in motion a series of events which led to the conclusion which they hoped to achieve in their application does not make them successful litigants. It may make them successful politically or in the popular press, but that is a different matter. They can only claim costs in relation to the judicial treatment of the Joint Application which, as noted, was dismissed. To hold otherwise would be to create something in the nature of a finder’s fee for constitutional litigation.

[35] To be “in bed” with someone is to collude with that person. I do not understand how one could hope to protect the right to a fair and independent judiciary by accusing courts of colluding with the government if they don’t give the applicant its solicitor client costs. The entire Court system, it seems, must be alleged to be actually or potentially acting in bad faith in order to instill public confidence in the fairness and independence of the judiciary. This is reminiscent of the gonzo logic of the Vietnam War era in which entire villages had to be destroyed in order to save them from the enemy. The fact that this argument is made in support of an unjustified monetary claim leads to the question “Whose interest is being served here?” Certainly not the administration of justice’s. This argument deserves to be condemned without reservation.

[47] Like my colleague, I agree that there are no grounds for setting aside the costs order of the Federal Court and I would dismiss the appeal with costs in the amount of $1,000. Had the respondents asked for more, I would have granted more.

The Federal Court of Appeal was pretty scathing in their review. Yes, the $5,000 award was appealed on the grounds that it wasn’t nearly enough, and the Applicants had a “right” to costs.

The FCA reiterated that there was no “win on the merits”. The parties had agreed to stay the Application in favour of letting the SCC Reference go ahead. True, it produced the outcome that was sought, but that’s not the same as actually winning.

The FCA took serious issue the implication that the Courts were “in bed with” the Government for not giving him his costs. Keep in mind, he was self represented. In the public sphere, this would have led to a defamation lawsuit.

The FCA rejected the notion that the Nadon appointment “went to the architecture of the Constitution”. Yes, it was an important question, but outside of a small amount of people, it had no impact.

The FCA also pointed out how absurd it was to use the Ontario guidelines for costs submissions when in Federal Court. Was this simply oversight? Incompetence? Or a way to justify inflated billing?

Supreme Court Denies Application For Leave (For Costs)

The applications for leave to appeal from the judgement of the Federal Court of Appeal, Number A-541-14, 2016 FCA 39, dated February 8, 2016, are dismissed with costs.

Not content with losing at the Federal Court of Appeal, “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” sought Leave (permission) to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This wasn’t about Justice Nadon, but another attempt at having someone recognize “his Constitutional right to costs”. This is nonsense, and it appears that he spent more time and effort trying to get costs than in the original Application.

Serious question: Is it considered fraud to misrepresent the results of Court cases, if done for the purposes of self-promotion, and generating business? The Nadon case has been held up as a “major win on the merits”, even though that’s not the truth. This was from 2013 to 2016.

Again, a better description would be, “thank you for bringing it to our attention”.

Fast forward to 2024, and groups like Action4Canada and Vaccine Choice Canada lie about their cases in order to keep the donation money rolling in. They pretend that losses and endless delays are somehow “wins”. At what point does puffery and self-promotion cross into outright deception?

(1) Supreme Court Reference ss. 5 and 6 2014 SCC 21 (CanLII), [2014] 1 SCR 433
(2) Federal Court On Motion For Costs 2014 FC 1088 (CanLII)
(3) Federal Court Of Appeal On Costs 2016 FCA 39 (CanLII)
(4) Supreme Court Of Canada On Costs 2016 CanLII 47514 (SCC)

(1) Nadon Reference Case Notice Of Application
(2) Nadon Reference Case AG Motion To Stay
(3) Nadon Reference Case Order Staying Application
(4) Nadon Reference Case RG Motion For Costs
(5) Nadon Reference Case AG Cross Motion Record
(6) Nadon Reference Case AG Reply Submissions On Costs


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