Setting: Provincial Court, Civil Division; Morning, March 16, 2018
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The court was not open yet when I arrived. Milling around the doors, two separate groups of people waited. All were smartly dressed; the most informal was business casual, while the lawyers wore business formal attire. There were no blue jeans in sight. Ten minutes before 9:00 a.M., the Clerk (whose name, I’m afraid, I do not have), wearing a long black robe with a white neck tab, opened the doors, and invited everyone inside.
The layout of the court followed a standard court layout (Collis & Forget, 2011), albeit without a prisoner’s dock. Both parties found seats in the gallery. No one crossed the bar to the lawyer’s bench.
At 9:00 a.M., the door by the judge’s bench opened and the Clerk rose to her feet and called, “All rise.” Everyone stood up. Wearing a black robe akin to the Clerk’s, but with a blue neck tab, the Honourable Judge L. Burt entered her courtroom. The court was now in session.
There were two cases that morning: The first was West Heritage Manor Housing v. Ms. M, a damage claim in a landlord/tenancy claim; the second was a claim for unpaid work, Baltic Tile & Stone v. Mr. Wallace Stuart (& Integrity Floor Fashions). This paper will focus on the second case.
Case 2: Baltic Tile v. Mr. Wallace Stuart (& Integrity Floor Fashions)
Two parties were initially present: Mr. R. And his lawyer, Ms. B., representing Baltic Tile (the plaintiff), and Ms. W. And her lawyer representing Integrity Floor Fashions (the co-defendant). Mr. Stuart (the defendant), was representing himself. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. The parties crossed the bar and sat at separate benches.
Ms. B began by stating that her client was ceasing the suit against Integrity Floor Fashions. While I did not see the appropriate documentation, I believe that Ms. B. Had filed Form 23, Motion to Discontinue, (Alberta Rules of Court, 2018) prior to appearing in court. Judge Burt promptly excused Ms. W. And her lawyer, stating that they were no longer co-defendants in the action. The Integrity Floor Fashion party left the courtroom, bowing to the judge before leaving.
Ms. B. Then made a motion to move to Summary Judgement rather than trial as had been scheduled. Judge Burt granted the motion and instructed Ms. B. To call any witnesses. Mr. R. Went to the stand and swore an oath to tell the truth. Mr. R. Stated that he was the owner of a tile and granite company. Mr. Stuart hired Mr. R. To install granite in several places in Mr. Stuart’s residence (kitchen, bathroom, etcetera). During the work, Mr. Stuart told Mr. R. To invoice Integrity Floor Fashions which Mr. R subsequently did. Integrity Floor Fashions sent the invoice back to Mr. Stuart. He refused to pay Mr. R. For the work done.
Judge Burt asked several questions to confirm the timeline of events.
At the conclusion, Judge Burt awarded the cost of the work, $15,978.70, to Baltic Tile & Stone. Additionally, she judged that interest would be charged beginning from the date of the last invoice (August 1, 2015). The judge stated that court costs would also be awarded, according to Schedule C (Alberta Rules of Court, 2018). Finally, a Certificate of Judgement would be mailed to all parties.
Judge Burt adjourned the court for the day. Everyone remaining in the court stood and Judge Burt left.
Beginning with comments on overall appearance, it would appear that all of the parties that appeared in court were treated fairly. The witnesses were not brow-beaten by either the lawyer or the judge during questioning; the gallery was well-behaved; only one person (a lawyer, I presume) checked their cell-phone constantly; the proceedings ran smoothly. Furthermore, I believe that the judgement that Judge Burt decided on was reasonable and fair. Granted, Mr. Stuart likely would not agree with me. However, he failed to appear in court. As I understand, the court is not forgiving to tardiness (Collis & Forget, 2011, pg. 34), therefore, the court followed procedure. Ultimately, the proceedings were handled professionally and justice was administered.
There appear to be two different types of procedure: the un-written and the written. It was quickly apparent that once the court was in session, there was a firm set of un-written rules that must be abided by. The most obvious was the formality and ritual. For example, when Judge Burt entered and exited the court, everyone stood up. This is a sign of respect for the judge as the authority in the court and the representative of the law (Britt, n.D.). Additionally, the clerk and the judge wore black robes and neck tabs of different colors. The type of clothes worn by the court hails from the 17th century (Collis & Forget, 2011, p.31). These are conventions; un-written traditions that are deeply engrained in the daily procedure of the court; they have become synonymous with the court, to the extent that if there is deviation from these rituals, it becomes a serious breach of etiquette.
The written procedure is located in the Alberta Rules of Court. The steps that occurred in the court (discontinuing a claim, moving to summary judgement, swearing the witness, questioning, and judgement), followed the procedure laid out in the Alberta Rules of Court (2018). Moreover, it would appear that the lawyers also used it as a guide to determine how they should proceed. For example, according to s.7.3(1) of the Alberta Rules of Court, “a party may apply to the Court for summary judgment in respect of all or part of a claim on one or more of the following grounds: (a) there is no defence to a claim or part of it.” In other words, because Mr. Stuart failed to appear in court for the trial, he was unable to present a defence to Baltic Tile’s claim. Therefore, Ms. B. Moved to apply for a summary judgement. The procedures outlined in the Alberta Rules of Court give a standardized method of presenting and adjudicating court cases.
Should I ever require legal representation, and if I could find her name, then I would want Ms. B. To represent me in a court of law. She was professional, calm, and made no appearance of ‘going through the motions.’ In fact, all parties (judge, lawyer, clerk, and witnesses) behaved as if the case was incredibly important. In retrospect, while the matter may seem trivial to a third-party, the case revolved around a business’ ability to collect payment for services rendered. One may not be aware of it, but for the business, asking the court to order a customer to pay for a job could mean the difference between earning a livelihood and going bankrupt. The vast majority of cases brought before the court are serious in nature. The seriousness of the petitions commands the respect of all the parties who participate in the proceedings. Ms. B. Exemplified this ideal: professional, and determined to help her client. Yes, I would like her to be my lawyer.
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