Coombs v. R. – FCA: Court dismisses appeals attacking the integrity of underlying federal court decisions

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Coombs v. Canada (October 7, 2014 – 2014 FCA 222) was a decision on two appeals from decisions of a judge of the Federal Court:

[1] This is an appeal from two decisions of Madam Justice Kane (the Judge) of the Federal Court, both dated March 10, 2014.

[2] Both decisions arise from the same set of facts, are related and were heard together.

[3] In file A-147-14, the appellants appeal the Judge’s decision upholding Prothonotary Aalto’s decision of July 2, 2013 to strike one of the appellants’ applications for judicial review as frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of process.

[4] At issue before the Prothonotary was an allegedly illegal search and seizure conducted by officials of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), pursuant to a warrant issued by the Ontario Court of Justice. The appellants claimed that the seizure resulted in a denial of fundamental justice at a 2008 hearing at the Tax Court of Canada (TCC) (2008 TCC 289, 2008 DTC 4004) and that it violated their rights under section 7, 8 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11 (the Charter). They sought both declaratory relief and an unspecified remedy under subsection 24(1) of the Charter.

The Court of Appeal made short work of the appellants’ allegations of bias:

[13] After careful review of the parties’ written and oral arguments, I am of the view that a reasonable person, fully informed and understanding the issues before the Court, would not conclude that there was bias (R. v. S. (R.D.), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 484, 151 D.L.R. (4th) 193). …

What particularly incensed the Court of Appeal however was a novice mistake on the part of the appellants – personal attacks on the Prothonotary and the Federal Court Judge:

[14] Further, the appellants repeatedly attack the integrity of the Prothonotary, of the Judge and of the Federal Court (appellants’ memorandum of fact and law in file A-148-14 at paragraphs 28, 34-46, 50, 54, 56, 60, 63-65, 69, and 72-79; appellants’ memorandum of fact and law in file A-147-14 at paragraphs 48, 77 and 78). The appellant’s allegations are most serious, and such a step should not be undertaken lightly. Indeed, an allegation of bias engages the very foundation of our judicial system. The appellants’ allegations call into question not only the personal integrity of the Prothonotary and of the Judge, but the integrity of the entire administration of justice (R. v. S. (R.D.), supra at paragraph 113).

[15] On the basis of the record before the Court, the appellants’ serious allegations are not only inappropriate and unnecessary, but also unsupported by evidence and completely lacking in merit.

[16] For the foregoing reasons, I propose to dismiss the appeal in file A-147-14 without costs and I propose to dismiss the appeal in file A-148-14 with costs. A copy of these reasons shall be placed in each of those files.