Martians Have No Standing in Ontario Courts: Joly v. Pelletier
Ira Marcovitch, Summer Law Student
In an attempt to elucidate the lighter side of litigation, the jurisprudential jokes (of which I know a few) and the adjudicative antics that so often go unnoticed, I have decided to dedicate the occasional blog to the more humorous side of the law. In a previous post, “Don’t Feed the Animals – A Lesson Learned,” I recounted the trials and tribulations of a Westmount, QC man with an interminable desire to feed local fauna, regardless of the legal consequences. While I believed that such an unusual case could only be an anomaly in our Court system, the intervening 12 months of legal research has shown me that I could not be further from the truth.
For my first edition, I present Joly v. Pelletier, a testament to what an overactive imagination and limitless funds for litigation can accomplish. Mr. Joly, simply put, commenced a number of actions in Ontario courts, the thrust of which was that Mr. Joly was not a human being; rather a Martian. In the actions, he alleged that parties ranging from former President Clinton, the CIA and former MP Anne McClellan had conspired to “interfere with his ability to establish himself and live freely as a Martian.” Unsurprisingly, the defendants quickly brought a motion to strike Mr. Joly’s claim for disclosing no reasonable cause of action – essentially that the action was doomed to failure.
What follows next is one of the best examples of creative judging I have yet to come across. On a motion to strike, the test to be applied is well established in law. Simply put, the Court must assume that all the facts that the plaintiff has alleged are true and must ask itself the following question: is it plain and obvious that the claim cannot succeed? Turning his mind to the issue, the judge began by pointing out the fatal flaw to Mr. Joly’s argument. The Rules of Civil Procedure, the Ontario rules of practice, defines a plaintiff as a “person who commences an action.” The Oxford Dictionary defines a person as “an individual human being.” The Interpretation Act, which is utilized to help interpret other statutes, provides that a person can include a corporation. Justice Epstein noted that the logical conclusion to this syllogism was that anyone not a person nor a corporation could not be a plaintiff and could not sue. Assuming that all of the facts pled by Mr. Joly were true (including his assertion that he was a Martian), the Court held that Mr. Joly could not be a plaintiff and therefore had no right to commence an action. Thus, Justice Epstein struck the pleadings and dismissed the numerous actions. If there is an extraterrestrial version of a petard, Mr. Joly has certainly been hoisted.
For the full text of the decision click here.
Rene Joly v. Pelletier and others,  O.J. No. 1728 [QL], 1999 CarswellOnt 1587, 1999 WL 33187845 (Carswell) (Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Court File Nos. 99-CV-166273 and 99-CV-167339, May 16, 1999)