Use Trial Time Wisely, Otherwise It’ll Cost You

June 11th, 2015 by

Though you may find it hard to believe, lawyers are the butt of many jokes. Throughout law school, friends and family were more than willing to take jabs at the profession I was hoping to enter. Some were funny, some were lame, and some were preceded by unnecessarily long, unrelated, and convoluted narratives, not unlike the way I begin many of my blogs, including this one. These stories would start off about how they knew this lawyer, or they had heard such and such about a friend’s mom who was a lawyer, and it would all culminate in some punch line which I’m sure was meant to elicit laughter, however, really only provoked frustration as the story had unnecessarily wasted my time.

Regardless of the reaction, the jokes/stories, were made at an appropriate time and at an appropriate place (for the most part). Even though these tales may have eaten up some of my time, it only cost the people telling me them the occasional annoyed look. Want to take a guess where telling jokes, stories, or spouting information with no factual basis which unnecessarily eats up peoples’ time is not appropriate? You guessed it: during a trial; and it can certainly cost you a lot more than an annoyed look.

Recently, Justice Skarica entertained a 9 day trial which was originally scheduled to be a 1-2 day event. The decision in the case of De Cruz-Lee v Lee, illustrates why a dispute between former spouses over $53,000.00 lasted 9 days.

Ms. De Cruz-Lee was self-represented at the trial, whereas Mr. Lee was represented by a lawyer. The legal system, despite its best intentions, can be difficult for a non-lawyer to navigate. Access to justice and the challenges facing self represented litigants is probably best left to another blog, but Justice Skarica noted that Ms. De Cruz-Lee struggled “with legal procedures and rules of evidence. When I produced law for Ms. De Cruz-Lee to make submissions on, she instead engaged in character assassination on the respondent, based on allegations not found in any of the evidence.”

To give you a flavour of how a dispute, over what by the court’s standards is a relatively small amount, took so long, I present the following from Justice Skarica’s decision which was 861 paragraphs long:

  1. With regard to Ms. De Cruz-Lee’s daughter, Ms. De Cruz-Lee maintained that at the time of her daughter’s conception, she had no sexual relations with Mr. Lee or anyone else. The judge rejected this “immaculate conception” explanation.
  2. The judge also dismissed much of her many tangents and claims, including that she was a victim of human trafficking.
  3. At the end of his decision Justice Skarica noted that the trial went on for 9 days, “due to Ms. de Cruz-Lee’s obsession to explore every aspect of a non-existent conspiracy of mortgage and title fraud,” and “Her recklessness and stubbornness in pursuing these fictions has caused Mr. Lee to incur significant and unnecessary legal fees for many years now.”
  4. Justice Skarica noted that, “Ultimately her submission to me was to order DNA analysis on virtually all of the lawyers (including her own former lawyer) involved in the case because they were protecting Mr. Lee.”

Trial time is expensive and precious, and as result, clearly not a time to be telling stories founded on little or no evidence. If Ms. De Cruz-Lee was not aware of that then, she will be now as in the costs endorsement found here, Justice Skarica ordered that she is to pay the costs of the trial to Mr. Lee on a full indemnity basis in the amount of $34,674.05.

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