OBA's Sweeny and Sterns make strides at Supreme Court of Canada

  • January 27, 2014

Decision to have positive impact on access to justice

Submissions made  by the Ontario Bar Association’s Paul Sweeny and David Sterns were influential in a Supreme Court of Canada decision that has potentially positive implications for access to justice and the cost of going to court.

Sweeny, a former OBA president, and Sterns, an OBA board member and past Chair of Public Affairs, acted as counsel for the Canadian Bar Association, which was an intervener in a case dealing with Summary Judgment in a fraud case that was appealed to the Supreme Court.

In a decision issued January 23, the Supreme Court upheld a $1-million fraud judgment against Toronto businessman Robert Hyrniak.

The decision in Hyrniak is important because it upholds the ability of courts to make decisions on civil law suits based upon summary judgment motions rather than a full-blown trial.

"We are pleased with the decision and the potential it creates for a positive impact on access to justice," said Sweeny.

"The Court’s decision is a clear and loud call for change to the civil justice system," said Sterns.

The decision says rules for summary judgment motions “must be interpreted broadly” in order to reflect “a shift in culture” favouring “proportionality” in our justice system.

“If the process is disproportionate to the nature of the dispute and the interests involved, then it will not achieve a fair and just result,” the decision reads.

“Summary judgment motions provide an opportunity to simplify pre-trial procedures and move the emphasis away from the conventional trial in favour of proportional procedures tailored to the needs of the particular case.  Summary judgment rules must be interpreted broadly, favouring proportionality and fair access to the affordable, timely and just adjudication of claims.”

In other words, lower court judges are encouraged to make decisions by summary judgment motions in cases where there are no issues that need to be decided in a trial, which the Supreme

Court says is potentially less expensive for litigants and therefore serves the interest of access to justice.

Sweeny and Sterns, representing the CBA as an intervener in the appeal, argued in support of the less restrictive approach to summary judgment motions, a position that was noted by the Supreme Court in its decision.

Read the Supreme Court decision

David SternsDavid L. Sterns
Sotos LLP


Paul SweenyPaul R. Sweeny
Evans Sweeny Bordin LLP