Ontario judge uses rapier wit to mock family-court litigants

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It’s probably bad enough to lose a court case, but it must really sting when the official judgment also has some fun at your expense.

Ontario judge J.W. Quinn has achieved some notoriety in legal circles for his witty and acerbic remarks, both of which were on display in a recent divorce dispute.

In Szakacs v. Clarke, Quinn reserved some snide barbs for mother Clarissa Olenka Szakacs, who was fighting husband Donovan Clarke for custody of their six-year-old child.

“For best courtroom adaptation of a work of fiction, the award goes to the applicant, Clarissa Olenka Szakacs,” admonished Quinn, “who shamelessly feigned what she thought was necessary to convince the court to circumscribe access by [Clarke] to their almost-six-year-old daughter.

“One could sit in Family Court for many years and not encounter such a callously conniving and mendaciously manipulative litigant,” he continued.

Quinn said Szakacs’s attempts to bar access to the child “effortlessly put the ‘rage’ in ‘outrageous.’”

He slammed her “phony nervousness” and attempts to demonize Clarke.

“The court was left with general allegations that seemed to mirror a brochure that she might have read titled, ‘Key Words and Phrases to Use if You Want Everyone to Think That the Father of Your Child is Unfit.’”

He was also unimpressed with her repeated emphasis that “she was a Christian who practiced Christian values,” as he noted: “There must be some key pages missing from her copy of the Bible.”

However, Clarke must have been stung by Quinn’s assessment that “in this relationship, she, if I may be colloquial, wears the pants (and the belt).”

We can’t do justice to Quinn’s blistering rulings in the space of a single blog entry, but here are some highlights from other decisions:

In Bruni v. Bruni, he again starts off with some trademark snark:Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud.”

He then elaborated: “Here, a husband and wife have been marinating in a mutual hatred so intense as to surely amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment.”

In Stirling v. Blake: “If her current relationship fails, [the mother] should seek counselling with a view to determining why she has no talent for picking a mate. Alternatively, she should not live with or marry another man without the written permission of her six closest friends, who, no doubt, will see what she, so far, has failed to see.”

Also in that case: “In a trial involving self-represented litigants, my expectations are low: all I ask is that they be clothed. If they can fake civility toward each other and pretend to be respectful of the court, that is a merciful bonus.”

From Pirbhai v. Singh et al. "If Singh were to have testified that the world was round, I immediately would have sought membership in the Flat Earth Society.

“Throughout the trial, I patiently waited for a Phoenix-like moment that might serve to rehabilitate his credibility: it never came. All in all, he was an exasperating witness who told untruths too numerous to catalogue and insulting in their breadth.

“I feel somewhat responsible for this as I must have done or said something during the trial that caused Singh to believe that I was dim-witted.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for this ingenious judge. We’ll bring you more of his remarks along with his next memorable decision.

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