Tuesday, April 17, 2012

24 hours in legal politics

First, on the Racknine suit against Martin and the NDP...NDP MP Pat Martin issued an apology yesterday for the statements he made regarding Racknine when the issue appeared in the news around late February. His apology was unequivocal, offering no defence, making it appear to be an attempt to mitigate damages in the lawsuit. Note that the request for an apology was made on February 24th and Martin did so just yesterday on his own behalf and on behalf of the NDP. Almost two months after the request. The apology is also figuring prominently on the NDP website.

The original claim was for $5 million with $2.5 million of it being claimed for lost business income. As Racknine's lawyer notes here in his comments to CBC, Racknine still intends to pursue the case given the damages suffered: "Defamation is easily done yet difficult to repair. My clients have been damaged and it remains to be seen if those damages can be corrected. The court action will continue until such time that the damages my clients have suffered are recognized and repaired," Matthews said.

There's no way to know, from the outside, what the actual losses were to Racknine as a result of the comments made, $2.5 million or something much less, but they figure to be known at some point once this suit is resolved (I'm discounting the possibility of the punitive damage claim that would take it up to possibly $5 million). These are the kinds of mistakes political parties can't afford to be making in this era of diminishing funds.

Elsewhere in litigious political developments, the Conservatives are coming out fighting against the Robocon lawsuits filed in 7 ridings across the country. Sounds like they will try to strike the lawsuits as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, as Jim Morton suggested last night, based on the comments of Arthur Hamilton in this Star report. Of course the Conservatives would try to forcefully beat back these lawsuits. The prospect of by-elections being ordered in any of the ridings would be very unsettling for the Conservatives and unprecedented.

As the original reporting on these suits suggested, the motion(s) the Conservatives are bringing might have something to do with the novelty of these applications: "Shrybman said these cases test new ground by asking the court to weigh the effects of a pattern of voter suppression, not just specific acts that have characterized the few legal challenges of past election results." Hamilton stated in the report last night, virtually in response to that Shrybman point: "“They don’t have any back-up,” Hamilton said. “This is a publicity stunt.” Guess we'll see.