It had been four weeks since Master Berthaudin had instructed opposing counsel to produce their affidavits, and I told you yesterday how I was baffled to receive, instead of the Affidavits on my Motion to Compel Answers...instead, they served me with their Answers to Interrogatories. I was very curious to get back in front of the Master and find out if I had misunderstood his order, or if the other side had somehow got it wrong.
So when I got to court I was dismayed to learn that we would be appearing before Master Sharpe, not Master Berthaudin. That's how the system works...you just go before a random Master each time, and the new Master has to read through the whole file to figure out what's happening. It can get confusing.
I got in a little trouble with the Master because I started off by trying to explain what had happened, but she didn't let me get very far. If you're a self-represented litigant, you really have to keep you place and only speak when spoken to. So I had to bite my tongue while she wagged her finger at me (figuratively speaking) and gave me a bit of a dressing down. But that's OK, because the other side was about to get their turn...
Master Sharpe had the Disposition Sheet in front of her, and although she noted that it was a little ambigous, she had little doubt that Berthaudin's intention had been for them to file Affidavits on the Motion. Now, it was becoming clear (to me at least) that opposing counsel had simply misunderstood. They thought when Berthaudin ordered them to produce affidavits, he was in effect deciding the motion in my favor. He wasn't. He was just allowing my motion to proceed to the next level. How were they going to explain that to Master Sharpe?
They didn't have to. Master Sharpe had by now provided them with her own alternative explanation: by submitting answers to my interrogatories, they were attempting to nullify my motion by making it moot, so I would have to withdraw it. Did I intended to withdraw the motion, she asked me? No, I started to explain, but again she cut me off. If I'm remembering correctly, she conveyed a degree of annoyance by my insistence on proceeding with the motion when they had already given me what I was asking for, but no matter. Their little gamble, as she called it, had failed: and now it was their turn to get a dressing down for not complying with Master Berthaudin's instructions.
Opposing counsel had been in this game longer than me, so they knew enough to keep their mouths shut and take their lumps. In any case, what could they do? It was no less embarrasing to admit that they had simply misunderstood Berthaudin's instructions than to go along with Master Sharpe's implication that they had tried to pull a fast one.
It was with some difficulty that I managed to eventually interject that although my opponents had supposedly answered the interrogatories, their answers were in fact completely vacuous: every question was answered by saying "not relevant", "confidential", or whatever. They had given me nothing, and I wanted to explain to the Master why I was still pressing the motion. But I could have saved my breath...she wasn't really interested. If I had a motion on the table, it was going ahead regardless of its merits. It was strictly business with her.
I have to say in retrospect that even Berthaudin had cut me off a little short the last time we were before him. The story is a little complicated. Opposing counsel had tried to argue that my Interrogatories were in any event out of order, and in many cases they would be declining to answer. ("Many" of course turned out to be 100%...but that's another story.) Berthaudin wasn't having any of that. He ordered Affidavits (there's that ambiguity again!), and asked how long they needed to prepare them. Based on their schoolteacher clients being on holidays, they asked for two months. Berthaudin wasn't impressed, and gave them four weeks. I tried to ask what their intentions were....on some motions, you need your clients to swear evidence, but the present question was of a procedural nature...what would the schoolteachers be swearing to? Berthaudin cut me off short, admonishing me that if my "questions" (implying interrogatories) were of a "legal nature", then my opponents would be quite correct in refusing to answer them. And in this way, he perhaps unwittingly re-inforced the perception that he was asking for Affidavits on Interrogatories, because I was talking about the "legal nature" of my Motion to Compel, not the "legal nature" of my Interrogatories.
You see, it's part of the culture of the system. The Master's are very abrupt and down-to-business. They don't allow time-wasting on side issues. But if they had taken the time to consider my question and take it seriously, they might have figured out that there was indeed an ambiguity being carried out of the chambers, and they could have resolved it a lot more easily by just listening to what I was trying to ask. I'm just saying...
There's one more thing. There are exactly four Masters in the Queen's Bench, and litigants appear before them over and over. You get a reputation. I don't want to get a reputation of wasting the court's time with unnecessary procedures and time-wasting questions. So it was important for me to make the point that I had good reason to press my motion forward. I don't know if I accomplished that. But no matter. At least, at the end of the day, I had got all the outcomes that I could have expected. Three items had been brought before the Master:
1. The Schoolteachers were given just under two weeks to produce their Affidavits, which they still claimed to want. (By now Ms. Mulholland on behalf of the professors had come around to my way of thinking....she told the Master that she wouldn't be asking her clients for affidavits, for just the reasons I had previously tried to argue.) We already had an appearance scheduled appearance on the schoolteachers Motion for Summary on the 10th of September, so his affidavits would be due on that day. My motion was going forward.
2. Unless the Master decided in the meantime that the Professor's Motion to Stay would take precedence. But that was itself moving through the steps. They had filed their affidavits, and it was my turn. I told the Master I could also be ready by the 10th, which would save opposing counsel an extra trip to the Law Courts building. And so it was set down. I also expressed the intention to cross-examine Colin Russell of the University on his affriavit that had already been filed in this matter. The Master told me I should make arrangments with Ms. Mulholland for that as soon as my affidavit was in. Later I'll tell you why I intend to cross-examine...but that's another story. In the meantime, my Motion to Compel and their Motion to Stay were both moving forward in parallel.
3. Back in January when the University moved for Summary, I had a motion for Exclusion of Parties (on Discovery) which had been put on hold. I was now asking for it to be put back on the table. the Master asked if all the briefs and Affidavits had been filed. Yes, I told her, we were ready to argue it. But Ms. Mulholland wasn't so sure. Actually, she had joined Mr. Meronek as his co-counsel a bit later in the game, so I'm not sure if she was around for that. In any event, the Master asked her to confirm the status before our next appearance. So this was on hold again, this time til September 10th. That didn't hurt me either, because I was starting to find my hands getting a little full.
There was in fact a fourth item which I had asked for. I had put in a requisition to schedule an appearance before Master Berthaudin on the matter of Costs (which had been awarded to me on the Summary Judgement motion). I showed Master Sharpe the Requisition which I had filed, and she told me (quite abruptly) that I had done it wrong, that it wasn't done that way, that I had to phone for an appointment. She told me to call Sandra Bourne and set something up. So we'll see what happens there...