Judicial review of sanctions heard in court
Here's a quick update after yesterday’s judicial review of the sanctions imposed on Councillors Hanson, Kissel and Wright.
The judge for yesterday’s hearing was the same judge who ruled in the residents’ favour in the judicial review of the county’s approval of the three gravel pits along Highway 567 (which the county is appealing). So, he already has some experience with Rocky View County and how decisions are made here.
For those of you not familiar with how judicial reviews work, the lawyers for both sides provide the judge with lengthy written submissions in advance of the hearing. Then, at the hearing itself, the lawyers draw the judge’s attention to the main points in their arguments.
This doesn’t make for riveting courtroom drama! The process is somewhat convoluted for a layperson. It also makes it harder to get a solid “feel” for the strength of each side’s arguments. However, from our perspective, the judge’s questions to the county’s lawyer seemed more pointed than those he asked the councillors’ lawyer.
The county’s lawyer argued that the sanctions imposed by the CAO could not be the subject of a judicial review and that most of the contents in the affidavits sworn by Hanson, Kissel and Wright was not admissible evidence in the judicial review. Both lawyers made their arguments on these questions and then went on to highlight the key points in their arguments on the merits of the actual judicial review – whether the sanctions were patently unreasonable and should be squashed by the judge. The judge will rule on the procedural challenges from the county’s lawyer at the same time as he rules on the merits of the case.
One point that the County’s lawyer kept emphasizing really frustrated us. She insisted that the dysfunction on Rocky View’s council is caused entirely by Councillors Hanson, Kissel and Wright. She conveniently ignored the fact that last June, they asked for mediation and, failing that, for the Minister to do an inspection. The majority rejected both offers. If the three councillors were unwilling to work with the others why would they publicly ask for help to resolve things? Also, anyone who watches council meetings can’t avoid seeing the many times the Reeve and Deputy Reeve misuse procedural rules to silence the sanctioned councillors. So, who really is sustaining the dysfunctionality?
The bottom line is that the judge will release his decision in late February – early March. That seems like a long way off; but as court decisions go, it is relatively quick.