Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Legal Process moves forward

Last month I told you about how I filed a Statement of Claim, initiating legal proceedings against the U of W. I even posted my Statement of Claim online so you could see what it looks like. Well, a few things have happened since then. The Manitoba rules allow the defendants twenty days to file a response to a Statement of Claim. I named five individual respondents plus the University of Winnipeg, and in due course I received two Statements of Defence: one from the firm of D'Arcy and Deacon, representing the University and its staff members, and another from the firm of Aikins, MacAulay and Thorvaldson representing the teachers from Gordon Bell.

My opponents claim they did not act with malice towards me, and that their actions were motivated by legitimate concerns about my behavior as a student teacher. Their position is summarized most succinctly by the letter from the Principal of Gordon Bell to the Director of Student Teaching at the university, requesting my removal from the school:

"As a follow-up to the documentation and our conversation about our concerns with Mr. M. Green, we are requesting that he do his student teaching block in another location/school. The reasons for our request are stated in the meeting summary and include:
 -refusing to submit lesson plans in   any   recognised standard format

-refusing to state or accept, that a lesson plan involves more than a “topic”

-refusing to follow teacher directions related to planning of lessons, lesson content and               disciplinary issues with students

-level of agitation and confrontation with staff: pacing the room while talking very loudly   (when asked to plan lessons and stick to the curricular topics), leaving the classroom  when he did not get exactly what he wanted, stating that things will only be done “on            his terms”, and “I trust no one, I trust myself”

-aggressively confronting and touching students

-students, in Grade 11 and 12, asking the teacher to please re-teach or teach the lessons  due to the lack of clarity and the refusal to answer questions.

-apprehension stated, about his erratic behaviour by both teachers and students

If you need further clarification, please call me.
Arlene Skull"
 I have to admit that these allegations make me look pretty horrible; but of course, that's what the court case is going to be all about. I don't think they're going to be able to sustain those claims; and more importantly, I don't think they're going to convince anyone that those claims were anything but malicious slanders designed to get me kicked out of the program. But that's an argument for another day.

The point is that all parties have now completed what they call their "pleadings", and the battle lines are drawn. This is significant. There was a distinct possibility that my opponents would try to have my Statement of Claim thrown out of court even before it got to trial. In my case there would be two obvious grounds for throwing out my claim: first, by saying that I have "failed to disclose a reasonable cause of action"; and second, to argue that it is the University's internal disciplinary bodies and not the Court which ought to have jurisdiction of matters of this kind. In fact, the lawyers for the University make both of these claims in their Statement of Defense. I originally thought that they meant thereby to have my claim struck down before it was heard; but it seems this is not the case. If they wanted to have my claim struck, they would have made a motion prior to filing a Statement of Defence. Once they file a Statement of Defence, it means they are going to trial. They will certainly make those arguments before the judge in the course of the trial, but I'm not worried about that.

And that pretty much brings to a close the first stage of the process, the so-called "pleadings". The next stage is called "discovery", and it is basically a matter of "you-show-me-yours-and-I'll-show you mine". (Just like sex, this "discovery" stage is often preceeded by extensive "pleadings".) Both sides are required to file a list of all documents in their possession, which they will subsequently be required to produce for the inspection of the opposing side. That's the first part of the discovery process. The next part is called examination. The litigants of both sides are required to make themselves available for detailed examination by the other party's lawyer. It's a little hard for me to believe that this is how it works, but apparently both sides are expected to divulge all relevant facts prior to the case going to trial. Whether or not this works in practise remains to be seen. I don't know how you force someone to answer a question if they claim to have no knowledge of the matter, even if you know they're lying. But in theory each side is entitled to full disclosure from the other side. We'll see how that works.

1 comment: