ACTING AS ONE'S OWN LAWYER MAY CAUSE PROBLEMS

Posted: January 22, 2019 | Last Updated: January 22, 2019
Written by: Edward D. Brown

Edward D. (Ned) Brown
Pitblado LLP
January, 2019

Clearly, more and more people are attempting to act as their own lawyer, both in non-litigious matters and in matters which come before our Courts. In a perfectly ideal world, no one would need a lawyer and everyone would be fully capable of representing their best interests in legal matters, whether in Court appearances or in arranging one's personal or business affairs. We would still need judges, but every citizen would be a capable advocate for himself, or herself or their business or other common interest grouping. Unfortunately, such an ideal world, if it ever existed and to any degree at all, did so at least four hundred years ago. Even then, people seeking legal advice and guidance sought out those who had immersed themselves in the study and operation of the legal system. In our modern, exceedingly complicated world, self-representation becomes less and less viable with every passing day.

Nevertheless, we still see (and hear of) instances where people attempt to draft their own legal documents and attempt to argue their positions in disputes which come before the Courts. The recent case, Farm Credit Canada v. 1055496 Ontario Limited, judgment given June 25, 2018 (hereinafter, the "Bucholtz Case") is a fairly dramatic example of the problem. In the Bucholtz Case, a corporation owned by Stanley Bucholtz and Gail Bucholtz obtained credit from FCC and that corporation provided real and personal property security to FCC which was properly registered/perfected. Stanley and Gail provided a limited guarantee of the debt. The corporation defaulted in its payment obligations to FCC, FCC made demand and failing demand, sued the corporation and its guarantors. Neither the corporation, nor Stanley, nor Gail, defended FCC's claims, but a relative, Christopher Bucholtz filed a statement of defence and appeared before the Court to argue the matter on behalf of the defendants. The Court observed that:

  1. Christopher's defence did not challenge FCC's claim that it had advanced credit, there was a default and that FCC was entitled to realize on its security;
  2. Christopher's statement of defence stated that "the plaintiff (FCC) received a requirement to perform but failed to do so and is now in dishonour";
  3. Further material filed by Christopher stated that he was seeking "a petition for subrogation", a "petition for judicial review of an inquisitorial matter" and a "petition for a trustee";
  4. Christopher further attempted to argue that his birth certificate - which he referred to as a "certificate of title" somehow "made the Province of Ontario responsible for him because he had not waived or abandoned his "birthright"".
     

The Court stated the obvious that "…none of these important sounding but legally meaningless phrases are a defence to the enforcement of the loan documents". Accordingly, FCC prevailed and costs were awarded against both the corporation and Christopher Bucholtz.