On Thursday, July 5 at the Halifax Law Courts, the door was opened for the public to learn the names of the two allegedly “high profile” businessmen and their former concubine, if and when she files suit against them.
As the trio of reporters left N.S. Supreme Court Justice Denise Boudreau’s courtroom following her decision, one of them was practically walking on air.
In an expansive and celebratory mood, CBC transcriptionist Jack Julian was downright giddy as he prattled on about “open courts” this and “transparency” that. So effusive was he, you’d think he had written the legal brief that swayed the court’s opinion.
“It’s like, media doesn’t even have to make submissions in these cases anymore!” he declared.
“Judges have learned, they just side with open courts now!”
At which time he began strutting down the hall to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.
Just to be clear, Mr. Travolta Mr. Julian didn’t have an active role in the proceeding at all. Nor did he, as a reporter, even break the friggin’ story.
It was former Herald firecracker/current allNovaScotia.com scribe Eva Hoare’s story from the beginning. In fact, I understand that if the talented and fragrant veteran hadn’t demanded that court papers be released to media in the first place, we might all still be in the dark to this day.
But because Jack-O scooped up the court papers and typed out a story himself, he felt the need to spike the ball and do a little dance. At least they didn’t sell it as a “CBC Investigates” scoop, more than a week after somebody else broke the story. (See: Berwick Funeral Home Body-Switcheroo Nightmare, Frank 783)
Just A Sliver Of Information It all started a few years back when a philandering businessman got a little nervous when a legover from the past reappeared in his life and asked, pretty please, for a bit of walking around money.
"We had a very special relationship which I respectfully kept in confidence,” she wrote to this fellow in a 2014 Facebook message asking for $6,500 (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more — ed.).
John Doe, as he is known in the court process he eventually launched, accused her of extortion.
Cut to this spring, when Tara Miller, the unidentified woman’s lawyer — and also the president of the N.S. Progressive Consevative Party — sent John Doe a letter saying that her client might just file a civil suit against him for sexual misconduct and harassment. But Tara also opened the door to settling the matter out of court, without making the matter public (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more — ed.).
So John Doe went on the offensive and hired Patterson Law legalist Michael Scott, who took an application to court asking for a confidentiality order protecting his name if and when Jane Roe files suit. He also wants Jane barred from mentioning his name in any media interviews.
Enter the second anonymous businessman who, upon reading Eva’s initial dispatch, recognized the woman’s behaviour in a former mistress from his past. So Jim Doe hires his own lawyer, McInnes Cooper gal Jane O’Neill, who also asks for Jane Roe to be muzzled.
On July 3, the lawyers argued in front of Justice Denise that it would be no big deal to ban identifying information about the men from any future filings. Court openness would be “minimally impacted” by a confidentiality order Jane O’Neill argued at one point, as identifying her client would be but a “sliver of information” in the scheme of things. If names are protected, the public still gets to observe the court process, hear the facts, see justice imposed, etc.
Jane Roe supposedly worked for a company that both men did business with, and she felt her job was at risk if she didn’t play with their balls ball. Which sounds suspiciously like she’s accusing the men of extortion. Or sexual blackmail, at the very least.
One of them paid her between $100 and $150 for oral sex, she says.
Although lawyer Tara indicated to the court that her client didn’t have a problem with a potential confidentiality order, she did present a lengthy psychologist’s report to the court, with allegations that as a result of the trauma she suffered toying with their joysticks, she eventually did lose her job, her family, and developed a $500/day cocaine habit.
So these were the facts Justice Denise had to ponder. And it was clear whose side she was on just a few minutes into her 30-minute decision on Thursday morning. She stressed, multiple times, that there are more unknowns in front of her than knowns.
"I have no way of knowing the truth of this matter,” she said at one point.
She noted that the applicants presented her with Jane Roe’s requests for money, reminders of the relationship, and little else.
“The applicants seem to believe these facts constitute strong evidence of extortion. Clearly that is their view, but it remains an allegation that they are making,” she said. “They haven’t brought forward any formal allegations of extortion, there’s no criminal allegation of extortion, there’s no civil action for extortion. The issue is not the issue being litigated here, and it is not my job to decide that today.”
In addition, she said that just because the potential allegations could be sexual in nature and be really embarrassing, that doesn’t put them in a special category, like the two lawyers seem to believe. And worries about damage to their reputation don’t cut the mustard.
“It might be reasonably suggested that all defendants, to a greater or lesser extent, might wish to keep allegations made against them out of the public eye. But that is not how our system works. Our judicial system is based on the principle of openness and transparency,” the judge said.
“I’m not persuaded, in this case, at this time, that the disclosure of the names... would represent an important public interest.”
As for muzzling Jane Roe in potential media interviews, Justice Denise refused that one, too.
“It’s not the court’s role to police media interviews.”
Outside the courtroom, as reporter Jack did his Saturday Night Fever thing, he asked all- NovaScotia.com reporter Dan Walsh — who was there in Eva’s stead —what he thought of the whole thing.
“Oh, it was good fun,” said the former Franklander, obviously not wanting to engage with the whirling dervish in front of him.
Honestly, he also seemed rather distracted by the fact that well over a half dozen lawyers, articling clerks and whatnot had just poured out of the courtroom, and were crowding into the same elevator.
“They’re not all going to fit in that elevator,” he observed.
But they somehow made it work.
“It’s like the Marx Brothers,” he marvelled.
Jack seemed disappointed the topic of conversation had shifted away from John and Jim Doe and Jane Roe — who clearly deserve one another, by the way — and we all went our separate ways.
If you have real names to put to those boring pseudonyms, Frankland operators are standing by.