In recent years courts have become more proactive in screening out vexatious or abusive proceedings. For example, in Skrypichayko v Law Society of Alberta, 2020 ABQB 461, http://canlii.ca/t/j9570, an Alberta Court found strong evidence that two proceedings brought by a disbarred lawyer against multiple parties were abusive. The Court required him to justify the proceedings before they would be permitted to proceed. The Court identified the following indicators, all of which applied in this case, as suggesting that a proceeding was abusive:
- The proceeding appears to be a collateral attack on a decision made in another proceeding, including a discipline finding.
- Bald allegations are made without particulars (e.g., alleging assaults with no description of who, when, where and what happened).
- Seeking remedies that are impossible to be imposed such as damages that are clearly excessive.
- The proceeding is brought in the face of an immunity that appears to apply to the defendant without addressing the immunity in the pleadings.
- Bringing repetitive proceedings that expand upon and escalate allegations made in previous proceedings.
- The proceedings “appear to potentially be the product of an unwarranted and unjustified belief. This may take the form of scandalous and inflammatory pleadings, unsubstantiated allegations of conspiracy, fraud, and other misconduct, and claims of intimidation, harassment, and racial bias”.
This is a useful checklist for regulators to use in deciding whether to challenge proceedings as abusive or vexatious.