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Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias

Successful Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias claims are rare. In the charged atmosphere of divorce and family proceedings, clients and sometimes even their family lawyers can feel they are being treated unfairly in their family law case. Vancouver family lawyers need to take a breath in these cases and help their clients understand the Canadian judicial system functions so well because our judges are objective deciders of difficult issues. Our skilled senior Vancouver family Appeal lawyers can help you deal with a family law court decision you disagree with in the appropriate way.

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In Dhillon v. Dhillon 2019 BCCA 163 the BC Court of Appeal dismissed a father’s claim of Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias based on his exclusion of a surreptitious tape recording and complaints that the judge:

  • asked more questions of the wife on child care issues,
  • was more empathetic to the wife because he asked if she needed a break or a drink of water
  • directed the husband to answer cross-examination questions in a straight forward manner and focus on the issues

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The Court of Appeal explained how serious a claim of Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias is and why such claims should not be lightly made:

[30]         This is a serious allegation and one that should not be made lightly. The independence of the judiciary, both actual and reasonably perceived, is a foundation of our legal system.

[31]         This is also an allegation that must overcome the high barrier set by the presumption of impartiality. As the Supreme Court of Canada explained in Wewaykum Indian Band v. Canada, 2003 SCC 45:

[59]      …The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, and the law should not carelessly evoke the possibility of bias in a judge, whose authority depends upon that presumption. Thus, while the requirement of judicial impartiality is a stringent one, the burden is on the party arguing for disqualification to establish that the circumstances justify a finding that the judge must be disqualified.

[60]      In Canadian law, one standard has now emerged as the criterion for disqualification. The criterion, as expressed by de Grandpré J. in Committee for Justice and Liberty v. National Energy Boardsupra, at p. 394, is the reasonable apprehension of bias:

. . . the apprehension of bias must be a reasonable one, held by reasonable and right minded persons, applying themselves to the question and obtaining thereon the required information. In the words of the Court of Appeal, that test is “what would an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically — and having thought the matter through — conclude. Would he think that it is more likely than not that [the decision-maker], whether consciously or unconsciously, would not decide fairly.”

[33]         Ms. Chahal submits that there can be no reasonable apprehension of bias, given the presumption of impartiality….

[34]         There is no reason for Mr. Dhillon to apprehend the judge’s questions as exhibiting bias. The prompt for the judge’s line of questioning was founded on the evidence before him: the evidence before the judge showed Ms. Chahal’s mother had done the cooking for Mr. Dhillon and Ms. Chahal when Ms. Chahal was recovering from giving birth to one of the children. It was reasonable for the judge to question why Mr. Dhillon had not done the cooking then. Moreover, it was appropriate for the judge to question Mr. Dhillon on this matter and not question Ms. Chahal: the evidence before the judge showed that Ms. Chahal was in fact quite skilled in the kitchen.

[35]         There is also no indication that the judge’s question to Mr. Dhillon over whether there is a daycare facility at his work was motivated by bias. The question appears to have been inspired by Mr. Dhillon’s testimony that he intended to go to work while his parents looked after the children.

[36]         There is similarly no merit to Mr. Dhillon’s complaint that the judge had offered Ms. Chahal the opportunity to have a drink of water during her testimony.

[37]         On the final point, as the judge explained in his reasons, he found Mr. Dhillon less than straightforward in his responses. Guiding Mr. Dhillon to focus on the question at hand is not a violation of the principles of natural justice, but rather a way to keep the hearing proceeding apace.

[38]         This ground of appeal clearly lacks merit. I would not give effect to it.

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Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias

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Our senior family lawyers can help you understand the Court system and why our judicial system works so well. Before jumping to the conclusion that Vancouver Family Law Judicial Bias has occurred, meet with us or other seasoned Vancouver family law lawyers to get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your family law case. If you are dissatisfied with a Court decision we can help you assess the chances of success on an Appeal based on the merits of the case.

 

 

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