Ontario Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy secretly increased prisoner’s jail sentence; in a backroom meeting, off the court record, without informing the prisoner.
How Justice Shaughnessy:
– Secretly substituted a new Warrant of Committal that included an increased sentence,
– Misled a self-represented litigant and made an inaccurate court record transcript,
– Ordered a self-represented litigant excluded from parts of the legal process in his own civil case hearing.
(click photos to see full size*)
Original story, published December 2, 2015…
On May 3, 2013, I stood without a lawyer as an unrepresented / self-represented litigant before Ontario Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy. I heard his words refusing my application to overturn my January 15, 2010, conviction ‘in absentia’ and three-month sentence for Contempt of Civil Court in a civil litigation costs hearing. I had not attended the January 15, 2010 hearing as I was overseas and unaware of it.
The judge looked me straight in the eye and said on the court record that he was lifting the stay that he himself had placed upon his January 15, 2010, Warrant of Committal for my imprisonment and that I would now be taken to prison.
What Justice Shaughnessy didn’t tell me, and what I couldn’t know as the court police slapped on the handcuffs and took me to the cold cells below, was that even though my hearing was over and the judge had left the courtroom, he wasn’t quite finished with me.
While I paced in the basement cells awaiting transfer to prison, Justice Shaughnessy sat in some backroom where, off the court record, he secretly signed and substituted a new and changed Warrant of Committal that effectively increased my sentence by one-third.
Behind my back, the judge secretly arranged that I would only discover the increased sentence as a special surprise at some unknown time in the future; perhaps even months later as I neared my anticipated release date.
Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy placed none of this on the court record transcript. He did it secretly after he left the courtroom and after I was led away in custody. Had he wanted to, he could have called me back to court to inform me, or even come down to the cells to tell me.
Justice Shaughnessy said nothing of this new and increased sentence to me, to my lawyer when I had one, or to anyone else in court, either on May 3, 2013, or during the many preceding court dates attended over a period of nine months. Not having any knowledge of the judge’s intention to secretly substitute a new Warrant of Committal with an increased sentence, I did not have an opportunity to make submissions to him or to argue against the legality of his actions. He arranged everything so I would learn about my increased sentence from some prison guard.
Further, on May 3, 2013 Justice Shaughnessy washed his hands of me and ordered that I was never again to be brought before him, so he made sure that he would never have to face me after I learned of his backroom surprise. As noted on page 69 of the May 3, 2013 court record transcript, just before he left the courtroom Justice Shaughnessy said:
“Further, I will also notate that I am no longer seized of this matter and I hereby direct that any further and other applications relating to this proceedings are to be heard by another judge.”
An acquaintance later remarked that Justice Shaughnessy must have quite a wicked sense of humour; even if his values, ethics, sense of justice and fair play appear to fall short.
An unrepresented defendant is fair game in Ontario Superior Court
I doubt that Justice Shaughnessy would have even attempted to secretly increase my sentence and substitute a new Warrant of Committal had a lawyer represented me. But as I was only an ordinary Canadian before the court with no lawyer, I was fair game.
Against my desire, I had been forced to represent myself in court because over one hundred Ontario lawyers refused to take on a client who had voice-recordings and other solid evidence proving that senior partners from some of Canada’s largest law firms had fabricated evidence and lied to the court. No lawyer wanted part of that trouble, or to take on the Bay Street cabal in such a fight. (The full story of how I was forced to represent myself is told in my affidavits and other articles. Story Link: Ontario lawyers’ criminal conduct, Letters to Law Society: 20121128 LSUC Best Letters (PDF 489kb)
What Justice Shaughnessy said on the court record transcript; and what he did differently and in secret afterwards.
As I stood before him on May 3, 2013, Justice Shaughnessy said on the court record “… the application of Donald Best to set aside the Warrant of Committal issued January 15, 2010 is dismissed. Mr. Best will, accordingly, be taken into custody and begin serving a sentence of three months imprisonment today.” (page 57 of May 3, 2013 court transcript)
The judge further said, “I am not prepared to set aside the order and so the result of all that is the stay of the warrant is about to be lifted at this moment.” (page 62 of the May 3, 2013 court transcript)
“The suspension of the warrant for committal is lifted and Mr. Best will now be taken into custody to begin serving his three-month sentence as provided in the January 15, 2010 order of this court.” (page 70 of the May 3, 2013 court transcript)
Original Warrant of Committal for the Arrest of Donald Best
Here is the Warrant of Committal issued by Justice Shaughnessy on January 15, 2010 and which he was referring to in the court record transcript:
January 15, 2010 Original Warrant of Committal (PDF 103kb)
On May 3, 2013, after court ended and I had been sent to prison, Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy secretly replaced the January 15, 2010 Warrant of Committal he spoke about in court with a new one, dated May 3, 2013, that added the words “No Remission is Ordered”.
Later, another judge would rule that Justice Shaughnessy had no authority to add those words; that what Justice Shaughnessy did by adding those words was outside of the law. Unlawful.
But, unknown to me as I was being transported to prison, those added words in the secretly substituted Warrant of Committal meant that instead of being released in about 60 days as would be normal in my case with earned remission, Justice Shaughnessy had, without my knowledge and without informing me, illegally ordered the prison to keep me in jail for an extra month.
Secretly substituted Warrant of Committal for the Arrest of Donald Best
Here is a copy of the new Warrant of Committal with increased sentence that Justice Shaughnessy secretly signed and substituted on May 3, 2013 behind my back:
Some people have said to me that what Justice Shaughnessy secretly did behind my back was a foul, vindictive thing for a judge to do. People have said to me that this is something that happens in Iran or Russia, but not in Canada. They say, “Surely a Canadian judge would not increase a person’s sentence in some backroom meeting after the sentence had been given and the prisoner taken away?”
Upon hearing my story, more than a few shocked Canadians ask me whether Justice Shaughnessy has done something like this to other self-represented defendants. They ask how many times Justice Shaughnessy has secretly substituted a Warrant of Committal with another that orders a higher sentence, or made other important changes off the court record transcript and after the prisoner has been taken to jail.
I have no answer to these questions.
Prison Guards reveal my surprise from Justice Shaughnessy
Late in the evening on May 3, 2013 I arrived at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario to begin serving my sentence. Soon I was taken before a group of senior prison administrators who were standing together examining my Warrant of Committal. One of them shook his head and said to me, “None of us has seen this before in twenty-five years. What did you do to piss off the judge so much?”
I was puzzled and had no idea what the prison administrators were talking about. It was only then that I learned what Justice Shaughnessy had done behind my back.
“Judges should make every effort to ensure that their conduct is above reproach in the view of reasonable, fair minded and informed persons.”
From Judicial Conduct Principles – Integrity Section, Canadian Judicial Council
Superior Court Justice Anne M. Molloy appalled
During a subsequent Habeas Corpus hearing on April 15, 2014, the Honourable Justice Anne M. Molloy said that in denying me remission, Justice Shaughnessy acted “without jurisdiction”.
Further, Justice Molloy declared, “Mr. Best’s Charter Rights are (infringed) and he is entitled to be released in the normal course when eligible under the statute… He must be released. He cannot be further incarcerated based on the term in the Warrant of Committal.”
Although Justice Molloy’s written endorsement (PDF 210kb) takes care not to criticize a fellow judge, it is my understanding that during the hearing she seemed appalled at what Justice Shaughnessy had done.
The Toronto Star says that Justice Molloy is a ‘fearless’ jurist with a history of gutsy decisions. All I know is that she immediately reversed Justice Shaughnessy’s secret backroom action and ordered the prison to release me. (Justice Molloy’s April 15, 2014 release order. PDF 339kb)
The backroom role of lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne S. Silver
As detailed in other articles at DonaldBest.CA and in uncontroverted sworn affidavits previously filed with the courts, on January 15, 2010 I was in the South Pacific when Justice Shaughnessy convicted me ‘in absentia’ of contempt of court in a civil case costs hearing I was unaware of and not present for.
My conviction and sentence were based upon fabricated evidence, deceptions and lies told to the court by certain lawyers, including Gerald Ranking, Lorne Silver and Sebastien Kwidzinski.
On May 3, 2013, lawyers Ranking and Silver were in a celebratory mood after Justice Shaughnessy exited the court leaving me in police custody as I packed up my documents.
They had every reason to celebrate my incarceration because Justice Shaughnessy had refused to consider the voice recordings and other evidence that prove Ranking and Silver fabricated evidence and lied to the court to obtain my conviction in their private prosecution.
Justice Shaughnessy ordered self-represented defendant excluded from legal process at his own civil hearing.
Justice Shaughnessy stated on the court record that he wasn’t going to examine my recordings and other new evidence and that I would have to go to the Court of Appeal to have a judge listen to the recordings. On page 56 of the May 3, 2013 court record transcript, Justice Shaughnessy confirmed his decision to ignore all new evidence from me over the preceding nine months. He said,
“Noted previously, Rule 60.11(8) confers on the court a wide discretion to give orders for directions and to make such other orders as is just. This application has therefore proceeded on no new or fresh evidence from Mr. Best.”
Neither would Justice Shaughnessy allow me to cross-examine Ranking and Silver, who have never had to explain or account for their lies and fabricated evidence to this day.
Further, just before he left the court, Justice Shaughnessy also gave them a free hand to jointly craft the court order resulting from the hearing. The judge specifically ordered that I was not to have any input or have any opportunity to contest whatever order Ranking and Silver created; even though I was a self-represented litigant. On page 57 of the May 3, 2013 court record transcript, Justice Shaughnessy said,
“Approval of the order by Mr. Best will be dispensed with and I direct that this order shall be prepared by Messrs. Ranking and Silver and presented to me for signature by Monday, May 6, 2013.”
I would love to know, and will have my lawyer ask Ranking and Silver if ever the courts allow me to cross-examine them:
After I was led away from court on May 3, 2013, did Ranking and Silver meet with Justice Shaughnessy?
Did Ranking and Silver have a part in crafting the new Warrant of Committal that Justice Shaughnessy secretly substituted for the original? Was it Ranking and Silver who suggested and prepared the new Warrant of Committal upon instructions from Justice Shaughnessy?
I have no doubt that a jury of my fellow Canadians would want to know the answers to those questions, and to many others.
DonaldBest.CA reminds our readers that as of the publication date the allegations have yet to be proven in a court of law. Visitors are encouraged to examine the legal documents and other evidence posted here, to do independent research and to make up their own minds about the civil lawsuit known as ‘Donald Best v. Gerald Ranking et al’. (Superior Court of Justice, Central East Region: Barrie, Court File No. 14-0815)
If any person disagrees with anything I’ve published in this article or elsewhere, or wishes to provide a public response or comment, please contact me at [email protected] and I will publish your writing here with equal prominence.
* The photos of the Original Warrant of Committal (January 15, 2010) and the Secretly Changed Warrant of Committal (May 3, 2013) have been cropped and tightened for space. The originals are available as PDFs with the links found in the article.