Is It Proper to Ask a Judge to Reconsider When It Appears That An Error Was Made?

After a Judge Issues a Decision It Is, Generally, Accepted In Law That the Decision Is Final and Should Only Be Reconsidered By the Judge If All Parties Agree Due to Concerns Regarding An Obvious Error.

Understanding When It May Be Appropriate to Ask a Judge to Reconsider a Court Decision

Lawsuit Document The process of law, including the making of a court decision, seeks to bring finality to issues in dispute; and accordingly, when a legal case is decided upon, generally, it is expected that the decision becomes final despite any judicial errors unless an Appeal is brought to a higher court.  It is rare that a Judge will perform a reconsideration.

The Law

Generally, a court has the jurisdiction to control its process which includes the power to review a decision of itself; however, whether a court should review a decision of itself still remains questionable and should occur only where it becomes obvious to the court and parties that a decision was flawed and the parties consent to a reconsideration.  This issue was specifically addressed within the case of Gupta v. Lindal Cedar Homes Ltd., 2020 ONSC 7524 wherein it was said:

[6]  The court has an inherent jurisdiction to adjust a litigation result after judgment in some circumstances, other than through proper appellate review or as contemplated by r. 59.06.  However, this should occur only in “unusual and rare circumstances where the interests of justice compel such a result”: Susin v. Chapman, [2004] O.J. No. 2935 (C.A.), at para. 10.  Finality in litigation is to be encouraged and fostered.  The discretion to re-open a matter should be resorted to “sparingly and with the greatest care”: 671122 Ontario Ltd. v. Sagaz Industries Canada Inc., 2001 SCC 59 (CanLII), [2001] 2 S.C.R. 983, at para. 61.

[7]  In Schmuck v. Reynolds-Schmuck (2000), 2000 CanLII 22323 (ON SC), 46 O.R. (3d) 702 (S.C.J.) at para. 25, Himel, J. emphasized the limited circumstances in which a reconsideration should occur, stating: “It is my view that a party who wishes a reconsideration would have to establish that the integrity of the litigation process is at risk unless it occurs, or that there is some principle of justice at stake that overrides the value of finality in litigation, or that some miscarriage of justice would occur if such a reconsideration did not take place.

[8]  In Gore Mutual Insurance Co. v. 1443249 Ontario Ltd., (2004) 2004 CanLII 27736 (ON SC), 70 O.R. (3d) 404 (“Gore”), at paras. 7-8, Karakatsanis, J. (as she then was) was prepared to re-open her decision in a situation where it was “obvious an error was made by all counsel and by the court.”  It was a “case of a clear error.”  It was “obvious” that the statutory provision now raised would have changed her determination and all counsel conceded that the provision previously relied upon had no application to the case.  Karakatsanis, J. concluded at para. 8 that the “interests of justice are not served by requiring an appeal on a clear error of law that followed inaccurate and incomplete legal submissions of counsel.

[9]  In Scott, Pichelli & Easter Ltd. et al. v. Dupont Developments Ltd. et al., 2019 ONSC 6789, Sossin, J. (as he then was) noted at para. 13 that a “motion for reconsideration is more likely to be successful where the parties agree that an error has occurred, and less likely to be successful where the subject matter of the alleged error remains contested by the parties.”

Per the Gupta case as above, a reconsideration should occur only where all parties agree that a judicial decision contains a mistake; and unless so, it should be expected that a judge will deny a reconsideration request.

Summary Comment

Generally, when a court makes a decision, the decision becomes final and is subject to reversal or correction only via an appeal and only in some very limited circumstances may a judge be willing to reconsider a previously rendered decision.

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