| Judges taken out of lawsuits
Two Ontario justices ruled immune from suits filed by VandenElsen,Finck
By PATRICIA BROOKS ARENBURG Staff Reporter
The long list of people Larry Finck and Carline VandenElsen are suing got a little shorter Tuesday.
Justice Arthur Pickup granted an application to strike the names of two Ontario judges from a lawsuit the couple filed.
“I am satisfied that these justices are immune from civil pursuit,” Justice Pickup said in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
He also ruled that there was “nothing before me to suggest they acted outside their duty.”
In a lawsuit filed Jan. 10 against 18 people and organizations, Mr. Finck and Ms. Van-
denElsen allege that Justices David Aston and Grant Campbell of Ontario Superior Court acted with “malicious intent” against them in court matters.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Justice Aston sabotaged sales of Ms. Van-denElsen’s book, which detailed her flight to Mexico in 2000 with her seven-year-old triplets when her ex-husband, Craig Merkley, had custody of them.
They also allege that Justice Campbell damaged Ms. Van-denElsen’s reputation through comments he made in his decision to terminate her access to her triplets.
Scott Norton, lawyer for the two Ontario judges, told the Nova Scotia court Tuesday that his clients denied each of the allegations. He argued that allowing the claims against his clients to continue would “compromise judicial independence” and he asked Justice Pickup to strike all references to his clients from the action.
Mr. Finck didn’t argue against Mr. Norton’s submission but asked Justice Pickup to rule so he could appeal his decision to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The judge ruled in favour of the application, removing the Ontario judges as defendants and all references to them in the lawsuit. They did not ask the court for costs and Justice Pickup didn’t award any.
Since the case was launched, the courts have dismissed claims against two other judges – Justice Robert Wright of Nova Scotia Supreme Court and Justice Deborah Smith of the Supreme Court family division – after ruling that they are also protected by judicial immunity.
The remaining defendants include the Children’s Aid Society of Stratford, Ont., and two of its workers, the Children’s Aid Society of Halifax and two of its workers, Halifax Regional Police, the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, a Halifax doctor and Mr. Merkley and his wife, Janis Searle, both of Stratford.
Ms. VandenElsen was brought to the court building Tuesday from the Nova Institution in Truro, where she is serving 3½ years for her role in a lengthy armed standoff in May 2004 over a court order to seize the infant daughter she had with Mr. Finck.
The standoff ended after nearly three days when Ms. VandenElsen and Mr. Finck came out of his mother Mona’s Shirley Street home with the baby and carrying a dead Mona Finck on a makeshift stretcher. Mr. Finck’s elderly mother had died of natural causes during the standoff.
Ms. VandenElsen refused to enter the courtroom for Tuesday’s hearing and stayed in the cells while Mr. Finck, who is serving 4½ years at the Springhill Institution, argued their case. The couple was allowed to confer for an hour during an adjournment to review a lengthy submission from Mr. Norton.
The couple will be back in Halifax on Oct. 14 for a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal hearing on the June 22 family court order that placed their daughter in the permanent custody of the Children’s Aid Society of Halifax.