Trials & Litigation

Appeals Court Calls Opinions Copied From Lawyers' Briefs Mystery Rulings, Tells Judge to Try Again

Saying that a Canadian judge’s wholesale copying from lawyers’ briefs made it impossible to determine the jurist’s rulings and reasoning process, an appellate court has told him to try again.

Although Justice Donald Lee of Court of Queen’s Bench called the retyped paragraphs his Reasons for Judgment in the two related opinions last year, “[e]very one of the paragraphs in the reasons was extracted essentially verbatim, from the chambers briefs,” wrote the Alberta Court of Appeal panel. “There is no independent authorship. Even spelling mistakes in the briefs are faithfully carried forward.”

The rulings involved a decade-long legal battle between former biotech researcher Lung-Ji Chang and the governors of the University of Alberta. It concerned his attempt to end an agreement to work with a university affiliate to develop technology and enter into a similar arrangement with an outside company, the Edmonton Journal reports.

The appellate court said it was unfortunate that the parties must pay to continue litigating the matter, but said it is not possible to provide meaningful appellate review when a trial judge’s decision fails to make clear the jurist’s ruling and reasoning process in reaching that conclusion.

“The compilation of passages from the chambers’ briefs does not disclose how the judge arrived at his decision,” the panel stated. “Deciding between competing adversarial positions is at the core of judicial function. This fundamental obligation cannot be discharged without the judge conducting an independent analysis, and articulating it in the appropriate form.”

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