Meads v. Meads, the Vexatious Litigants Case

As I’m sure most of you will know by now, an Alberta judge has caught the world’s eye with a hefty (176 page) decision that, among other things, produced a taxonomy of vexatious litigants who adhere to one cause or another or to a set of supposedly effective trial practices. (See, for example, the stories in the Globe and Mail or the Edmonton Journal.) Meads v. Meads 2012 ABQB 571 can be found on CanLII, of course; and the main object of this post is to point you to this location, so that you can read the judgment, or so much of it as you’d like, for yourself. (There is a detailed table of contents which unfortunately wasn’t hyperlinked to the parts of the judgment.)

The judgment is part of a matrimonial dispute, in which Mr. Meads attempted to use many of the various techniques and strategies adopted by what the judge called “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument [“OPCA”] Litigants.” The court chose this case to attempt to deal not simply with the litigation at hand but also with the broader matter of what I might style wrong-headed law-deniers.

One of the purposes of these Reasons is, through this litigant, to uncover, expose, collate, and publish the tactics employed by the OPCA community, as a part of a process to eradicate the growing abuse that these litigants direct towards the justice and legal system we otherwise enjoy in Alberta and across Canada. I will respond on a point-by-point basis to the broad spectrum of OPCA schemes, concepts, and arguments advanced in this action by Mr. Meads.

Those of us who do not sit in court or otherwise have to deal with self-represented litigants might be surprised at the strangeness of some of the creatures the court’s taxonomy identifies: Detaxers, Freemen-on-the-Land, Sovereign Men or Sovereign Citizens, The Church of the Ecumenical Redemption International, Moorish Law, and others.

Although this is an entertaining judgment, it’s also a serious and well-researched one, adding an important facet to the already difficult matter of self-represented litigants.


  1. I suspect there will be little overlap between the self-represented (because no lawyer would tread where they rush in) litigants described in this decision, and those being surveyed by Professor Julie Macfarlane in her current study of how people are managing to promote their interests through the courts when they can’t afford a lawyer. Professor Macfarlane is also blogging about what she is seeing, hearing and thinking on this topic.

  2. Alberta and British Columbia seem to produce self-represented parties from the universes mentioned in Meads. Another example is R. v. Lineham, 2000 ABQB 815. It’s shorter than Meads. Much of this seems to be related to places south.

  3. The work done by the court here, especially as it may smooth the way of courts elsewhere, is exemplary. Practicing in tax I come across such litigants moderately often.

  4. This decision has been of interest here, especially to those of us who work in our courthouse library locations and see some of these people quite regularly. The PDF version posted on the Alberta Courts Judgments site does have a hyperlinked table of contents, if that is helpful:
    Meads v Meads, 2012 ABQB 571

  5. Some in Ontario, particularly in the area of municipal law, will recognize the seeds of this OPCA litigation strategy in the ‘Crown Land Patent’ arguments being championed by the Ontario Landowner’s Association, and even a few politicians at the Provincial Level.

  6. What I am really interested in is whether this term, Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) litigants, will be adopted by other courts.

    Fascinating insight into how wildly confused some members of the public are about the applicability and enforceability of Canadian jurisprudence.

  7. Is anyone else uncomfortable with judgments which mock litigants, or make examples of them in order to promote a broader agenda?  In addition to Meads, I am thinking of the caustic style of Justice Quinn which has been discussed — and celebrated — in this blog.  (eg ).

    Many litigants have mental health problems. Many are struggling to comprehend a bewildering system. Many want, but cannot afford, to have a lawyer help them.  While the court must often send people away disappointed, I can’t see why it must belittle them on the way out. Justice does not require that Mr. Meads’ children find this jeremiad whenever they Google their father’s name.

    Justice Rooke clearly has something to contribute to the debate about court management and self-represented litigants.  In my view, he should have made that contribution in a law review, in a legislative hearing, or in a rules committee.  

  8. If you are concerned with what Quinn J. did — I was appalled by it — you should not draw attention to it; it is a case that should be suppressed.

  9. The Mead decison is a thoughtful discussion of a substantial problem. In B.C. we (the Society of Notaries Public of B.C.) have recently disciplined two B.C. Notaries for signing these documents. Lawyers and Notaries need to be alert to the possibility of very difficult office incidents when they are dealing with OPCA (or FOTL – the RCMP term) believers.

    See as well the information on the Southern Poverty Law Center site:

  10. no doubt because the FOTL wears at least one other meaning under that acronym.

  11. While the “courts” may not like vexatious litigants it is my experience that they are not pleased to hear from any self represented or unrepresented clients….period. And there is a difference between the two. Recently I stood before a judge in motions courts who stated at the outset “Look at the two of you, self represented, in over your heads….” I was clearly unrepresented as my legal fees had exceeded forty thousand dollars and I had no more money to proceed. So before the judge had begun hearing arguments he had expressed his disdain for us. I believe that judges don’t like vexatious litigants because they represent a threat to their authority. It has been my experience over the last 7 years of family court hell, that challenging legal authority is not well received, even if you are correct. So while some of these vexatious clients are extreme, there are countless other clients that are treated unfairly by judges because they are on their own.

  12. There is a massive difference between a vexatious litigant (a litigant who abuses the justice system or purposely pursues a strategy designed to defeat the justice system) and a self represented litigant (a person who engages the justice system on their own behalf, for whatever reason). Not all of the former are the latter, and vice versa. Most self-represented litigants genuinely want to work within the system to acheive a just result.

    This decision deals with litigants who are at best misguided, and at worst genuinely malicious.

  13. Julie Macfarlane

    My ongoing empirical study of self represented litigants in family and civil courts in Alberta, BC and Ontario (funded by the Law Foundations of the same) demonstrates very clearly that as several others have commented, OPCA’s do not represent the vast majority of SRL’s. Instead, the extraordinary numbers of people who are now representing themselves are doing so not to challenge the legitimacy of the courts – far from it – but in a desperate bid to attain a legitimate legal resolution. Over half of my sample had retained a lawyer earlier in their case and simply ran out of money – others could not even begin by paying the type of retainer asked for by many lawyers. We know that Legal Aid cover is now thin to non-existent – at or below welfare levels – in these provinces for civil and family litigants.

    My fear is that Justice Rooke’s meticulously researched judgment will be used to conflate OPCA’s with the large number of ordinary, overwhelmed and often traumatized self reps who are struggling to navigate the system. While some judges and counsel are patient and helpful with SRL’s, I hear many many stories that are similar to the one told by Sharen Skelley above.

    The study website is and the Facebook page I shall continue interviewing until November and the study results will be available in Spring 2013.

  14. Although not a lawyer or paralegal myself I understand the difference between a vexatious litigant and a self represented/unrepresented litigant although, a vexatious litigant is self represented. Vexatious is a description. How did the litigant present their case? This decision although lengthy comes at a good time as more and more people chose to represent themselves or have no choice because legal fees are too high or they cannot access legal aid. As I mentioned in my comment, the vexatious litigant is the extreme example of the self represented/unrepresented litigant. My point is that litigants are not well received whether they are vexatious or meek mannered single mothers in family court. A litigant without a lawyer no matter how well prepared or articulate is clearly at a disadvantage, not because they lack the ability to represent themselves, but because they challenge the system and this is not welcome.

  15. I am the “Harper” mentioned 7 times in that so called ruling.
    The judge in Meades v. Meades is as off the wall, as was Justice Foley in Harper v. Atchison.
    I caught the Deputy Attorney General for Saskatchewan and two other lawyers in court in the position of being up on contempt sanctions.
    Rule 12B Sask Court of QB was used with no response from the lawyers.
    No response from the judge either.
    The judge simply put on his railroaders cap and dropped the gavel.
    I have the judge up for reprimand before the CJC.
    Plenty of evidence the judge acted beyond his jurisdiction and in a reprehensible form and style.
    Not a peep out of them (CJC) for well over a year.

  16. The thing I have been saying for years is this; If, the government, at any level, refuses payment on account or fails to exchange the original court order/bill upon presenting payment then, what case can they bring forward??
    How can they proceed after refusing payment?
    As far as I know the Bills of Exchange Act covers the rules in all commercial transactions.
    Do we play by the rules i.e. The Rule of Law, or,
    Do we play by the “Law of Rules” according to whims of some offal occupying office?


    Here is my example of a complaint to the CJC….

    To whom it may concern,
    Please forward this on to the appropriate party.

    I wish to bring a complaint against a justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queens Bench.
    The matter is filed under QB # 722 of 2010, Saskatoon Division.

    Q.B No. 722 of 2010


    In the Queens Bench Judicial Centre of Saskatoon




    Donald J. Atchison Defendant
    Pat Lorje
    Danielle Chartier
    Kelly Block
    Don Morgan
    Larry Danylyshen

    This action is brought under a claim of right.
    The Plaintiff sues the defendants in a non-representative capacity.

    Memorandum to Justice J. FOLEY

    Plaintiff takes issue to the assumption made by Justice J. FOLEY that the statement of claim lacked particulars needed in order to move forward.

    Plaintiff takes issue that no defendant sought disclosure to anything contained within the statement of claim.

    Plaintiff brings up the fact that no defendant denied anything contained within the statement of claim.

    Plaintiff alleges the entire case need not be disclosed in the statement of claim nor has the Plaintiff seen evidence of this being the case when filing one.

    Plaintiff takes issue with the presiding justice allowing the scandalous non-compliance to the rules of court by defendants and their counsel as per notices served on the defendants counsel.

    Plaintiff takes issue with the nonsensical claim by the justice that the “treaty” is not a binding agreement in force, subject to the conditions, between the principal defendants and the Plaintiff because, of some alleged defect in service.

    Plaintiff claims Justice J. FOLY has no knowledge of, nor sought any, in regards to the “treaty” in order to make any such claims, decisions or rulings whatsoever.

    Plaintiff does not take issue with Justice J FOLEY’S ruling.

    Plaintiff does take issue with Justice J FOLEY’S conduct (without claim of right) while on the bench in his and his co-counsels so-called role in “administering justice”.

    Plaintiff takes issue with the presiding justice using case law (without Plaintiffs consent) in order to determine the outcome in favour of his fellow justice system participants, one and all.

    Plaintiff contends he was not heard, at all.

    Plaintiff contends the presiding justice is confused as to his claim to the rule of law. There is no “rule of law” in Canada… only the “law of rules” and should therefore rightfully admit that his court is operating under the “law of rules”. Magna Carta denies anyone the right to access the “law of rules” administered by offal occupying office or anyone else shown to be in a conflict of interest including, but not limited to, the woman within the picture hanging in the justice’s office.

    Plaintiff contends Justice J. FOLEY abandoned his role as the administrator of a fair and impartial tribunal in accepting case law introduced by the defendants counsel or injected on his own accord.

    Plaintiff contends the judge abandoned any and all independence in judicial discretion or liberty he may have wished to exercise when, he accepted the introduction of the legal briefs submitted by counsel. (see file for rule 12B, rule 52 & accompanying documents).

    Plaintiff takes issue with Justice J. FOLEY’S claim that the Plaintiff is a fellow “citizen” subject to civil law, as he is, when the Plaintiff has substantiated, unequivocal and undisputed proof, clearly showing otherwise.

    Plaintiff only seeks relief in the Queens Courts in order to, not have to resort to taking the law into his own hands.

    Plaintiff contends the Court of Queens Bench exists for citizens and non-citizens alike in resolving disputes.

    Plaintiff contends and states unequivocally that he is prepared and able to administer the law if, the need arises, through the applicable courts.

    Plaintiff has no knowledge of any existing legitimate government in Canada and until such time there is one, Plaintiff will hold firm on his position that he is not a “citizen” of some fictitious entity, as alleged by the justice.

    Plaintiff denies Justice J. FOLEY the right to administer from the bench in this matter based on these self evident & substantiated claims made herein, pursuant to: quote; The Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin claiming the justice system is based on the integrity and independence of our judges. End quote

    DATE: March 11, 2011

    _____Jackie Grant Veloice Harper___________________
    Plaintiff or plaintiff’s agent

    Here was their response 6 days later….

    Mr Jackie Grant Harper

    Dear Mr Harper:

    I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 31 March 2011 in which you make a complaint involving Mr Justice Foley of the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan.

    The Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Mr Norman Sabourin, has asked me to inform you that your complaint will be brought to the attention of the Vice-Chairperson of the Council’s Judicial Conduct Committee and that we will be writing to you once your complaint is reviewed.

    For your information, you will find on our website at a brochure entitled “The Conduct of Judges” which explains the complaint process and the role of the Council.

    Yours sincerely,

    Mary Gill
    Administration Officer
    Judicial Conduct Registry

    After numerous inquiry’s I have yet to hear from them.
    At all.