Can someone get a court ruling against you without your knowledge in less than two days?
Yes, according to Yukon’s court rules.
That’s what the town of Faro tried to pull off earlier this week against a couple living on land not zoned residential.
The couple, Angelika Knapp and Eric Dufresne, were baffled by how quickly Faro moved through the legal system.
A person taken to court must have seven days to respond before a hearing occurs, said Knapp, referring to court rules.
But, in this case, a court date was scheduled within two days and Knapp and Dufresne were not served with notice of that court date.
“Something is not right,” said Knapp.
While it looks as if the hearing was happening way too fast, and without Knapp and Dufresne knowing about it, nothing Faro did was offside, according to Arlene Ogden, acting Supreme Court clerk for the Yukon.
Faro’s rapid-fire campaign to get Knapp and Dufresne off their rural property started on Friday, when Faro filed an application for a petition.
That petition says the couple must move off the property and Faro was applying to have the petition heard by a judge.
At the same time, Faro filed a notice of hearing. That’s a notice with a court date on it.
It’s totally legal to have both done at the same time, said Ogden.
Each kind of court – Supreme Court, Youth Court and so on – have set days where their cases are heard.
The clerks in the Yukon’s court building who process applications know this, and could give Faro a hearing the next day the Supreme Court was scheduled, which was Tuesday.
So by Friday afternoon, Knapp and Dufresne were on notice to be in court in two business days.
But then there’s the seven-day rule between an application and a hearing, which, in Knapp and Dufresne’s view, appeared to have been broken.
That can be suspended, said Ogden.
If you’re bringing someone to court, you can apply for a petition to be filed on “short notice,” she said.
But if you do, it’s up to the judge to decide if it’s valid, she said.
Then there’s the issue of Knapp and Dufresne not knowing about the hearing.
Faro couldn’t serve Knapp and Dufresne notice of the hearing on Monday or Tuesday morning.
It claimed the couple has no phone number, their dogs were loose in the yard, so town officials couldn’t reach the front door, and the RCMP wouldn’t serve the notice.
So Lori Lavoie, Faro’s lawyer, showed up on Tuesday under the impression the couple didn’t know about the hearing.
However, Knapp and Dufresne had called the Whitehorse court clerks and found out about the date.
They arrived Tuesday afternoon frazzled and worried about what was going to happen once inside.
So to recap, right up until the court hearing began, Faro had not done anything wrong.
But their judgment – the confidence they had that this could all get past a judge – is another issue entirely.
When Justice Leigh Gower heard the case, he sympathized with Knapp and Dufresne.
Gower didn’t approve the “short notice” clause in this case.
He also heard the couple contradict Faro’s reasons for not serving them.
They have a number in the phone book, their dogs are tied up and the RCMP has agreed to serve them court notices before.
Gower decided the couple needed time to go over the petition and a date was set for November 30.
So while the rules on paper permit a draconian legal nightmare to happen, the buck still stops with common sense.
Contact James Munson at