A former Yukon government employee who has pursued various legal actions after being let go from her job as a heavy equipment operator in 2015 should be declared a vexatious litigant, a lawyer for the territorial government argued in court July 19.
Arguing an application originally filed to the Yukon Supreme Court in May, Yukon government lawyer I.H. Fraser said that Juanita Wood has shown a record of abusing court process, launching what he counted as six separate proceedings over the same incident — the fact that she was terminated from her position while still on probation.
Wood, who has been representing herself through all of the proceedings and also did so in court July 19, disagreed, argued that she had valid reasons to pursue the actions.
Since her termination in 2015, Wood has filed unsuccessful complaints to the the Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board and Yukon Human Rights Commission, a lawsuit against the Department of Highways and Public Works and three petitions to the Yukon Supreme Court seeking judicial reviews of her firing. Of the legal actions, the lawsuit and a petition have been struck (Wood unsuccessfully tried to appeal the striking of the lawsuit to the Yukon Court of Appeal and is appealing the striking of the petition), one was dismissed with consent of all parties and the third petition is still underway.
The Yukon government’s application is asking that Wood be declared a vexatious litigant, that she be prohibited from filing lawsuits without leave from the court, that her current petition be dismissed and that the Yukon government be awarded costs.
In his submissions, Fraser argued that the courts are a “finite resource,” and the point of declaring someone a vexatious litigant is not to prohibit access to the courts, but ensure that courts have control over their processes to serve everyone better.
Fraser noted that one of Wood’s previous petitions had been dismissed by Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower on the grounds that it was vexatious and that the lawsuit contained “no reasonable claim or cause of action,” that the Yukon Human Rights Commission had also declared her complaint vexatious and that she herself had withdrawn her appeal of her unsuccessful complaint to the Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board.
With two courts — the Yukon Supreme Court and Court of Appeal — striking down her claims on three separate incidents, Fraser argued that it was clear that Wood was taking vexatious actions that are “utterly devoid of merit.”
In her reply, Wood said that she had no choice but to abandon her appeal to the Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board because she couldn’t get clear answers on the process, and that she agreed to the dismissal of one of the petitions because she couldn’t justify spending more money on a process she thought was unlikely to yield positive results.
She conceded that one of her petitions to the Yukon Supreme Court was found to be vexatious, but argued that the Yukon Court of Appeal did not explicitly repeat that opinion, which she believed was intentional.
Wood also said that as a layperson without legal training, she found the processes sometimes confusing or poorly laid out, but that she’s never conducted herself in an inappropriate manner.
“I’m not vexatious, your honour,” she said.
Yukon Supreme Court Deputy Justice Gisele Miller reserved her decision.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story has been updated to clarify the nature of Wood’s legal actions.