Court of Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton has vowed to proceed with a trial into damages owed to Richard Klassen and 11 others, refusing any more delays.
"Barring multiple deaths we are going to go Sept. 13. This matter has dragged on and on too long. The parties involved simply have to make it happen," Baynton said Wednesday.
The reason for the courtroom session was to establish dates for a conflict-of-interest hearing (April 29) and a pre-trial meeting (mid-June).
"I hope nobody dies," Klassen said outside court, partly in jest but also fed up with waiting for closure since filing the malicious prosecution lawsuit in 1994.
The pre-trial meeting could result in an agreement that would eliminate the need for trial, said lawyer Robert Borden, who is representing all plaintiffs but Klassen, who is acting on his own behalf.
"I think that's very possible," Borden said, noting 70% of cases taking that route are resolved at a pre-trial meeting. "This has been an awful long time (for the plaintiffs) to wait. Let's settle it so everyone can get on with their lives."
Baynton had his work cut out for him in dealing with five solicitors to set the dates. Aside from Klassen and Borden, Ken Stevenson was on hand, while Bob Richards and David Gerrand were conferenced by phone.
Baynton wanted the session to determine where all the parties were at in regard to preparations "to ensure the trial date was not in jeopardy."
The plaintiffs are seeking $10M in compensatory and punitive damages for having been falsely accused of sexual assault in 1991. They initially filed a malicious prosecution suit in 1994 but it didn't get to trial until September 2003. In December, Baynton found Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga, Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys acted maliciously. He also chastised Dueck for doggedly pursuing the charges without evidence.
On Wednesday, Baynton said he will not accept attempts to postpone the September date for any reason, particularly if lawyers claim they are not ready.
"This is a quantum trial (to set a monetary figure). It is not the liability trial (to determine fault). That's already been done," he said, suggesting that less groundwork is needed. "It's possible to at least present the basic case."
Klassen was pleased with Baynton's determination.
He feared lawyers would try to delay the trial further after he filed a conflict-of-interest motion against Stevenson's firm of Priel, Stevenson, Hood and Thornton.
Stevenson is representing Bunko-Ruys but is also investigating possible wrongdoings by Dueck on behalf of the Saskatoon Police Service.
When he left the courthouse Wednesday, he refused to speak to reporters, ignoring questions before getting into his car and driving off.
In court, he said that it would take "an extraordinary effort" to be ready for Sept. 13 because his work is "in limbo land" due to the conflict claim.
Richards, representing Matt Miazga (right), also suggested he needed more time. He was brought into the case in March when Miazga switched from the Justice Department lawyers and is trying to catch up.
Gerrand, who is representing Dueck, also wants the conflict matter dealt with prior to the trial.
Borden plans to meet with his clients to gauge their interest in becoming involved in Klassen's conflict motion.