This trial represents a culmination of the 5½ years we have been on the Internet and the 5 years before that where we tried to get this story to the public. Court seals and publication bans rarely serve the public interest.
Richard Klassen did not receive nor did he ask for a written declaration of innocence. "The Judgment of the court is the only declaration I need", he told Sheila Steele.
The 12 people maliciously prosecuted in the early 1990s on false sexual abuse allegations have received signed declarations of their innocence from the three main officials who handled the case.
"I acknowledge and accept, based on the information and evidence now available to me, that all plaintiffs in the above-described action were, and are, innocent of all criminal-related charges that the plaintiffs faced," Saskatoon Police Services Supt. Brian Dueck wrote in his letter to the 12 members of the Klassen and Kvello families.
In 1991, the Klassens and Kvellos were charged with repeatedly abusing three foster children in Saskatoon.
The claims of the children proved to be lies, and all three recanted. In December, following a lengthy and emotionally charged lawsuit trial, Miazga, Dueck and Bunko Ruys were found liable by Justice George Baynton for acting with malice against the 12 plaintiffs.
Each plaintiff received an undisclosed settlement.
Saskatoon lawyer Robert Borden, who represented all of the plaintiffs except Richard Klassen, said his clients were pleased with the development.
It was important for the premier, the justice minister and a Queen's Bench justice to acknowledge the plaintiffs' innocence, which had been done, "but it's another thing" to get it in writing from those who actually prosecuted them, Borden said.
"We wanted their signature on these documents, and that's what we have," Borden said. "It's universal — they were and are innocent."
Brian Dueck is on medical leave, and the police service's internal investigation into his actions is ongoing, said police spokesperson Insp. Jeff Bent.
The only remaining matter is an appeal by the provincial government of the malicious prosecution finding. No date has been set to hear the appeal.
The appeal will not affect the undisclosed compensation awards received by the plaintiffs, nor will it affect the declarations of their innocence.
Richard and Kari Klassen — two of the 12 people who successfully sued justice officials for malicious prosecution over false child abuse allegations in the early 1990s — have agreed on a compensation package with the provincial government.
The remaining plaintiffs still face the prospect of a fall trial to argue settlement amounts. A pretrial conference is scheduled to begin Thursday, and the trial is set for Sept. 13.
But for Richard and Kari Klassen, the settlement comes as a huge relief. Richard Klassen said he was bound by a confidentiality agreement and could not reveal the amount they received.
"Kari and I have stated we wanted out and we're getting out. I don't want anything to do with it anymore," Richard Klassen said Tuesday afternoon before he and Kari took their kids for a day of fishing on Lake Diefenbaker.
"I'm so glad it's over. Holding in that kind of animosity was killing me."
Prosecutor Matthew Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, two of the three defendants, have settled with Richard and Kari Klassen, confirmed Bob Richards, Miazga's lawyer.
The government is continuing with its appeal of the decision in the lawsuit, but the outcome of the appeal will not affect the settlements.
The settlement effectively concludes Richard Klassen's involvement with the case, as Klassen has already settled with the third defendant, Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck.
"No amount of money would compensate for what we went through. I'm definitely not financially set. I'm not living in Erindale," Klassen said.
"But I'm happy with my life now."
Klassen said he's been able to finally kick his addiction to sleeping pills and other drugs, although his refusal to get surgery or treatment for his prostate cancer makes his future health outlook unclear.
The makers of a movie being made about the case will visit Saskatoon at the end of the month to talk to Klassen and others.
Klassen said he's now looking for a job. He said he could teach police officers how to deal with the public, or could work as a researcher or investigator for a law firm.
He had hinted about moving to Winnipeg but will now remain in Saskatoon. He said he's anxious to see the results of an internal police investigation of Dueck, but thinks the Saskatoon police are making positive changes to ensure a case such as his doesn't happen again.
Richard Klassen is the only plaintiff to have settled with Dueck.
Robert Borden, who represents Kari Klassen and the other plaintiffs, could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
Richards, Miazga's lawyer, said settlements will be reached with the other plaintiffs if there are "reasonable ways" to resolve them.
Various members of the Klassen and Kvello families were charged with abusing several foster children in 1991 in a case labelled the "scandal of the century."
The charges were stayed against them in 1993, and they sued shortly after, claiming they were maliciously prosecuted. Richard Klassen defended himself and devoted 10 years of his life to the case.
Late last year, Justice George Baynton agreed, ruling Miazga, Bunko-Ruys and Dueck were malicious. But they still need to arrive at a settlement amount, which is to be decided at the damages trial in September.
SASKATOON — The 14-year legal fight is over for the Klassen and Kvello families after they reached a settlement with the government Friday afternoon stemming from their successful malicious prosecution lawsuit.
"After two long days, we have reached a settlement," said Robert Borden, who represented most of the 12 people charged in 1991 with multiple counts of child abuse.
"Each of my clients is pleased with the settlement."
Borden said a confidentiality agreement prevents any of the parties from disclosing the final settlement amount.
In addition to the financial compensation, each of his clients will also receive a written declaration of their innocence from the government, something many of them have waited 14 years to receive.
"This is a significant breakthrough," Borden said.
The Saskatchewan News Network has learned that the two sides were still miles apart after the first day of talks Thursday.
After a whole day of negotiation Thursday, the government side was offering the 10 plaintiffs $1 million in total while they were seeking $14 million.
The 10 plaintiffs were broken into smaller groups to try and work things out. A settlement was reached Friday afternoon with everyone after the government side moved substantially.
The final compensation amount remains unclear.
Several of the plaintiffs attended the talks Friday with their spouses and emerged from court with Borden. All of them chose to have Borden speak on their behalf. The apparently relieved group sat together late Friday afternoon chatting around a downtown park bench.
Borden represented all of the plaintiffs except Richard Klassen, who argued his own case.
Richard Klassen and his wife Kari settled their case with officials earlier this week.
All 12 of them were charged in 1991 based on the fabricated stories of three foster children, and the charges were stayed two years later. The malicious prosecution lawsuit was filed in 1994.
Last December, Justice George Baynton ruled that prosecutor Matthew Miazga, Saskatoon Police Supt. Brian Dueck, and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys had been malicious in their prosecution of the case.
The government has filed an appeal of the malicious prosecution finding. However, that matter will not affect the settlement reached Friday.
That appeal will likely be heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in November or December, Borden said.
Dueck is also the subject of an ongoing internal investigation by Saskatoon police into his handling of the case. Dueck's lawyer David Gerrand declined comment Friday.
Saskatoon police are not commenting on a possible conflict of interest involving the law firm it hired to look into an investigation done by one of its officers.
That same firm — Priel Stevenson Hood and Thornton — is also representing a social worker who helped that officer.
Insp. Keith Atkinson said as long as the Saskatchewan Law Society is reviewing the situation, Chief Russell Sabo can't comment.
In January, Sabo hired Priel Stevenson Hood and Thornton to review whether Supt. Brian Dueck had violated either the Police Act or the Criminal Code when he investigated members of the Klassen family in a child molestation case.
On March 18, a partner in the firm, Ken Stevenson, told his partners the firm was representing Carol Bunko-Ruys, a social worker who worked with Dueck on the investigation.
Sabo hired the firm after Justice George Baynton of the Court of Queen's Bench issued a scathing judgment that included criticisms of the way Dueck doggedly pursued charges against Richard Klassen and 11 family members accused of ritual abuse against three foster children more than a decade ago.
Baynton ruled that Dueck, along with Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, had maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs. Dueck was ruled to have conducted a shoddy investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and to have ignored evidence that would have cleared the accused.
The legal firm that advised police Chief Russell Sabo on potential wrongdoing by Supt. Brian Dueck also represents child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, with whom Dueck maliciously prosecuted 12 people.
That leaves Priel Stevenson Hood and Thornton in a conflict of interest that could delay a damages trial scheduled to begin Sept. 13, alleges Richard Klassen, one of the malicious prosecution victims.
Sabo identified the firm Wednesday as having conducted the investigation under the Police Act into Dueck's actions. Ken Stevenson, a partner in the firm, notified other lawyers involved in the malicious prosecution case March 18 that his firm will represent Bunko-Ruys in all outstanding matters related to the case. It's unclear if Stevenson is the lawyer who handled the investigation for the police.
"The major conflict of interest I see is Ken Stevenson is speaking on Dueck's conduct (to police)," Klassen said. "But he's also defending Carol Bunko-Ruys and saying she's not guilty. Brian Dueck and Carol Bunko-Ruys conspired together. No way could he separate that."
Justice George Baynton found in December that Bunko-Ruys, Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga and Dueck had maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs. The provincial government has appealed the ruling, on behalf of Bunko-Ruys and Miazga, as has Dueck.
Klassen said he'll have ready by Monday a legal motion for the judge of his upcoming damages trial, seeking a ruling on the conflict allegation. He said the situation particularly concerns him because if Bunko-Ruys has to find a new lawyer, the damages trial could be delayed.
Stevenson didn't return messages The StarPhoenix left at his office. The firm 's senior partner, Ted Priel, couldn't be reached.
Sabo also could not be reached.
The Saskatchewan code of professional conduct for lawyers defines a conflict of interest as "one that would be likely to affect adversely the lawyer's judgment or advice on behalf of, or loyalty to a client or prospective client."
It requires that a firm disclose the conflict of interest to affected clients to allow them to make an informed decision about allowing the lawyer to act on their behalf.
Bunko-Ruys could not be reached for comment.
The law firm typically has the most to lose in a conflict of interest, said Allan Snell, general counsel for the Law Society of Saskatchewan. If a client changes lawyers during a case, it can be expensive and time-consuming to bring a new lawyer up to speed, Snell said. That can leave the lawyer liable to a suit to reclaim time and money that a client lost.
Snell said conflicts of interest can be resolved in three ways:
- The law firm can drop the file;
- All lawyers and clients can give consent to the situation, allowing it to continue; and,
- In limited circumstances, a law firm could handle a conflict with internal screening devices keeping a partner's work on one end of the case away from another lawyer's work.
"The general rule is one firm can't argue both sides of a case," Snell said.
He declined comment on the Priel Stevenson Hood and Thornton matter.
Is it any wonder that Saskatchewan Justice is in such a sorry state? Below, we have a letter from the former past-president of the Saskatchewan Branch of the Canadian Bar Association. On February 19, the StarPhoenix published an opinion from Dan Ish who is the Dean of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. This was another condescending piece, full of generalizations and empty of detail.
Yes, Ralph. It is important citizens have the right to appeal. When they have grounds for appeal. It is not the obligation of those who have been fairly busted in a court of law to waste more public money dragging out their shameful cases.
The Canadian Bar Association, Saskatchewan Branch, is the voice of lawyers in this province. As past-president and an executive committee member, I write to provide our organization's response to recent comments in the media regarding the Klassen ruling.
I remind members of the public and media that a fundamental tenet of our system of justice is the right of litigants to appeal the decision of a trial court to a higher court.
Every unsuccessful litigant who considers a trial decision to be unfair, unjust or wrong has the right of appeal.
Our organization takes no position on the merits of the trial judge's decision. Whether the decision is "right" or "wrong" is immaterial to our comments.
We simply wish to impress upon readers that the appeal process, which allows for a second level of judicial analysis, is a fundamental aspect of our adversarial system of justice and exists for the benefit of all citizens in a democratic society.
It is important that we not lose sight of the fact that the Klassen case involved an investigation of sensitive and highly charged matters relating to the safety and protection of children and accordingly, if this decision is seen as establishing a standard by which child protection workers, expert witnesses, social workers, police officers and others working in the field of child protection will be judged, then it is most appropriate that the highest court in Saskatchewan be given the opportunity to consider the criteria.
Having the Court of Appeal examine the decision and either confirm or correct it can only serve to strengthen both the mechanisms by which we protect our children and the integrity of the justice system.
For that reason alone, we see nothing inappropriate in an appeal of the trial decision. More importantly, we support and wholeheartedly endorse the system which allows for that appeal.
Ralph K. Ottenbreit
Canadian Bar Association
This letter is in response to Ralph Ottenbreit, Past President of the Canadian Bar Association, Saskatchewan Branch, Letter to the Editor Klassen Legal Injustice I find that his comments are simply to protect the image of the Justice System, to the public, in this outrageous legal scandal and atrocity of injustice. The Klassen case is a prime example of the gross injustices, which are happening in our Justice System in Saskatch ewan. After over 10 years of battling by taking on the Justice System, Richard Klassen was fortunate enough to be successful in showing that there was malicious prosecution. If he had not been so committed to exonerate himself and work towards taking this action to court, to prove his case, he would have been railroaded or shut down, as many other people are. There are many, many cases where people are not happy with the professional misconduct and misrepresentation of lawyers and our court system. What can they do about it if they don't have the passion and commitment of Richard Klassen?
The fact that the litigant has the right to appeal to a higher court in this case is absurd. It is blatant abuse of process to appeal this, at the taxpayer's expense. It shows that the justice system in this province is simply trying to save face and won't admit to the wide spread corruption that runs ramped in our justice system. What is being done to correct the problems or make the lawyers and judges accountable so we can have a fair System of Justice, not a money making scam for lawyers.
We have been represented in various legal issues by a number of lawyers and have been misrepresented by most of them. The mission statement of lawyers appears to be what one lawyer with over 20 years practicing law who was reported to have said to his client, "What is the difference between doctors and lawyers? Doctors bury their mistakes and lawyers charge for them." If you dig deeper, our adversarial system of justice was designed by lawyers to run up their bill and is not to the benefit of all citizens in a free and democratic society. The only winners in this whole System of Injustice are lawyers. The Justice System nurtures an environment that allows lawyers to carry on their misconduct. The Law Society, a self-governing body, is involved in the conspiracy to protect the image of lawyers to the public.
The point that was made by Ralph Ottenbreit that this case involves the investigation of sensitive and highly charged matters, relating to the safety and protection of children, and accordingly would set the standard of child protection workers, and others working in the field of child protection. This case has nothing to with how the law will relate to these matters it is simply to do with the professional misconduct of the justice system and lawyers in misrepresenting and charging people for their misrepresentation and negligence and working feverishly to try to cover up their gross misconduct. Having the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal examine the decision will neither confirm nor correct the mechanics or process by which we protect our children. This will give the Justice Department another chance to save face to try to preserve the image and the integrity of the justice system. This will only prove that there is a blatant conflict of interest. I won't be surprised if the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturns the decision, to protect the image of the lawyers in this entire conspiracy of injustice.
Something needs to be done about the justice system in our province; the public needs to demand a public inquiry into this case and many other cases of legal misconduct and judicial interference. The laws of our country are not being upheld and innocent people are being abused by the injustice system in our province. Its time the public the taxpayers of our country voiced their opinions and demanded accountability by the Injustice System in our country.
Yours truly, Ned Larman
Ned Larmen is another victim of the Injustice System in Saskatchewan