Does a Judge Need to Provide a Reasoning For a Decision?

Small Claims Court Decisions, Like Decisions In Other Courts, Must Be Explained By the Judge Providing the Reasoning For the Decision.

Understanding the Requirement of Reasons Within Judicial Decisions Including Small Claims Court Cases

Lawsuit Document The decisions that are made by a judge, including the decisions made in a Small Claims Court case, are required to include explanations of the reasoning for the decision.  The mandate is known as the duty to provide reasons and is necessary to ensure that the parties to a dispute understand the reasoning for a decision as well as to ensure a review, if necessary, upon Appeal.

The Law

Judges, including Small Claims Court judges, carry the duty of providing the reasoning upon which a judicial decision was made. The requirement of a reasoning was stated in Elnasr v. Mostafa, 2022 ONSC 1735, where it was said:

[28]  In assessing the sufficiency of the Deputy Judge’s Reasons, I acknowledge the tremendous volume of matters in the Small Claims Court as well as the informal nature of the Small Claims Court. As stated in Maple Ridge Community Management Ltd. v. Peel Condominium Corp. No. 231, 2015 ONCA 520, 389 DLR (4th) 711, at paras. 34 and 35:

[34]  The Small Claims Court is mandated under s. 25 of the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43, to “hear and determine in a summary way all questions of law and fact and may make such order as is considered just and agreeable to good conscience.” The Small Claims Court plays a vital role in the administration of justice in the province by ensuring meaningful and cost effective access to justice for cases involving relatively modest claims for damages. In order to meet its mandate, the Small Claims Court’s process and procedures are designed to ensure that it can handle a large volume of cases in an efficient and economical manner.

[35]  Reasons from the Small Claims Court must be sufficiently clear to permit judicial review on appeal. They must explain to the litigants what has been decided and why: Doerr v. Sterling Paralegal, 2014 ONSC 2335, at paras. 17-19. However, appellate consideration of Small Claims Court reasons must recognize the informal nature of that court, as well as the volume of cases it handles and its statutory mandate to deal with these cases efficiently. In short, in assessing the adequacy of the reasons, context matters: Massoudinia v. Volfson, 2013 ONCA 29, at para. 9. Just as oral reasons will not necessarily be as detailed as written reasons, reasons from the Small Claims Court will not always be as thorough as those in Superior Court decisions. Failing to take the Small Claims Court context into account only serves to restrict access to justice by unnecessarily imparting formality and delay into a legal process that is designed to be informal and efficient.

[29]  Or, in other words, to permit meaningful appellate review, the reasons must adequately express “what” was decided and “why” it was decided, see: Maple Ridge, at para. 24Law Society of Upper Canada v. Neinstein, 2010 ONCA 193, at para. 61.

[30]  If the reasons are not sufficiently detailed to understand “the what” and “the why” for the decision under review, then this is an error in law and the standard of review is correctness, see Maple Ridge, at para 22Barbieri v. Mastronardi, 2014 ONCA 416, at para. 22.

Summary Comment

A judge in a Small Claims Court case is required explain a judicial decisions by providing reasons for the decision. Although an explanation in a Small Claims Court case may be provided without the level of details expected in a higher court case, the reasons must be adequate for review upon an Appeal.

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