Respected jurist Mr. Justice Joseph Quinn conducted a seven-day trial, heard over a period of several months. The parties, Catherine Bruni and Larry Bruni were married for eleven years, live in Niagara and have two children ages 13 and 11. Neither parent had a lawyer, however, a government lawyer was appointed to represent the interests of their children.
A notable feature of the case was the level of hatred and animosity between the parties and their witnesses, which included Mrs. Bruni’s new common law partner, Sam, formerly the best friend and workmate of Mr. Bruni’s and Mr. Bruni’s new partner. The warring couples lived one kilometer away from each other.
Their were two central issues to be resolved. The first was whether the separation agreement signed by the husband without legal advice and allegedly under duress, should be set aside. The second involved a determination of whether Mrs. Bruni had poisoned her 13 year-old daughter’s mind causing irreversible parental alienation, and if so, what was the appropriate remedy.
There are hundreds of cases each year in Canada that deal with the issues in Bruni v. Bruni but Judge Quinn’s decision has attracted media attention because of his novel and humorously sarcastic approach to the gross immaturity displayed by the parties and their penchant for retaliation bordering on the criminal.
A few choice passages from the Reasons illustrate Judge Quinn’s originality:
– Judge Quinn opens his judgment with “Paging Dr. Freud, paging Dr. Freud.”
– The Judge says the couple have “marinated with mutual hatred so intense as to amount to a personality disorder requiring treatment.”
– In response to evidence that Catherine Bruni attempted to run down her husband with her van the Judge remarked “always a telltale sign that a husband and wife are drifting apart.”
– The Judge recounted testimony of repeated threats from the wife and her family to Larry Bruni that certain Hell’s Angels were engaged to end his life. The evidence revealed that one of the threats involved the immersion of Mr. Bruni’s body into a local canal and Judge Quinn commented on the introduction of a “nautical theme” to the matter of death threats. He also referred to the wife and her family as “one-dimensional problem solvers.”
– Judge Quinn opined that Mr. Bruni had an “infidelity gene”.
– After hearing that Larry Bruni had yelled “jackass, loser” from his vehicle window to his wife’s new partner, Sam, Judge Quinn said “When the operator of a motor vehicle yells “jackass” at a pedestrian, the jackassedness of the former has been proved, but at that point, it is only an allegation against the latter.”
In a footnote to his Reasons Judge Quinn said “I am prepared to certify a class action for the return of all the wedding gifts.”
On a more serious note, the Judge made a minor variation to the separation agreement. He chastised the wife for her conduct in alienating their daughter from her father and as punishment ordered that she receive no spousal support. This is a bold, innovative step and one that may not survive appellate scrutiny, unless Judge Quinn is successful in shaming the parties into fleeing into obscurity with their heads hung down.
You can read the Reasons at CanLll.org Bruni v. Bruni 2010 ONSC 6568
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang