# in the most stunning landmark ruling in any Canadian fine art case ever, Judge Paul J Martial handed out the most total and resounding denunciation and rejection of the testimony – supposedly based on the claimed knowledge, expertise, and integrity of a Toronto art dealer – ever meted out to a supposed fine art expert in Canadian history.
(The lawyer of record for the losing Plaintiff, was Jonathan Sommer.)
Judge Paul J Martial had taken ten months to go over the evidence before making his totally decisive ruling sparing no words that, to me, totally demolished the Plaintiff’s case, in every single particular.
In 2010, Margaret Hatfield and her attorney Jonathan Sommer, launched a lawsuit that went on for five days over two years, and asked that Judge Paul J Martial rule in favour of the Plaintiff on numerous claims that were all tied to the claim of forgery for the Morrisseau painting “Wheel of Life 1979.”
In fact, ultimately, Judge Martial ruled against the Plaintiff, and denied all her eleven claims as broken down from his Judgment. (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p2)
The Plaintiff had asked the judge to:
1 – agree with the Plaintiff that “Wheel of Life 1979” is a forged Morrisseau
2 – rescind (void) the contract (by which Hatfield bought the painting from Artworld of Sherway) and give her back her purchase price, plus investment loss, for $25,000,
3 – acknowledge misrepresentation (claiming Artworld of Sherway lied)
4 – acknowledge breach of contract (claiming dishonesty by Artworld of Sherway),
5 – grant reimbursement of all costs (incurred by Hatfield to launch and carry on her lawsuit.)
In the alternative Hatfield asked Judge Paul J Martial to:
6 – recognize a deceit (by Artworld of Sherway) and
7 – award damages for the alleged deceit (by Artworld of Sherway)
8 – grant a refund for the purchase price (of $10,350 from Artworld of Sherway)
9 – award loss of investment opportunity (of her $10,350 spent on the painting)
10 – award punitive damages (vs Artworld of Sherway)
11 – “as well as her legal costs of $40,605” (Ottawa Citizen, May 10, 2013) which Hatfield incurred to carry out her suit.
In short: Judge Martial ultimately found – and Ms.Hatfield admitted – that she had failed to do due diligence, on authenticating her painting. In fact she had relied only on unverified gossip from two fanatic Conspiracy Theorists she had met through an internet “dating service” for disgruntled Morrisseau buyers.
The Perils of Internet Dating – Ms. Hatfield was like a lamb, led to the slaughter by another amateur art collector, Jonathan Browne of Ottawa, Ontario, who had previously made a disastrous mistake in dumping a wonderful authentic Morrisseau “Grandfather Speaks of Great Ansistral Warrior 1977,” because of gossip from the Conspiracy Theorists at Kinsman Robinson Galleries and members of the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society. (See Browne v Bugera)
Browne had actually introduced Ms Hatfield, whom he’d met on an “internet date,” when she came upon his “Morrisseau Buyers Beware” website, to some of the same members of the group who had “advised him” so well two years before. He assured her they could do the same for her…
She became Conspiracy Theorist Proxy #4; others say, she became the second victim of elder abuse in this story. (The first, I believe, was Norval himself.)
Prescient – In fact, part way during the trial Ms. Hatfield herself became aware she was losing this case. Not from what the judge was saying – because he rarely spoke, and then only on procedural matters – but from witness testimony, both hers and the Defendant’s. With each passing day I watched her growing agitation, only a few feet in front of me, as her arms and body shaking increased. Understandably; she was bleeding tens of thousands of dollars on a dead-end, and increasingly, even she knew it…
In fact, many months before the judge announced his decision, Hatfield, tellingly, allowed to James Adams of the Globe that she had probably lost the case, and was now also faced with paying the Defence’s legal costs, but that even despite the tens of thousands she had lost, it had all been for a good cause. So clearly, the judge’s finding was no surprise to her, though the overwhelmingly negativity with which he dismissed her case, no doubt, was.
But it is hard to feel sorry – impossible is a better word – for this first time Morrisseau fine art collector, because she – exactly like Browne before her – refused to do due diligence with independent experts, preferring instead, to swallow, and then repeat, a lot of utter nonsense from a few Conspiracy Theorists, whom they had picked up on the internet… or had just made up.
And for allowing herself to be so easily manipulated by conniving collaborators, and involving herself in the destruction of genuine art by Morrisseau, and by association, that of other Canadian Aboriginal artists.
Preposterous – After all, all by herself, she got things off to a rousing start, on May. 31, 2011, when she testified, in one of the most idiotic statements – and that is saying something – to come out of the Plaintiff’s side:
“… I knew I was looking at something that I could not ignore because here was an artist saying, “I did not paint these paintings” and he is calling out, you know… he’s calling out as saying, “These are not by my hand” and I knew…
“Now why would an artist deny what he had produced? Why would an artist turn against the work of his hand, and… the quote from Isaiah came to my mind at the time, ‘And does a mother forget her baby or a woman the child within her womb? Yes, even if these forget I will not forget. I have carved you in the palm of my hand’ and that is the quotation from that hymn that went through my mind. I thought the artistic process is certainly the equivalent of giving birth. Why would Norval Morrisseau turn against his own work and say, “I did not paint this”? (Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: May 31, 2011 p 13)
In fact, the very well-known historical truth is that Norval was probably – my call – the worst Deadbeat Dad in Canadian History. And I am restrained, considering what else I know. (Much more on this to come.)
But, in short, what is incontrovertible is that two months before he died Norval completely disowned every association with every one of his children in a formal document. At least that was claimed by Norval’s longtime companion and business manager, Gabe Vadas, who publicly stated that he held Norval’s Power of Attorney and was his sole beneficiary.
(In fact Vadas had been exercising his Power of Attorney for years. Which is illegal, of course, if, in fact, the person he is acting for, is of sound mind and body.)
When Norval died his family went on the record in the media to state that their Dad had left them not a painting, not a property, not a bank account, not a cent…
Nothing… zip… nada… In a note supposedly signed with his own dying hand on Oct. 3, 2007.
In fact Norval was such a lousy Deadbeat Dad, that his own Aboriginal family (mostly his children) had to go to court – in effect against their own father – to try to establish some claim on any inheritance rights of any kind against the white businessmen who surrounded his wheelchair in his final years and had been using his Power of Attorney for their own benefit and against them.
So there, Ms. Hatfield! And your Biblical quote… So much for your knowledge of Norval’s life history and his growing mental disabilities from dementia that bedeviled the last 15 years of his life…
In fact Ms. Hatfield should have known of the awful mental destruction of this tragic disability. She testified her own mother had just died, in 2009, after suffering, for many years from Alzheimer’s, which claims by far the biggest proportion of Dementia victims. Probably her mother hadn’t even recognized her own loving and care-giving daughter.
So to invert Ms. Hatfield’s metaphorical Malaprop, if a Father could so completely disregard the most fundamental moral and ethical standards of our society – that, according to Ms Hatfield, no parent would do – and in fact, like Norval for decades, repeatedly abuse, ignore, abandon, and finally formally disown his own flesh and blood, how can anyone possibly believe his sudden truthful signature on a simple forgery allegation document?
A document that could, with his simple signature, help make him, or his “manager” Gabe Vadas, a ton of money, at a time the artist was utterly vulnerable as a poverty-stricken invalid, and feared being tossed on to the street as an indigent…
Hatfield had only two witnesses to back up her allegations, Principal Conspiracy Theorists, Donald Robinson and Ritchie Sinclair, testifying on her behalf, that all her claims were true.
Ms. Hatfield agreed she had not done “due diligence” – in fact she had utterly refused to do so – with the people who had signed the appraisals supplied with her painting, and relied entirely, and only, on Donald Robinson and Ritchie Sinclair, two people she only met through an “internet dating service.”
Judge Martial noted cryptically:
“On cross-examination, Ms. Hatfield agreed, that she did not investigate further and speak to either of the appraisers either at the time or years later. Essentially she relied on Mr. Don Robinson and Mr. Ritchie Sinclair.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p3)
Which, as it turned out later in his finding, Judge Martial did not at all, think was a very good idea.
After listening to testimony related to Ms. Hatfield’s case, for five long days, over a period of two years, and evaluating evidence by Robinson – who alone testified for three days – and Sinclair, both of whose testimony was contradicted by numerous witnesses on the Plaintiff’s side, Judge Martial refused to recognize the validity of any of Ms. Hatfield’s claims, or of her two witnesses.
The conclusion is inescapable: Judge Martial refused to recognize merit in even a single one of Ms. Hatfield’s 11 requests, and rejected every single one of the demands entered on her behalf by Jonathan Sommer who was her legal advisor, courtroom advocate, and filled out or amended her legal paper work.
Furthermore, in addressing Ms. Hatfield’s claims, Judge Martial ruled that “on the balance of probabilities that the painting “Wheel of Life” dated February 1979 is an original Norval Morrisseau, and undoubtedly one of his most notorious paintings.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p37) (Emphasis mine)
The Judge Repeats – For those who missed the utter conclusivity of his finding, like Ottawa Citizen journalist Jacquie Miller, who keeps emphasizing something meaningful in “the balance of probabilities,” but who was never in court, clearly has never read the court transcripts, or evidently not even Judge Martial’s judgement, his Honour reiterated with utter finality:
“The painting “Wheel of Life” is not a forgery.” Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p37). It was a finding Miller chose not to publish.
And Judge Martial, stated categorically, again: “The Defendants did not misrepresent the authenticity of the painting.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p37). No “probability” here either Jacquie! His ruling is 100%.
It is a stunning rebuff of astronomic proportions on every level to a very small group of Conspiracy Theorists who have, for over a decade, spread the self-serving claim of “thousands of forgeries out there.” Its chief proponents are Donald Robinson and his business associate, Ritchie Sinclair.
Among other things, Judge Martial ruled was that:
– there will be no voiding of the contract,
– there was no deceit or misrepresentation,
– no fraudulent sales transaction of any kind, on any level, and
– that Ms. Hatfield was not entitled to demand a refund for the painting,
– nor compensation for lost investment,
– nor get reimbursed for more than $40,000 she spent on her lawsuit.
– let alone demand punitive damages.
Furthermore he ordered her to pay the Plaintiffs costs of $1,500, as allowed under Small Claims Court Rules.
For Hatfield and her lawyer, Jonathan Sommer, it was as devastating an all-around defeat in a civil court case as it’s possible to get in Canada.
Judge Martial spent only two or three lines addressing Ms. Hatfield’s own testimony on the stand or her claims, pointing out that she had not followed basic due diligence as she should have.
He spent 95% of his comments regarding her case in discussing and evaluating the testimony of her two witnesses, mostly that of Donald Robinson.
And he made a resounding finding that Ms. Hatfield owns a genuine Morrisseau, and whether she likes it or not, she is stuck with it.
“The painting “Wheel of Life” is not a forgery. The Defendants did not misrepresent the authenticity of the painting.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p37)
Counsel Jonathan Sommer and Ms. Hatfield also produced only two witnesses for his case, both utterly lacking the professional academic credentials that one would have expected them to have in a case of this complexity.
Which is predictably, we assume, ultimately exactly why Judge Martial utterly rebuffed and discredited the testimony and self-professed expertise of her star witness, Donald Robinson, who had spent three days on the stand trying to prove his case for forgery by brandishing an 89 page “expert report” he claimed to have spent six months creating.
“He has no formal training as an expert witness in handwriting analysis and his evidence is rejected.”
“The Court rejects his expert report and his conclusion that the Morellian analysis, style, colour, and provenance all pointed to forgery.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p36-37)
Judge Martial dismissed the relevance of Ritchie Sinclair with even more dispatch, saying, in a one liner: “Mr. Sinclair’s testimony of numerous forgers paid for with drugs, although dramatic was not supported by the evidence.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p36-38)
A stunning rebuff, and a rude dismissal of a witness as it’s possible to see, especially of one who filled the courtroom with wild accusations and bluster about Aboriginal artists as forgers, that was looked on with incredulity by the public gallery. And apparently also by Judge Martial.
With both her witnesses committing hara kiri in court, and her lawyer’s case falling patently falling apart, Ms. Hatfield was left to ponder the perils of internet dating, and with having wasted over $40,000 down the drain, or burned up, as a gullible proxy on a fool’s errand for Principal Conspiracy Theorists Donald Robinson and Ritchie Sinclair.
Morrisseau Court Histories – There have now been six (6) court cases where collectors of genuine Morrisseaus took Conspiracy Theorists to court for defaming their paintings and calling them forgeries.
All cases were resolved in favour of the owner of the defamed painting, dismissing, any and all allegations of forgeries out there.
Two of those cases involved Conspiracy Theorists and their proxies, having to pay large amounts of money to people and paintings they defamed as forgeries, when they were, in fact, genuine Morrisseaus. And were forensically proven, with DNA certainty, to have been signed by Norval Morrisseau.
Shot Down in Flames – Judge Martial made the strongest case, to date, by far, to shoot down the whole claim of there being Morrisseau forgeries, let alone the thousands supposedly being “out there” as claimed by Donald Robinson.
He found not a single claim by Hatfield, by Robinson, or by Sinclair, to have any merit of any kind, on any level. He went out of his way to say he “rejected” their testimony or so-called expertise on every level.
In the considered opinion of Judge Martial, without a qualifying word or phrase: there are no forgeries of Norval Morrisseau paintings that have been proven out there.
Judge Martial also found that the artist himself was unreliable as a witness; that his testimony on forgeries is not credible, because his mental state had deteriorated so markedly in his later years. Norval’s unreliability, in authenticating his own work, was something Judge Martial pointed out, even Donald Robinson admitted on the stand.
Leaving just a few other people spreading false information, for whatever reason…
And Judge Martial specifically pointed to egregious “conflicts of interest” behind it all. By self-serving Conspiracy Theorists.
Speaking of Robinson he said: “It was also clear that his personal views and business interests conflicted with his professIonal opinion since it was in his interest along with Mr. Vadas to maintain the price of Morrisseau paintings which would not otherwise be the case if the market was flooded with paintings sourced from Potter auctions.” (Judgment by Judge Paul J Martial: Mar. 25, 2013 p36-38)
And Ms. Hatfield has decided to cast in her lot with the Conspiracy Theorists.
Astounding as it may be, after failing to do even the most basic “due diligence” and simple research for her case, she is quoted in the media as saying that no matter how resounding the defeat, there are still lots of forgeries out there.
Completely overlooking that in the longest trial ever in Canadian history, dealing with a work of art, and five days of testimony, and over $40,000 of her money, Ms. Hatfield and her lawyer failed utterly, in every way, and on every level, to make her case, of her painting being a fake, believable to an independent judge.
Worse, the judge told her, ALL the merit, was on the opposing side, saying there was no case for forgery on any level.
And not just for one painting, but for all the alleged forgeries.
Judge Martial went on to quote numerous witnesses, he called credible, who said it made no sense on any level to claim any forgeries – let alone thousands of them – when Morrisseau, for most of his life, gave away paintings, or traded or exchanged them for $25 or $50, or for a bottle. (As is well-known Norval also gave paintings away for food, sex, or lodging.)
Judge Martial Picks His Targets – Judge Martial also expressly did not concentrate on “Wheel of Life 1979” at all.
He focused entirely, to the exclusion of virtually everything else, by spending most of his report in utterly demolishing the self-proclaimed expertise, the “expert report,” the knowledge, the conclusions, the aims, even the honesty and integrity of Donald Robinson, saying pointedly he rejected virtually everything Robinson said and claimed on the stand.
And deafeningly, that Robinson clearly demonstrated a total conflict of interest that skewed all of Robinson’s testimony.
Judge Martial totally destroyed the case of the man who says he – the Principal Morrisseau Dealer – alone in the world, has the proof of forgeries.
And his latest victim, Conspiracy Theorist Proxy #4, Ms. Hatfield, what has she gained?
She lost over $40,000 in legal costs.
Then she had to pay the Defendant $1,500 more.
She now, no doubt, hates her painting, for which she paid over $10,000 because she has now been convinced by her friends, Sinclair and Robinson, that it’s a fake. And which they continue to demonize, for their own reasons, as “worth nothing” and “zero.”
Total loss to Ms. Hatfield appears to be over $50,000, and counting. (Over $40,000 on her claim, $1,500 for the defence legal costs, over $10,000 for a painting Donald Robinson told her is worth “zero.”)
Not to mention the decline in her health which I witnessed over a two-year period from 10 feet away, as she struggled with the growing knowledge that she was bleeding her paltry pension, big time, into the gutter.
For being a gullible proxy and taking part in helping to promote the biggest Art Hoax in Canadian history.
A heartfelt Ms. Hatfield told Judge Martial, that she had little money, that she had to make choices, and to give up certain things in order to make a huge expenditure to pay $10,300 to buy the Morrisseau.
Now she has lost over $40,000 more…
How much more has that further damaged her pension, her retirement and her health?
One cannot help but feel sorry for her, even though she allowed herself to be led into supporting this gigantic Conspiracy Theory. Which is little more than a Hoax…
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – Ms. Hatfield who has apparently already now had to pay out over $40,000 for legal costs, is being encouraged by a small handful of Conspiracy Theorists, and presumably by her lawyer, to persist with an appeal, that’s going to cost her thousands more in legal fees, to try to prove a genuine painting she only paid $10,000 for, is a fake.
Her lawyer, who was apparently very unhappy with the judge and his ruling, went public, going out of his way to grab astonishing banner headlines in the Ottawa Citizen, by airily trying to diss the judge, and mischaracterize and minimize the significance of his landmark judicial finding. The Citizen editor clearly saw it as such, giving a lawyer’s sensational twist to an article and a judicial finding, for which there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support the banner headline, other than the clear spin a distraught lawyer for a losing Plaintiff sought to give it.
And all this, even though ALL the evidence, from credible witnesses and credentialed experts, both inside and outside the court is that “Wheel” was not a fake, and after an independent judge has ruled conclusively, without a single qualifier, that it is genuine, as well.
I cannot believe that a retired little old schoolmarm, with her small and dwindling pension, is paying for all this money madness. After such a totally absolute judgment by a judge, that took everyone aback with its resounding finding of absolute authenticity for her painting.
Originally Ms. Hatfield, supposedly, was worried – she claimed – it was a fake. The judge reassured her totally that in the longest fine art court trial in Canadian history, she had no fears at all of any kind – her painting was absolutely authentic. She could go home in peace.
But it apparently was not what she was after. Now assured it was authentic by a judge, numerous Morrisseau experts, and a forensic scientist, it was apparently not what she wanted to hear at all… Maddeningly, she, apparently, wanted to appeal his ruling… And spend thousands more…
Who, I ask you, in this world or the next, can possibly believe a little old retired schoolteacher on a dwindling pension, would or could possibly afford to spend over $40,000 in legal costs to prove a painting she paid $10,000 for is a forgery?
And faced with a totally devastating legal judgment against her case by Judge Martial, on every level and in every particular, could go on to pay for an appeal, that goes to Superior Court where the costs are astronomically higher than in Small Claims Court. We’re looking at total costs of $60,000 and up, for a $10,000 painting…
All, supposedly borne at the behest and expense of a little old schoolmarm…
Who, one may well ask, is she actually fronting for? And what is their purpose?
Who is really footing the bill for this insanity, and what I regard as the clear abuse of our court system, and why?
To my mind, this seems to be a clear case of elder abuse, as Conspiracy Theorists are apparently continuing to try to encourage a little old lady, against overwhelming common sense, the tide of history, the ruling of a judge, and the unanimous evidence of Canada’s top forensic experts and handwriting analysts, into spending what remains of her paltry pension on a what I consider a fool’s errand, trying to continue to prove a forensically certified genuine Morrisseau painting a fake.
It’s what Judge Paul J Martial basically told Ms. Hatfield, the evidence showed, after carefully listening to all the testimony in the longest fine art trial in Canadian history.
(In fact, her lawyer announced subsequent to his outburst in the Ottawa Citizen, that indeed, he would move to appeal the case.)