Le­gal Hail Mary for court­house to be heard July 26

The Compass - - NEWS - JUS­TICE TC ME­DIA ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

A group of lawyers will have their day in New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court to make a case against the jus­tice depart­ment’s de­ci­sion to take pro­vin­cial court ser­vices out of Har­bour Grace.

Con­cep­tion-Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia Re­gion Ac­cess to Jus­tice Com­mit­tee Inc. for­mally filed its ap­pli­ca­tion last week to con­test the de­ci­sion. Car­bon­ear-based lawyer John Babb will rep­re­sent the com­mit­tee July 26 in St. John’s.

Be­yond the main ar­gu­ment the group in­tends to make re­gard­ing the need to up­hold ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence and fair ac­cess to jus­tice, an in­ter­locu­tory ap­pli­ca­tion was filed. That seeks an in­terim dec­la­ra­tion to not pro­ceed with the court­house clo­sure un­til the un­der­ly­ing ju­di­cial is­sues have been heard.

Babb ex­pects the July 26 court date to take a full day. Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court is slated to close three days later. Ter­mi­na­tion of govern­ment’s lease on the Babb Build­ing is ef­fec­tive Aug. 4.

The re­spon­dents listed in the ap­pli­ca­tions are the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Par­sons, and Pro­vin­cial Court Chief Judge Pamela Gould­ing. The group con­tends Gould­ing should have re­fused to com­ply with govern­ment’s di­rec­tive to close the court­house “to pro­tect the pub­lic’s right to ac­cess to jus­tice and to pre­serve ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.” Bay

On the ac­cess to jus­tice is­sue, the group points out Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court serves over 57,000 res­i­dents. With the ex­clu­sion of the 2010-11 fis­cal year, to­tal ini­ti­ated cases in Har­bour Grace “has con­sis­tently risen since 2007.” That hasn’t been the case at pro­vin­cial courts in Clarenville, Grand Falls-Wind­sor, Grand Bank, Gan­der or Wabush.

Length of travel to ac­cess court ser­vices will in­crease con­sid­er­ably for most res­i­dents im­pacted by the court­house clo­sure. Peo­ple liv­ing on the tip of the Bay de Verde Penin­sula will need al­most two-and-a-half hours to drive to St. John’s.

“Mea­sures that pre­vent peo­ple from com­ing to the courts to have those is­sues re­solved are at odds with the ba­sic ju­di­cial func­tion,” the group states in its orig­i­nat­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, go­ing on to say the clo­sure will be par­tic­u­larly bur­den­some for im­pov­er­ished peo­ple.

The ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence ar­gu­ment sug­gests govern­ment vi­o­lated the in­de­pen­dence of the Chief Judge through bud­get cuts.

“The rights of ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence vested in the Pro­vin­cial courts and in­di­vid­ual Judges have con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion both in the form of the writ­ten con­sti­tu­tion and un­writ­ten con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple,” the group wrote in the orig­i­nat­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

Con­cep­tion-Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia Bay Re­gion Ac­cess to Jus­tice Com­mit­tee Inc. is com­prised of sev­eral lawyers based in the area.

Babb

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