Cases will move back to Harbour Grace
“We got a positive response by doing it this way,” he said Friday, seated in the council chambers alongside several of his colleagues. Andrew Parsons likewise complimented Mayor Barnes for playing such an important role in helping secure a better deal for government. There are also conditions within the lease allowing government to purchase the building. The justice minister said government might look at utilizing it further as leases expire elsewhere.
“We might have an opportunity then to look at further savings by placing other government entities into a building such as this,” he said.
Local Liberal MHA Pam Parsons, who was among those heavily involved in talks to save the court, said she was assured every time she spoke with the justice minister that he was still working on the matter.
“I’m just so happy that this news is out there,” she said Friday.
“I think it was recognized that the need, the demand for this service which we have been utilizing in this region since the 1800s was certainly a necessity … No one supported the idea of closing this court, and obviously the justice minister, he heard that.”
Carbonear defence lawyer John Babb certainly didn’t support the decision to close the courthouse. He formed a committee that was prepared to take government to court.
A hearing scheduled for Tuesday in St. John’s on an interlocutory application will not go ahead now that the court isn’t closing. However, Babb still intends to bring his arguments about judicial independence and access to justice to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court
“I can’t say I was surprised, because the case had such merits,” he said Friday. “This wasn’t a Hail Mary, it was a conversion after a field goal, I felt.”
Babb does not buy the justice minister’s claim that the Supreme Court of Canada ruling is what convinced his department to reverse the closures. He said government knows it would not have lost in court and simply did not want to face that outcome, noting too the Supreme Court decision was two weeks old.
Progressive Conservative leader Paul Davis appeared to have a similar take on the move. On Friday, his party released Provincial Court Chief Judge Pamela Goulding’s responding affidavit to the case Babb and his committee brought to court. Goulding stated the court closures raise “significant and important issues relating to judicial independence, the administration of justice and access to justice.”
“The (Dwight) Ball Liberals did not do their homework before closing the court, did not listen to people after making the decision and are being faulted now for having made an unconstitutional decision as put forward by the committee,” Davis said in a news release. “They had no choice but to admit they were wrong and reverse the court closure decision.”
As for what will happen over the next couple of months with almost all matters scheduled to go before judges in St. John’s and Clarenville, Andrew Parsons said he has full confidence in the capabilities of Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court administrators.
“There may be some disruption at the beginning, but given the fact we are now here is one of those things we can all work through to make sure that there’s little disruption.”
For court employees who continued to do their jobs for months facing uncertainty, Friday’s news was a morale boost. They thought the process had reached the point of no return.
“The last three months have been stressful,” the courthouse employee said.
A week away from closure, new life was breathed into Harbour Grace Provincial Court Friday with the signing of a new 10-year lease agreement between the province