Ar­gu­ments ap­pli­ca­ble to other court clo­sures

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

“The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has the au­thor­ity and power over build­ings and civil ser­vants that work in the reg­istry. So by an­nounc­ing they were clos­ing the judge’s build­ing, his court­house, and lay­ing off his staff, with­out proper con­sul­ta­tion, they we’re in­fring­ing on the in­de­pen­dence of the whole court – not just Judge Han­dri­gan, but the court as an in­sti­tu­tion.”

A re­quest for a tem­po­rary or­der seek­ing to keep the court open un­til the full ap­pli­ca­tion can be heard will also be brought for­ward at the Supreme Court in Grand Bank on June 29.

MacBeath said the ap­pli­ca­tion to the court was the com­mit­tee’s last re­sort. Af­ter writ­ing to and meet­ing with Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Par­sons with no mean­ing­ful progress, a po­lit­i­cal ap­proach was aban­doned for a le­gal tac­tic.

“(On June 6), the min­is­ter of Jus­tice called me and told me he was work­ing on a so­lu­tion, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was or when it would be ap­plied,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mit­tee, the pub­lic likely does not yet re­al­ize the full im­pact of the court clo­sure, in­clud­ing longer wait times for hear­ings for fam­ily, in­sur­ance, crim­i­nal, es­tate and other mat­ters.

The dam­age has al­ready be­gun, MacBeath said.

Hear­ing dates for Clarenvill­e and Grand Bank are no longer be­ing given at the Grand Bank court­house.

“There have been a num­ber of mem­bers of the pub­lic who have had cases come be­fore the court in the last two months, look­ing for a hear­ing date for im­port- ant mat­ters and have been told by the judge that he can’t give them a hear­ing date be­fore June 30, that he’s not al­lowed to give hear­ing dates af­ter June 30, and that they should con­tact the court reg­istry at St. John’s to get a hear­ing date,” he said.

“We feel that we should in­form the pub­lic of what’s com­ing down and how it’s go­ing to af­fect them, and also in­form the pub­lic of what we’re do­ing on their be­half.”

Mean­while, MacBeath said the ar­gu­ments the com­mit­tee will make for keeping the Grand Bank Supreme Court open are ap­pli­ca­ble to the other three court clo­sures as well.

“Even though the Supreme Court is in a more con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected po­si­tion than pro­vin­cial courts – pro­vin­cial court judges are ap­pointed by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, they’re paid by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment – the is­sues of ac- cess to jus­tice on be­half of the pub­lic and ju­di­cial in­ter­fer­ence … they are equally pro­tected by these con­sti­tu­tional rights,” he said.

“The ar­gu­ments that we’re mak­ing, we’re mak­ing them strictly in re­la­tion to Grand Bank, but the same ar­gu­ments could be ap­plied to the other Supreme Court that’s be­ing closed and the two pro­vin­cial courts.”

PAUL HERRIDGE PHOTO

The Supreme Court in Grand Bank is slated for clo­sure on July 31. The pro­vin­cial court, lo­cated in the same build­ing, will con­tinue to op­er­ate.

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