Arguments applicable to other court closures
“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.”
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.