12 January 2009

Rumpole and the Nose Puller

As CBC’s David Cochrane reported this evening Don Singleton had not one but three run-ins with the law for impaired driving in the 1980s over the course of three years. The first two never amounted to anything - one dismissed, the other dropped - but on the third one, Singleton blew one and a half times the legal limit and lost his license for six months. He also received a fine of $700. [corrected from two and a half times the limit in original]

The erstwhile provincial court judge took his name out of contention after inquiries turned up the impaired driving conviction.

Singleton claims he forgot about the conviction when he applied to be a judge last fall.

The court records for the three charges are available online, courtesy of cbc.ca/nl. Cochrane’s debrief can also be found there in ram audio file format.

The records turned up on Friday following an inquiry by a local reporter for records of any convictions against Singleton. The first search turned up nothing, apparently due to data entry errors - different birth date and address - in the database.

The inquiry prompted Chief Judge Reg Reid to search further. That second search turned up the conviction and two earlier charges. Interviewed by CBC’s Deanne Fleet, Reid said that, although he was the presiding judge in the 1990 conviction, there was nothing that made Singleton stand out at the time such that he remembered him.

Thus far, public comment is focusing on the need for a background check on all applicants for judicial appointments.

That ignores the fairly obvious question of why justice minister Tom Marshall plucked Singleton from a list of upwards of 30 applicants. Junior at the bar – barely past the minimum requirement for time in practice – Singleton didn’t seem to fit the same pattern as some of the appointees over the past decade.

Marshall also said he asked Reid to change the judicial committee's policy on background checks.

"I've asked him to review their policies and procedures and to implement a mandatory police search and provincial court search for every applicant," Marshall said.

While he’s at it, the justice minister should also change the policy for background checks on appointments to quasi-judicial panels as well. Singleton was appointed to the labour relations board in 2005 around the time of his conviction on the tax and import charges.



Anonymous said...

Just a note regarding the breathalyzer Singelton took when arrested the 3rd time for DWI, David Cochrane reported it was 120 or one and half times the legal limit. That being said, I would like to know the breathalyzer results of the second arrest. Notice that the second one was withdrawn after his third arrest. Why would the crown do this if they knew he had been arrested for the same offense a third time? Bob Symonds must be one hell of a lawyer. And yes, Marshall and Williams failed on this one.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Thanks for the correction. It was one and a half times over not two and a half. I'll correct the post accordingly.

As to the other point, there were three separate incidents. The third time wasn't the charm, given the fine and license suspension.

Anonymous said...

You are correct of course that they are 3 separate incidents. However, I still wonder as to why the withdrawal of the second time that he was charged. He was intoxicated that night as well so why did the crown withdraw the charges? And you are correct regarding his appointment as a judge; there is nothing in Don Singleton's background that makes him unique or special as to parachute him to this position after only 11 years practising law. Unless you count his wife Debbie's crossover from the Liberals to the Conservatives. She did work under Tobin on the 8th floor didn't she?


Edward G. Hollett said...


A couple of things from your comment.

First, this is one of the reasons I dislike people posting anonymously. It's one thing to comment on information. It's another to add information either directly or by suggestion, especially on a matter of public notariety.

I had a raft of information from offline comments over the past few days related to the Singleton matter, most of which was either accurate or generally accurate (a couple of details off but substantively on the mark).

Some of it, though, was completely out to lunch.

That leads me to the second point.

I worked for Tobin for three months in the transition in 1996. During that time I never met anyone named Debbie Singleton or, as I recall, any other Debbie who might have become a Singleton later.

Having checked my own notes, I can find absolutely no information to indicate that Debbie Singleton worked for Brian Tobin while he was Premier.

If you have other information then by all means step forward and put your name behind it. If you don't want to provide it publicly, the certainly you can reach me using bondpapers at hotmail dot com. I am not sure it has anything to do with the whole matter, but there it is.

Ralph said...

As bad as the whole thing looks for Singleton, I believe the guy. He has been a lawyer for eleven years, if he didn't forget about it then he would have had a pardon.