04 January 2010

Imagine if they were senate vacancies…

Seems that something is holding up the announcement of four appointments to the provincial court.  The clerks’ room at Number 3 Iniquity court was abuzz before Christmas with anticipation of an announcement ‘round about the first anniversary of l’affair Singleton.

Don Singleton’s appointment was announced on December 23, you may recall, and withdrawn in a storm of controversy on January 12.

Since then, there has been no sign of new appointments and the number of vacancies is four times larger.

Four empty seats on the provincial court doesn’t look very good, especially when a couple of them have been vacant for a year or more and after things got rather squirrely out in Gander in the middle of 2009.

not bruce short So unless there is something akin the shenanigans last time that is causing some sort of massive last minute re-think of the whole announcement, maybe it is time for justice minister Felix Collins to take the list that showed up in the department some time ago,  tick off four names and get the release out there. 

After all, it’s already been checked over to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice and the only ones left have passed the sooper dooper clearance checks supposedly imposed by Collin’s predecessor after said predecessor got caught out in the whole Singleton business.

After all, at some point, even the conventional media might notice that the provincial court is short a few judges and that the vacancies are getting older and older with each passing day.



Ron said...

I suspect something more profound, than simple dithering, is at work.

For some time now, it has been suspected that that provincial bench is overloaded. You may recall that a study a couple of years ago pointed out that the judges in St. John's spend less than 20% of their time actually hearing cases. The delay in appointing judges gave a useful way to measure the effects. if any, of having fewer judges.

For example, Gander and Grand Falls do not need two judges each. Three is enough.

St. John's can get by just fine with eight, if the eight were showing up for work everyday. Government has a high degree of confidence in Mark Pike and it is likely that they were waiting to hear from him as to how many judges he actually needs and where he needs them.

While all four "vacancies" may well be filled this time. I suspect that as some more of the sicker and or lazier judges retire, not all of the positions will be filled.

WJM said...

Bring back the Legislative Council!

Ed Hollett said...

You could be correct Ron.

But then again, if memory serves, that same study also said one of the reason for that came from problems in court administration. Then there were a whole bunch of fixes to that which were supposed to deal with that problem.

One of the things done to deal with that - in addition to creating Mark Pike's first job (the associate or assistant deputy chief judge or whatever it was called) - was to create these supernumeries who could fill in part time and use vacant courts to hear the backlog of cases in some centres. There actually aren't four fewer judges since at least one of the retirees (Joe from Number Seven is still hearing cases as a relief judge/supernumary.

Still, there are probably places with courthouses that don't need them or where there could be fewer judges. Plcentia never got its full-timer after the last one retired. You pointed at Gander and GFW. Well, the whole Don Singleton fiasco point at that but the provgov was hardly about to reduce GFW's number of high priced government jobs at the same time as Abitibi was hauling out of town.

The problem here is probably a combination of the things you point out (a rationalisation and a rethink) but also a healthy amount of good old-fashioned government inertia and inefficiency.

Stephen Eli Harris said...

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Good luck!