Law school not our top priority

John Crosbie
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First in a two-part series


Memorial University has started a public consultation on the feasibility of a law school, which has caused me to offer the following considerations about our judicial facilities, our legal system and how lawyers are performing in our society.

And there are other such issues where decisions must be made, certainly if public funding is to be provided by the provincial government for a proposed law school, since there are currently very great needs in the province for improved facilities for the courts.

I note the opinion of Athenian legislator Solon, who wrote in 575 BC that “laws, like cobwebs, entangle the weak, but are broken by the strong.”

Another opinion to keep in mind as we consider the issues was given by Samuel Smiles in a self-help book he wrote in 1989, making this point: “no laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident or the drunk sober.”  

People who have disputes or are litigious should remember the advice given by John Clarke in 1639, who advised that if you “sue a beggar you’ll get a louse.”

One important issue to think about is whether the fact that we don’t have a law school in our province has resulted in great difficulty for those who might want to become lawyers. I am not aware and do not believe we have had any great problems caused by this fact.

When my granddaughter became a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society on June 10, 2011, she was enrolled as the 1,522nd member. Checking in July 2013, I learned that the last member to be enrolled in the law society was No. 1,598.

At the end of the Second World War in September 1945, there were just 202 members in the law society entitled to practise law in this province.

I was struck by a story in The Telegram on July 26, where Newfoundlander Shawn Kavanagh was reported to be leaving the province to study law in New Brunswick and told The Telegram that “he’s absolutely fine with that.” He said having to head across the Gulf of St. Lawrence didn’t affect his decision to study law one bit. He said he had already moved out of the province once for university, so doing it a second time is nothing new to him.

So, the question might be whether it is worth using our limited provincial government financial resources to build a law school at Memorial at this time, since it is very likely that is where the funds would come from for such a project.

Just three years ago, the province spent $21 million replacing the court facilities in Corner Brook. Those replacements were certainly needed and could not be objected to, but still, the judges, lawyers, witnesses and people who have to use our court facilities in St. John’s remain in primitive, overcrowded, inadequate space.

In the provincial courts system of our province we now have 22 judges, including eight women, in locations such as St. John’s, Corner Brook, Gander, Stephenville, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Harbour Grace, Clarenville, Grand Bank and Wabush. Supreme Court judges are located in Labrador and other centres in the province.

It is essential that we replace the totally inadequate, primitive and overcrowded space now devoted to court and judicial facilities in St. John’s — the main area where Supreme Court trial and appeal and provincial judges operate. Anyone having to do legal business or attend the court facilities in St. John’s realizes this at once.


Next week: Mounting pressures


John Crosbie welcomes your feedback by email at

Organizations: Supreme Court, Grand Bank

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Corner Brook, New Brunswick Stephenville Happy Valley Goose Bay Wabush

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Recent comments

  • sean flynn
    August 12, 2013 - 20:38

    What a bunch of claptrap. Who ever said it has to be either a law school or updated courthouses, not both? I believe law schools usually charge tuition, which goes to pay for the cost of the school, whereas courthouses are paid for solely through tax dollars, except the measly fines that low lifes pay to get off with assault and armed robbery. As Mr. Crosbie quoted, sue a begger, get a louse. A law school would provide an opportunity to study law at home, cut down on mounting student debt, and give foreign students another reason to come and spend their money here.