The Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission says comments made by a Labrador judge criticizing the commission and its lawyers are way off base.
If anything, the commission says the dispute about Judge John Joy’s remarks has shed light on what are the real problems in the Labrador justice system.
“The commission takes issue with Judge Joy’s attack on Legal Aid,” states a letter sent as a media advisory via email Friday.
The statement comes just days after news that the provincial government has filed a formal complaint of misconduct against the Happy Valley-Goose Bay provincial court judge.
The Telegram reported Wednesday that Donovan Molloy, the director of public prosecutions, had filed the document earlier that day.
The government’s complaint objects to comments Joy made in a memo he sent to the Crown prosecutor’s office, Legal Aid and a few private lawyers.
In the 21-page memo, Joy criticizes the Crown and Legal Aid for such things as not providing enough services and acting unethically. He also was said to have complained about Legal Aid lawyers failing to meet with clients and leaving them to wait too long to discuss their cases.
The commission claims Joy is wrong in his attack on Legal Aid.
“Neither the commission nor its lawyers are in breach of their professional and ethical obligations to the people of Labrador or to the courts,” the letter states.
Legal Aid’s letter of response also says there are more significant issues with the justice system in Labrador that should be addressed.
“The public should not lose sight of the big picture and what the real problems are in Labrador.
“In some respects, Judge Joy has given a wake-up call. The problems are systematic. They have been known for decades and the necessary resources and funding have never been put in place.
“Justice in Labrador is in a state of crisis and has been for far too long. It is likely to worsen if something is not done about it very soon.”
Legal Aid plans to make a formal response to Joy’s comments at its next meeting in late April.
The complaint against Joy will go before the Judicial Complaints Review Committee, which will decide if punishment is warranted for Joy.
The committee will first decide whether there are enough grounds to proceed to a hearing.
The committee is comprised of provincial court Chief Judge Mark Pike, Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice Alphonsus Faour, alternate Justice Gillian Butler and former St. John's deputy mayor Shannie Duff, representing the public.