Top News

Editorial: Winners and losers

['"Scales of Justice" statue representing the Roman goddess of justice personifying moral force. (Photo via wikimedia commons)']
Who wins and who loses in a legal battle is not always clear cut. — Stock photo

Keeping score in legal cases is pretty much a mug’s game.

Sure, sometimes there are clear wins, and justice prevails.

Other times, though, it’s a torturous march of legal bills and court dates.

And then, there’s Galway vs. the City of St. John’s.

No matter what anyone is claiming, “winning” looks a little elusive.

Former premier Danny Williams took the city to court, arguing that he was being treated unfairly, saying in an affidavit that the city had treated his company in an “arbitrary, ad hoc and discriminatory manner” while “the city breaches its own regulations at will.”

As he told CBC, “I have trouble describing to you and to people generally what I’m experiencing down there. We’re doing it by the book; every single nut and bolt and piece of pavement has been approved and inspected and has been signed off by the city ... and all of a sudden they throw another roadblock.”

No matter what anyone is claiming, “winning” looks a little elusive.

In court, his lawyer, Jerome Kennedy, was even more direct: “Williams does not trust the city. He’s $100 million in and they’re trying to screw him.”

So, was Williams being treated unfairly by the city and its staff?

The judge in the case, Frances Knickle, writes: “On the material that was before the court, the developer’s contention cannot be sustained. To the contrary, on a review of all the materials placed before the court, it is evident that the city has gone to great lengths to accommodate the developer. In particular, the city agreed to … permitting the developer to build multiple residential units in that area, notwithstanding that the necessary infrastructure had yet to be completed.”

On another issue, Williams wanted the court to order that city council had to handle development agreements instead of city staff. That, the judge said, “is without merit and is dismissed. There was no basis in the material provided to establish that there was an ‘issue’ to be addressed…”

Williams’ company successfully argued that developers should be able to go to the courts and sue over development concerns, instead of agreeing to deal with differences in arbitration — a decision that may result in more court cases against the city.

The city, though, had a clear reason for seeking arbitration as a solution: lower costs.

The judge found, “The city’s desire to use arbitration as a means to resolve disputes arising in a development agreement is not in bad faith but is reasonable.”

All the winning?

It really is in the eye of the beholder. Williams and other developers can now choose court instead of arbitration.

And that tortuous march of legal bills? The court costs that the City of St. John’s has paid for just this single court challenge will top $129,000.

So, look at this all again, and ask yourself the question — who’s the winner?

And who loses?

Hello, taxpayers.

Recent Stories