Labrador judge reprimanded for 2014 comments on prosecutors and legal aid
A provincial court judge was reprimanded for making critical comments about Crown attorneys and legal aid lawyers in Labrador in 2014.
The court’s decision now appears final, after a seven-year process that cost up to seven figures in legal fees – a bill paid by taxpayers – and ended long after John Joy retired from the bench .
Last summer, a court ruled that Joy’s conduct deserved punishment.
The list of possible consequences included suspension or even removal from office.
But since Joy retired in 2017, the court ruled that the “only realistic option” was a reprimand.
Joy appealed the two court decisions, stemming from two separate complaints filed under the Provincial Court Act – one from the Director of Public Prosecutions and the other from Legal Aid.
But ultimately, last month, he dropped those two appeals to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Series of motions to tribunal and court
Over the years, Joy’s attorney has filed several procedural motions with the tribunal and the Supreme Court, challenging various aspects of the process.
Taxpayers paid nearly $ 1 million in legal bills through the end of 2019, according to documents obtained by CBC News through Freedom of Information.
According to government records, most of that amount – a shadow of less than $ 700,000 – went to Lewis Day, the law firm representing Joy.
In an email to CBC News, attorney David Day said the province’s legal counsel “has always been vigilant in reviewing my bills.”
He added that these invoices were subject to assessment and taxation by a prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, if the province so requested. This process gives the authority to review and assess whether a lawyer’s fees are reasonable for the services provided. Day said the full amount of invoices assessed through this process has been approved.
First complaint related to a memorandum sent by email
The first of the two cases involved an email Joy sent to lawyers, court officials and other judges in March 2014.
Donovan Molloy – who was then director of public prosecutions in Newfoundland and Labrador and has since been appointed a judge in the Northwest Territories – filed the complaint.
Molloy’s testimony in court challenged Joy’s suggestion that “crown attorneys were practicing in violation of the code of conduct” and “allegations of racial bias.”
Molloy said these suggestions “had very significant potential to undermine and undermine public confidence in the administration of justice in Labrador in particular but, potentially, in the province as a whole.”
In its decision, the court noted that Joy “expressed a sincere desire to remedy the problems he considered problematic for legal operations in Labrador.”
But the court said Joy’s memorandum went “far beyond what would reasonably be considered an acceptable comment by a judge” and contained “unfounded accusations of misconduct” by crown prosecutors.
“Throughout the long history of these procedures [Joy] never admitted that the criticisms of Crown attorneys and the Director of Public Prosecutions or the language he used in the memorandum were inappropriate, ”the ruling notes.
2nd complaint from Legal Aid
The Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission also filed a complaint against Joy, both for comments he made in open court in Natuashish in early 2014 and also via the memorandum sent by mail. electronic soon after.
Joy’s remarks in the courtroom criticizing a junior legal aid lawyer “may not have been a model of patience or courtesy,” the court ruled, but did not violate ethical principles judges.
The memorandum, however, was a different story, containing “unfounded accusations of misconduct” by Legal Aid lawyers.
“Neither the shortcomings of the justice system nor the perceived difficulties in its relations or its channels of communication with the Office of the Chief Justice justify [Joy] criticize [Legal Aid] like he did, ”the ruling noted.
“The tribunal is convinced that the commentary to the memorandum gives rise to a reasonable fear of a lack of impartiality which could call into question [Joy’s] ability to perform the functions of his office.
The three-member tribunal consisted of a judge from Prince Edward Island, the chief justice of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal and a non-lawyer.
Under the province’s court indemnity policy, taxpayers foot the bill for any external legal fees incurred in the process.
None of the parties involved have commented to CBC News on the court’s rulings.
The statement emailed by Joy’s attorney only addressed the issue of legal fees.
Legal aid officials and Molloy declined to comment.
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