New Brunswick

Minister asks chief justice to clarify transfer of judge without approval

Justice Minister Denis Landry says he's seeking "clarity" about the transfer of a Court of Queen's Bench justice to Fredericton from Saint John, which was made without his approval.

David Smith went ahead with transfer of judge without waiting for minister's OK

Justice Minister Denis Landry says he wants the Chief Justice David Smith to clarify his decision to transfer Justice Thomas Christie to Fredericton from Saint John without approval. (CBC)

Justice Minister Denis Landry says he's seeking "clarity" about the transfer of a Court of Queen's Bench justice to Fredericton from Saint John, which was made without his approval.

In an emailed statement Friday, Landry said he has asked Chief Justice David Smith whether his decision to transfer Justice Thomas Christie is permanent or temporary, made while the minister decides "whether to consent to this move."

Landry's brief statement was issued the day after he got a letter from Smith informing him that Christie was being assigned immediately to Fredericton.

Landry began the statement with a declaration of his respect for the judiciary and judicial independence.

Chief justice responds 

Smith told Landry in a letter Thursday that Christie was 'assigned immediately' to Fredericton. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The minister was not available for an interview at the legislature Friday.

Asked by CBC News to respond to Landry's statement, Smith said Christie's transfer is permanent. 

He said he had nothing further to add. 

Smith had informed Landry on Nov. 6 that he wanted to transfer Christie as of Nov. 15, but Landry refused to approve the decision quickly. He said he wanted to consult with the federal government and local lawyers first.

Smith's decision to transfer Christie anyway was a direct challenge to new sections of the Judicature Act passed in May that say the chief justice must get the consent of the minister before transferring a judge.

Delay causing "difficulties" 

Christie recused himself from hearing a case against the province after his request for a transfer was not approved. (Pro Bono Students Canada)

Because Landry withheld his approval of the transfer last month, Christie recused himself from a legal dispute between the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and the province, saying he couldn't hear the case while the government was involved in a decision involving where he would sit as a judge.

In his letter, Smith said the delay was "causing difficulties which are disruptive to the functioning of the court."

Smith's letter to the minister on Thursday, which the CBC News obtained, did not suggest the transfer of Smith to Fredericton would be temporary. 

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