Lawyers question revamping of former justice department

The association that represents lawyers in Newfoundland and Labrador is seeking answers from Premier Paul Davis on why he replaced the former justice department with the new Department of Public Safey.
Premier Paul Davis overhauled several government departments while announcing his first cabinet on Sept. 30. (CBC)

The association that represents lawyers in Newfoundland and Labrador is seeking answers from Premier Paul Davis on why he replaced the former justice department with the new Department of Public Safety.

The provincial branch of the Canadian Bar Association has told its members that it wants answers on the major shift in the provincial government, but so far has learned nothing.

"The Department of Justice is a historical cornerstone of government and the CBA is disappointed that such a major change was implemented without any consultation with the CBA," said a letter sent to association members Thursday.

It was signed by president Beth McGrath and executive director Ashley Woodford.

Davis announced the overhaul on Sept. 30 while revealing his first cabinet, which included the appointment of unelected lawyer Judy Manning to the post.

No reply yet

McGrath said the CBA contacted Davis and Manning the next day, but so far have not received a reply.

"[We] appealed to the premier and minister of public safety to clarify how this new department will operate in relation to all justice matters, and particularly with respect to its prior stated vision for '[a] justice system that is accessible and understood, and which plays a key role in creating a fair, equitable and safe society where all people can pursue their lawful rights and freedoms,' " the CBA memo says.

"While the branch has not yet received a response from the premier or minister, we hope for the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialogue on this subject."

Manning's appointment — and her refusal to run in any upcoming byelections, preferring to wait until the general election next year — raised eyebrows in political circles, in part because she has only several years of experience as a lawyer, is the niece of Conservative Senator Fabian Manning and is the partner of Leo Power, the fund-raiser for Davis' leadership campaign.

The CBA does not address Manning's appointment in its letter.