Extra money budgeted for lawyers as St. John's faces more lawsuits

Simply put: the city is facing more litigation.

Budget 2019 earmarks $250K for external legal fees

Coun. Dave Lane says the city adjusted the budget to more accurately reflect how much the city has been spending on legal services in recent years. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The City of St. John's has set aside extra money for external legal fees for the next year, and the reason is simple: it's getting sued more. 

"I think that we are being litigated against more frequently," said Coun. Dave Lane.

The city has budgeted $1.8 million for legal services for 2019. 

That includes an extra $250,000 for external legal services. 

Lane said the city adjusted the budget to more accurately reflect the amount being spent on legal services in the past two to three years.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division building on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John's. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

It's a litigious world that we're living in, Lane said.

"I also think that in the past five, 10 years, we have really put a focus on being consistent with following policy and being fair to all developers, all residents and all businesses," Lane told reporters following Monday's budget speech. 

"And really, what that ends up [meaning] is that there is another avenue people can take, to try to see if they can get their way or find an answer to a problem and sometimes that's litigation."

A quick look at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador docket shows the City of St. John's has three matters currently before the courts, from mid-December to early January.

More publicly, the city and Danny Williams were embroiled in a legal battle beginning last year over the huge Galway development in the city's southwest end.

The former premier filed an application with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in November 2017. The civil suit argued the city had "exceeded its authority" in withholding additional building permits until Williams agreed to give up his right to take the city to court if any disputes arose.

Meanwhile, Lane said he hopes the legal spats of the past will settle.

"We're coming out with our very clear, very easy-to-read development regulations very soon," he said. "I hope that that helps with that problem."

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