Thursday, 4 April 2013


This case won’t be heard by any of the men and women of the blue robe and red sash. Judges have their role; but, in this narrative, it is one only of proximity.  The decision, I describe, is purely political.  The justice system may be affected, perhaps, profoundly. But, the full rationale for Jerome Kennedy’s assault on Newfoundland’s criminal justice system won’t be understood until after the next Tory Leadership Convention.

The so-called “austerity” Budget abolished the Family Violence Intervention Court, sent a number of Crown Prosecutors and Parole Officers packing and, among other measures, laid off 50% of the staff of the Office of the Sheriff.
The measures have been sold, to the public, as an integral part of the cost cutting program of the Dunderdale Government.  Yet, the cuts, in their totality, have no parallel.

Most people, because of their limited knowledge of how the justice system works, will find their impact difficult to assess.  These are not issues, anyway, that engender great public sympathy.  Few, except judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and advocates, give them any real thought, at least until an event transpires that compromises public security.  The public will get worked up, but only if a case is dropped after years of neglect by an overworked prosecutorial staff, if a parolee re-offends, who has been found not to have been properly monitored, or if there is a miscarriage of justice, once again.
When one of these news stories breaks, as inevitably it will, the Justice Minister will be called on the carpet.  Darin King may feel comfortable defending the cuts, right now, but ignorance is bliss.  Remember, it is not King but Lawyer Kennedy, masquerading as Kathy Dunderdale’s pit bull, who has an intimate knowledge of how all these decisions will play out.

King, not a lawyer, is nevertheless, smart and well educated.  However, in the often arcane world of the law, even lawyers are challenged by myriad technical and administrative complexities. Intelligence or education, in an unrelated field, is simply inadequate.  Were he schooled in that business he would, at least, be capable of recognizing the risks inherent in staff shortages or other policy changes. 

Kennedy, a former Justice Minister, was able to extract from the Justice Department, with King’s unwitting approval, the key elements of his own undoing.  King has been set up. He just doesn’t know it, yet.
As public anger erupts following the first reports of perverted justice, the Budget fallout will, by then, have subsided.  Darin King, as Minister of Justice, not Finance Minister Kennedy, will be the one forced to justify last week’s evisceration of the criminal justice system. It is he who will have to respond to the indefensible. Kennedy’s trap will have been sprung.

Why would Jerome Kennedy engage in such an elaborate and risky strategy given its potential costs to society and specifically to the cause of criminal justice?  Why would Kennedy set up a play whose consequences could possibly nullify the career goals of another colleague?  I suggest you now park your altruism and your sense of fair play.
Jerome Kennedy wants to be Premier.  He doesn’t want Darin King to get the job. King may be the person most capable of becoming Dunderdale’s replacement, but Kennedy has ambitions, too, and he is the one most capable of frustrating King’s.

What about Kathy Dunderdale?
I believe the current Premier will enjoy a brief tenure.  Anyone who has closely examined last week’s Budget document can see that the pain of retrenchment has barely begun.  Public sector wage negotiations threaten a long year of political acrimony.  The Polls consistently confirm that the Northeast Avalon has experienced a seismic shift to the NDP; even rural Newfoundland is far from a safe bet.  The next two years will see a variety of machinations, but the reality is, if she were to stay on, Dunderdale will be seeking re-election on her own coattails, not those of Danny Williams. I am betting Dunderdale will move on, not willingly perhaps, but she will go.  Her parting will make available the ultimate golden chalice for a provincial politician.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is on the front benches slaying dragons having just faced down the Opposition Parties and the critics on Muskrat Falls.  As the ‘slash n’ burn’ Minister, exorcising the Williams/Dunderdale excesses, finesse not being one of his strong points, he must face down dozens of angry groups out for his political hide. It is a thankless job and a Minister in that position, is unhappy when he has to take the lash while ambitious Ministers, like Darin King, get a free ride.
These cut backs may thwart the cause of justice; but, the cost pales when stacked against the ambitions of the conspiratorial Finance Minister.  He will take the hits now; he expects, in time, they will begin fade, as they always do.  He may even return to the Justice portfolio, in a timely manner, to fix Darin King’s screw up. 

Choose whatever scenario you please; Kennedy is not Dunderdale’s henchman, for free.  The Premiership is the price of his continuing loyalty.

It seems funny, that we should be worried about the cause of justice, when it may suffice if we kept an eye out for the long knives.