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Justice minister mum on defamation suit filed by St. John's lawyer

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons.
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons. - The Telegram

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons has chosen to stay quiet about the defamation suit that has been filed against him, the department and three other cabinet ministers.

“I’m certainly not going to … make any further comment on that,” Parsons told reporters Monday afternoon following question period at the House of Assembly in St. John’s.

“Anything else I say can be used in that court, so I think at this point we’re just going to continue on the normal course of business and just let it play out in the courts.”

The defamation suit was filed Friday at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court by well-known St. John’s lawyer Bob Buckingham.

The statement of claim pleads that Parsons, Chris Mitchelmore, minister of tourism, culture, industry and innovation, Education Minister Dale Kirby and Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh, in interviews with members of the media, rebroadcast and published defamatory comments that were “malicious and high-handed.”

The comments were allegedly made following the government’s decision to make changes to the Legal Aid Act, which would remove a legal aid client’s option to choose a private practice lawyer. In particular, at issue is Parsons’ statement, “Buckingham is motivated by his own self interest and taxpayer dollars going into his pocket.”

Buckingham claims the other ministers supported Parsons’ comments through various forms of media and social media.

The statement of claim pleads for damages for defamation in the amount of $5 million, and $2.5 million for punitive and aggravated damages.

Parsons said he has read through the statement of claim, but when it comes to how the government will handle the case, nothing has been “set in stone at all in this matter.”

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