Now on the payroll, Peter Ralph won’t speak to the media
Six months ago, St. John’s lawyer Peter Ralph was an outspoken critic of provincial government layoffs in the Department of Justice. On Tuesday, he wouldn’t speak to The Telegram about his new job in the Department of Justice.
Ralph was hired without the job being publicly advertised, and without any sort of competition, according to a spokesman with the provincial government.
But last spring, shortly after the 2013 Budget was tabled in the House of Assembly, he was blasting the government for deep cuts and layoffs in the justice system. At the time he was with the high-profile firm Simmonds and Partners Defence.
“There will be some charges that they’ll have to either withdraw or not prosecute because of the number of prosecutors in the office,” Ralph told CBC News back in late March. “I have spoken to many prosecutors about this since the budget announcement yesterday, and that’s certainly the sense they’re giving me.”
In another interview with the CBC, Ralph — an experienced criminal lawyer with expertise in mental health law — said that the justice cuts would likely increase the number of wrongful convictions.
Those cuts were partially rolled back, after the government lifted its civil service hiring freeze.
Justice Minister Darin King wouldn’t speak to The Telegram for this story, and wouldn’t explain whether his department is hiring again.
But according to budget documents, the average salary for a civil law solicitor — the job Ralph will be doing — is more than $118,000.
The Department of Justice spokesman emailed a statement to The Telegram on King’s behalf.
“While we don’t typically comment on internal (human resources) matters, I can confirm that Mr. Ralph has been hired in the department’s civil division. He is an experienced and capable litigator whose skill set will be an asset in filling a recent vacancy in the division’s litigation unit,” the statement said.
“The recruitment of lawyers falls outside the parameters of the Public Service Commission Act as per Section 4 (1). The civil division often recruits lawyers through its articling program or by seeking experienced lawyers with a particular expertise through a direct-hire process.”
Liberal justice critic Andrew Parsons said he has no reason to believe that Ralph is unqualified for the job, but contends the timing is certainly suspicious.
Parsons said the optics look an awful lot like hiring a critic to silence him.
“It’s one of those things where technically it’s acceptable, but in light of everything that’s gone on, it does raise questions,” he said. “Is it just an amazing coincidence? Or not? I don’t know.”
The Telegram tried to contact Ralph to ask him about his take on the justice cuts and hiring in the Department of Justice.
He replied to an email, saying, “You will have to speak to the communications people within government. Take care.”