Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies

Article Title

"This is What the Others Have Done": The Impact of Confederation on the Use of Precedent in Newfoundland Supreme Court Decisions From 1932-1958


Confederation with Canada in 1949 marked a drastic change in Newfoundland’s identity as it moved from Dominion to province. The impact reverberated throughout all aspects of life in Newfoundland, including the legal system. Studying the case law pre- and post-Confederation in its historical context illustrates the development of the use of precedent by the Newfoundland judiciary and emerging patterns where Canadian law was more likely to be considered. Paying particular attention to cases heard by the Newfoundland Supreme Court, which stemmed from or were influenced by the legal difficulties arising from the Confederation, as well as the evolution of the bench itself, reveals when the shift occurred from the dominance of British law over the Court’s decisions to the infiltration and ultimate acceptance of Canadian law. The author examines the case law from 1932-1958, dividing it into three distinct periods, which move from a strong adherence to British authority, to the recognition that non-British precedent was gaining influence, to finally surrendering to the newfound supremacy of Canadian law. In conclusion, although Newfoundland’s own legal precedents that were made prior to Confederation appeared insignificant once the province was subsumed under Canadian jurisdiction, the Justices of the Newfoundland Supreme Court were committed to applying the law in a practical manner that remained faithful to the needs and values of the Newfoundland people.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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