Chief Justice Ivor Archie
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — In Trinidad on Thursday night, the Law Association called on Chief Justice Ivor Archie to step down after passing no-confidence motions against Archie and members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) over its handling of the short-lived appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.
Controversy and recriminations arose in April following the appointment of Ayers-Caesar as a high court judge without any or adequate consideration being given by any of those involved to her extensive list of over 50 part-heard matters in the magistrates’ court, which may now lead to the dismissal of many of the cases.
Local lawyers said that the chief justice and the JLSC should have had knowledge and access to any information on any part-heard matters before the chief magistrate and was under an obligation to provide the information to the JLSC before her appointment was made.
Five motions expressing a loss of confidence in Archie and the JLSC and calling upon them to resign were passed by an average ratio of two to one during a special meeting of almost 500 members of the association at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday afternoon.
After the results were announced, Martin Daly SC said the outcome was a victory for the pursuit of accountability for public officials.
“If you have a blunder, you must accept responsibility. One of the things that was raised was the fact that there was no apology, or as I like to say a beg pardon. I believe that tolled against them and people felt that they had been disrespected,” Daly said.
He said while the vote had no binding effect on Archie and the JLSC, they should do the “honourable thing” and immediately resign.
“If people lose confidence in you, it does not mean that you have committed a constitutional wrong, but rather that you have conducted yourself in such a way that you’ve destroyed people’s confidence in you and you cannot continue to preside,” Daly said.
President of the association Douglas Mendes SC explained that the vote was merely the legal fraternity expressing its opinion on the issue. He said the motions did not constitute impeachment proceedings against the chief justice, which can only be initiated by the prime minister.
Archie became the youngest chief justice in Trinidad and Tobago after he was appointed in January 2008. His appointment came almost ten years after he was appointed a High Court judge and four years after he was promoted to the Court of Appeal.
He had previously been employed by the governments of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands as senior crown counsel and solicitor general.
The move in Trinidad also drew comment from Dominican attorney at law, Cabral Douglas, who has been calling for similar action to be taken against Caribbean Court of Justice president, Sir Dennis Byron, and used the occasion to call on the OECS/Dominica Bar Associations, to follow suit.
“Just recently the OECS and Dominica Bar Associations publically attacked me for exposing corruption at the CCJ, I would like to use this occasion to remind them that their mandate is to protect and maintain the integrity of the court, and not to support blatant corruption, or individual personalities involved in corrupt practices,” he said.
Douglas called the vote a peoples’ victory: “The law court do not belong to the politicians, and they do not belong to the judges, they are public servants, the law courts belong to the people, whose tax dollars pay their salaries, so this outcome must be viewed as a peoples’ victory!”
Douglas, who has been drumming up regional support for similar action to be taken against Byron, stated in a May 25, letter to the Regional Judicial Legal Services Commission that: “Unless Sir Dennis Byron elects to tender his resignation with immediate effect, we will be seeking to refer the matter to the heads of government for adjudication under Part 6 of Article IX I order o protect the integrity of the court, at which time the clear and unambiguous case of corruption against Sir Dennis will be proven beyond doubt.”
Douglas has alleged that Byron had colluded with Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit in rendering a CCJ judgement against him back February.