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‘Serious cut tail for CJ’

Published: 
Saturday, August 18, 2018

Last Thursday, the Privy Council delivered what many consider to be a scathing judgment against the Chief Justice of T&T, the Honourable Ivor Archie.

Owing to the seriousness of the matter, the Privy Council noted that “The courts in Trinidad and Tobago have dealt with this important and sensitive matter with commendable speed. The

Board has likewise expedited the hearing of the Chief Justice’s appeal.”

The Privy Council heard this case on July 23, 2018, and delivered its judgment in less than a month’s time. Would the Caribbean Court of Justice (if it was this country’s final appellate court) deliver such a judgment in record timing?

The entire country should be commending the various courts for the speed in which they dealt with this matter. But this is not so when looked upon by the “fair-minded and informed observer.” There are people whose “private suit” cases are languishing in the local court system. We remember how expeditiously a special elite police group hunted down a cell phone for Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s son. Or how many ministers are escorted with police detail and blue lights flashing and blaring sirens on the rest of us who are stuck in traffic and have absolutely nowhere to move.

Our system seem suited to helping its own whilst others die in the process of accessing it. A sort of corpocracy where the affluent helps its own.

Moving along, my reading of the Privy Council’s judgment was that despite the eloquence of the CJ’s legal team, the PC stated that “…each of the grounds of appeal relied upon by the Chief Justice must be rejected and that this appeal is dismissed.” After treating with the CJ’s grounds of appeal individually, it employed use of language that they “MUST BE REJECTED.” I pointed out in earlier articles, the PC is very crisp and cute with articulating its reasoning. They employ English language in a manner that their judgments withstand the test of time.

To break down the effect of the Privy Council’s ruling in simple local parlance, the CJ got a “serious cut tail” (for further meaning of this local phrase, see page 54 of Cote ci Cote la under heading ‘CUT A..’). Following the delivery of the ruling, CJ Archie issued a press release stating inter alia that he was “nonetheless heartened by the decision…” Chief Justice Archie said that he brought the proceedings because the Law Association (Latt) declared that they could hold a member of the Judiciary “to account.”

But the PC was at pains to point out that the Latt had in fact written to CJ Archie stating, inter alia that it fully appreciated that it had no power to compel him to respond and that it had no disciplinary or other power in relation to him. (See paragraphs 11, 40 of judgment).

In attempting to vindicate his resort to the courts, the Chief Justice somehow seeks to rely upon a statement of the Privy Council that “The Latt will be conscious of any possible legal constraints relating to the publication of its report” (See paragraph 24 of judgment). Far from connecting with the ratio decidendi of the case, this statement, when taken in context, meant that the Latt had already proceeded with considerable caution and that if anyone was able to conduct an investigation and present its conclusions in a responsible manner, it was the Latt.

That statement was meant as a statement of fact that the Latt has been acting properly on all accounts.

So whilst the CJ is heartened by the decision of the PC, many are disheartened by his press release. His press release seem to suggest that he will approach the courts yet again, should he find disfavour with any steps the Latt takes in the interest of accountability. This is just plainly wrong as a matter of common sense and principles held by decent-minded citizens of our society. I here wish to ask who has been paying the CJ’s costs of these proceedings thus far. I hope that it is not the taxpayers.

Senior attorneys have already spoken out on the negative impact the allegations surrounding the CJ has had on the confidence reposed in the Judiciary. The CJ’s refusal to respond and/or refute allegations is embarrassing on the rest of T&T.

International press has been lapping up the Privy Council’s ruling much to the embarrassment of T&T.

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