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Judge moves for urgent hearing of case
High Court judge James Aboud is expected to determine the State’s interpretation lawsuit over sabbatical leave for judges shortly after the 2018/2019 Law Term opens in September.
Addressing lawyers during a preliminary hearing of the case in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, Aboud said he wanted the case to be dealt with expeditiously.
“This is not a complicated matter. It is a simple matter of reports, statements and the Hansard,” Aboud said as he suggested he would not need much time after the trial of the case on July 31 to deliver a judgment.
However, he was careful to note that his haste was not based on a vested interest in the outcome but rather the importance of the case and his heavy case-load for the remainder of the year.
During yesterday’s hearing, the State’s legal team was granted permission to remove the Judicial and Legal Service Commission ( JLSC) from the lawsuit.
Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson indicated that the JLSC was wrongly added to the lawsuit as it is a disciplinary body that could not assist in determining the issue.
The Law Association was instead named as defendant to the claim and the Judges of the Supreme Court as interested parties.
Nelson gave an undertaking that the State would not seeking legal costs against either party in the event it is eventually successful in the lawsuit.
Aboud also gave the parties deadlines for filing evidence and submissions in the case for the trial, next month.
The sabbatical leave controversy arose in March, when it was revealed that then President Anthony Carmona had approved a six months leave for Archie to participate in a programme at the United States Federal Judicial Institute in Washington, DC.
In his application to Carmona, Archie quoted the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) report for 2013, which stated that the sabbatical scheme was agreed to “in principle”.
The issue was then examined by a committee led by then Appellate Judge and current President Paula Mae Weekes, which submitted a report in 2014. Weekes was the only person other than Archie to have applied for a sabbatical and her request was denied.
In response to the issue, the Government and a group of outspoken Judges questioned whether the both reports had been transformed into official policy.
Archie reversed his position following public criticism and instead opted to utilise 35 weeks of accrued vacation leave.
However, this too was challenged as it was revealed that Judges do not benefit from roll over unused vacation leave.
Archie eventually left the country in late March, as he agreed to take six weeks leave.
Archie cut his leave short after his mother passed away, last month. He then proceeded on six more weeks leave, which took into consideration his unused days in the first period, pubic holidays within both periods and his official attendance at several international conferences.
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