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CJ seeks court’s comfort

Published: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Law body gets time to prepare as...
Attorneys Christopher Hamel Smith, left, Jason Mootoo and Rishi Dass leave the Hight Court last night after filling an injunction on Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s behalf. PICTURE KERWIN PIERRE

Embattled Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s keenly anticipated legal showdown with the Law Association of T&T, over its decision to investigate allegation of misconduct levelled against him, is set for Friday.

Archie’s lawyers kicked off the proceedings yesterday, after they filed a judicial review lawsuit challenging the LATT’s decision and an application seeking an injunction barring it from continuing its investigation.

The lawsuit was filed around 5 pm, with an emergency hearing being listed before Justice Nadia Kangaloo.

During the hearing, lead attorney for the association, Christopher Hamel-Smith, requested a short adjournment to give it time to analyse the case and prepare a response. While he admitted the case should be dealt with expeditiously, Hamel-Smith questioned Archie’s haste, as he pointed out that he (Archie) was aware of the course of action adopted by the association’s executive since November last year.

Archie’s lawyer, Ian Benjamin, disagreed, saying the lawsuit was only filed after the association announced on Monday that a special general meeting to discuss the investigation and what action, if any, should be taken had been set.

“This undermines the administration of justice and compromises it,” Benjamin said.

After brief discussions between the parties, they grudgingly came to a compromise to postpone the case to Friday morning.

Yesterday’s hearing began with Kangaloo questioning Archie’s absence, noting claimants are required to attend all hearings of their case unless given permission by a judge. His lawyers said he was on his way, but he only arrived shortly before the hearing was adjourned and sat by himself in a corner of the court.

In his pre-action protocol letter sent last Thursday, Archie questioned whether an investigation was within the association’s remit under the Legal Profession Act.

His lawyers also accused the association of being biased based on the no confidence motion it passed against him and members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), over their handling of the short-lived judicial appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar in June last year.

Archie is claiming that Section 137 of the Constitution provides the only avenue to investigate his conduct. Under the section, the President appoints a tribunal after misconduct allegations against a CJ are referred by the Prime Minister. The tribunal, which includes a chairman and at least two other members, all with judicial experience in Commonwealth jurisdictions, will then investigate and make recommendations.

In its response, the association said it is required to “represent and protect the interests of the legal profession” and it is entitled to investigate where allegations have been made concerning the conduct of the CJ, which can negatively impact on confidence in the administration of justice.

“As with all public officials, your client’s conduct is subject to public scrutiny. The CJ is no exception to this rule,” the association’s lawyers said in their response to Archie’s legal threat, sent last Friday.

The controversy surrounding Archie arose late last year following a series of media reports which accused him of using his office to request Housing Development Corporation housing for people he knew and that he discussed the issue of security for judges with someone who was not a judge. Archie has responded to the allegations once via press release, denying he discussed judges’ security with anyone but admitting to suggesting persons for HDC housing. However, he has repeatedly refused the association’s request to directly respond to the allegations.

The association is also being represented by Jason Mootoo, Rishi Dass and Robin Otway, while John Jeremie, SC, Kerwyn Garcia and Keith Scotland are appearing alongside Benjamin.

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