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Monday 23 October 2017
Editorial

A Judiciary in disarray

Part 2

The debacle of the Marcia Ayers-Caesar appointment and its rescission has clearly exhibited, at one level, the lack of competence of the Judiciary, particularly the Chief Justice and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) on a simple matter such as carrying out a due diligence exercise on the status of a prospective appointee and matters relating to her existing functions.

More troubling, however, is the attempt to invoke doubt and uncertainty and the dissimulation with respect to the truth about the actual course of events and the contents of conversations prior to the decision to appoint.

The public is fed different versions of what transpired but there can be only one version that conforms to the truth.

The irony is that the actors in this judicial drama hold office in an institution where members of the public who appear before the courts to make statements or give evidence are enjoined to swear “to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

The Law Association has called, justifiably or not, for the resignation of the Chief Justice as well as members of the JLSC.

Senior Counsel Martin Daly commented on the situation thus: “This fiasco is so troubling that some commentators, including myself, feel that the members of the JLSC have placed themselves in an untenable position, essentially for two reasons.

“The JLSC’s failure to carry out its own due diligence on the readiness of the appointee to assume her new appointment … With the JLSC’s lack of due diligence now exposed, I remind readers that the JLSC’s chairman, in response to earlier criticism, had assured us that rigorous processes had been followed. That assurance now lies in tatters.

“The second reason the position of the JLSC is untenable is its lack of awareness of the impropriety of appointing or restoring someone to the judicial office of magistrate after that person has admitted to providing misleading information to the JLSC” (Sunday Express 7/5/17).

Whether such action was intentional or unintentional is a matter of speculation.

The resolution passed by the Law Association is a mere formality not to be taken seriously since holders of high office in this country have not been known to abide by the conventions of other political cultures to accept responsibility or voluntarily resign from office.

Indeed, the Chief Justice as chairman of the JLSC has proclaimed that there is nothing further to be said and the matter is effectively closed, thus exhibiting a similar dismissive attitude as he did with queries about the frequency of his travels. Then one has to take into account the fact that this is a country of the “nine-day wonder” where people are afflicted by a short attention span and where one scandal is consigned to oblivion only to be replaced by another scandal in quick succession, eg the merry-go-round of the inter-island ferry and now allegations of corruption at Petrotrin with the “fake oil” issue.

There is little doubt that the faux pas of the appointment of Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a judge and the prior circumstances and subsequent consequences of that appointment have greatly damaged the reputation of the Judiciary and undermined public confidence in it.

To comment on this dysfunctionality of the Judiciary, the character of which is pervasive of public administration and political decision-making generally, there is need to examine a critical deficiency in the mechanics of governance in this country, to wit the lack of transparency in decision-making, lack of accountability for performance, absence of sanctions, and a deluge of spin. Martin Daly recently proclaimed that there is need “for accountability in the Judiciary” (Express 29/4/17). This matter of accountability is not a new issue.

I raised it many years ago in Parliament and wrote about it as recently as 12/1/15.

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