Senior Law Association member Reginald Armour SC yesterday said "systemic errors" led to appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers Caesar as a High Court judge. However he added, "There is clearly room for a lot of correction but I don't think we should pull the entire administration of justice down to correct those systemic errors." Armour made these comments to reporters following a service at the Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain,which formed part of the ceremonial opening of the 2017-2018 law term.
Asked to comment on the issue of accountability in the Judiciary in response to the topic being raised during the service by former Canadian High Commissioner to TT, Gerard Latulippe, Armour replied, "We all have to put shoulder to the wheel. all of us have a role to play and we would play that role better by participating rather than by declining to participate." While the interior of the cathedral was not filled during the service, Armour said, "I thought it was a decent turnout."
Armour could not tell whether or not the number of lawyers in the cathedral for the service meant there was any kind of boycott of the law term opening by lawyers. " I can't judge quite frankly because I don't normally come to the church. I usually go to the Convocation Hall in the Hall of justice," he said. Armour added this was the first time in five years, he had attended the service.
On Latulippe's remarks that in Canada, a chief justice can file a complaint against a judge, Armour said, "Canada has its own constitutional framework as does TT." He explained that in TT, "
there is quite an evolved, elaborate process for disciplining judges under Section 137 of our Constitution." Armour reminded reporters,"The Chief Justice is not the person to discipline judges."
He said Section 137 of the Constitution states, this role is performed by a tribunal which subsequently makes recommendations to the President. While admitting there will always be room for improvement, Armour said, "That will have to be done by constitutional amendment. While he was uncertain that such a question arose on that issue at this time, Armour said the legal profession, "
would be prepared to contribute to a full lively discussion on what ultimately will be constitutional amendments."
President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Speaker of the House of Representatives Bridgid Annisette-George, Senate President Christine Kangaloo and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds attended the service. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was absent.
In his address, Latulippe noted TT's high crime rates and said it was time to reset this country's criminal justice system. He praised Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Al-Rawi and Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard for taking meaningful steps in this direction.