Chief Justice Ivor Archie assures that the Judiciary ‘remains stable’ and resolute in the discharge of its mandate as he rubbished the notion that the body of which he leads was in turmoil. Archie sidestepped the imbroglio surrounding the elevation of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a judge of the High Court, her sudden resignation and the resulting muddle of unresolved cases she left behind.
In his address to an audience of judges, lawyers and diplomats at the ceremonial opening of the 2017/2018 Law Term at the Convocation Hall of the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain yesterday, Archie instead issued a one-line assurance towards the end of his one-hour long address that the magistracy will get some attention this year.
He said it would be inappropriate for him to refer in detail to matters that were before the court, alluding to the Ayers-Caesar fiasco. Ayers-Caesar, who was appointed a judge of the High Court on April 12, is now challenging what she said was a revocation of her appointment as a judge. She has insisted that she did not resign her office voluntarily but was forced to do so.
SENIOR COUNSEL STAY AWAY
There was a noticeable absence of members of the inner bar yesterday, as several of the 11 Senior Counsel who met and spoke out on the Ayers-Caesar controversy - including Criminal Bar Association president Pamela Elder, Israel Khan, Avory Sinanan, Martin Daly - were absent from yesterday’s law term opening.
Those who attended were Law Association President Douglas Mendes, SC; Reginald Armour, SC; Russell Martineau, SC; and Stanley Marcus, SC. Sources said the absence of the majority of the inner bar (Senior Counsel) was telling since it was those senior lawyers who were personally invited to the opening of the law term by the Judiciary. Also, absent from the dais behind the Chief Justice were 10 of the 45 judges of the Supreme Court. In perhaps direct reference to the call for a boycott of the ceremonial opening by lawyers,
Archie chose to thank those who did attend, making it clear that the event was about the country.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make it clear that this event is about you - all the people of the nation for whom we exist, who we serve and to whom we are accountable, not just the lawyers, although we welcome those attorneys who have chosen to attend,” he said.
In his address, which began almost two hours later than the scheduled time, the Chief Justice spent much of his address focusing on plans for the Judiciary, particularly the magistracy. He admitted that the past year was a challenging one and said he expected the next year to be no different as the Judiciary will have to adjust to the new economic reality of the country.
Speaking to the media immediately after the formal opening of the new Law Term, Mendes said he was ‘mildly disappointed’ that the Chief Justice did not say more about the way forward for the cases left unfinished by the former chief magistrate.
“Obviously he has constraints because the matter is before the court but having regard to the concerns expressed by the Law Association he could have spent a few more sentences telling us the process being put in place now that the Government has decided not to go by way of the legislative route (to fix the problem).”
Mendes said the association supported the proposed Miscellaneous Provisions (summary Courts and Preliminary Enquiries) Bill 2017 since it contained a provision which does not currently exist which would have expanded the limited jurisdiction of the Director of Public Prosecutions to file voluntary bills of indictment in cases where a where a presiding magistrate was unable to complete or continue a preliminary enquiry, for any reason.
The government was forced to abandon plans for a legislative resolution to the Ayers-Caesar débâcle after the Opposition in mid-July rejected the proposal. The government has instead chosen to file an Interpretation Summons to have the court pronounce on the matter and this will come up for hearing on October 2, said Attorney General Faris Al Rawi.
AG NOT CONCERNED
Speaking to the media, Al Rawi said the Chief Justice properly did not comment on the Ayers-Caesar controversy since it was sub judice and he (Archie) as a judicial officer and chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission could not address these issues publicly. “I think it would have been improper to speak to matters such as these,” he said.
On call for the ‘boycott’ of the opening, Al Rawi said it was regrettable. “Democracy is to be celebrated. If persons are making their advocacy well known, well good for them. This is a free society and people are entitled to their point of view.”