Did Chief Justice Ivor Archie act as chairman of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) when he asked Marcia Ayers-Caesar to resign, or did he do so only in his position as Chief Justice?
Justice David Harris ruled yesterday that this could be one of the troubling questions for the court to determine and as a result, he granted Ayers-Caesar judicial leave to argue a full-blown case in the High Court against Archie asking her to resign. The ruling was handed down by Harris yesterday in a 30-page written judgement and set the stage for Ayers-Caesar’s attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, to file further affidavits against the JLSC.
In fact, Justice Harris agreed with Maharaj that the former Chief Magistrate whose tenure as a judge lasted a mere five days before she was asked to demit office over a dispute about the exact number of her pending cases she had left behind has also made out a case against President Anthony Carmona.
Ayers-Caesar resigned from the magistracy and weeks later on April 12, was sworn in at President’s House and presented with instruments of appointment. On the second day of her presiding in the Third Criminal Assizes in San Fernando, several accused persons, a number of whom are on murder charges, rioted in the Port of Spain Magistrates’ court.
The JLSC was represented by Russell Martineau, SC, Debra Peake, SC, and Ian Benjamin and defended the lawsuit in reply to Maharaj’s legal arguments. Reginald Armour, SC, represented the President and also submitted arguments in opposition to Ayers-Caesar’s claims. Justice Harris stated that Ayers-Caesar’s case hinges on whether the JLSC removed Ayers-Caesar with Archie, acting as its chairman or, did he cause the resignation to be prepared in his capacity as CJ. The JLSC can only remove a judge by invoking Section 137 of the Constitution, if he or she can no longer perform the functions of a judge. Then, there is a process to be followed.
Harris stated that Ayers-Caesar gave an account of the conversation between herself and Archie and even if such evidence was hearsay, it is permissible at such a stage of seeking leave, in order for the court to determine whether Archie was speaking on behalf of the JLSC as its chairman.
If it could be even inferred, Harris added, then the attorneys for the JLSC’s argument that it is hearsay, is weakened. Harris, in granting leave to Ayers-Caesar in relation to her questioning why President Carmona did not reinstate her instead of accepting her resignation, reasoned that she did send a letter to Carmona about the manner of her removal and that was not in dispute.
What is in dispute was whether the President’s action or inaction, amounted to one that should be reviewed by the court and secondly, whether Carmona misdirected himself in not exercising proper authority. Harris ruled that it was a narrow issue, but he stated that the issue is subsumed in the gist of Ayers-Caesar’s general application and therefore, it met the test to grant leave against the President.
Harris then ruled that leave be granted to her to seek review of the JLSC’s decision to seek her resignation on April 27, as a judge; leave be granted for her to seek review of the JLSC recommending to Carmona that her appointment be revoked; and leave be granted regarding the conduct of the JLSC in pressuring Ayers-Caesar to resign.
Harris further ordered that Ayers-Caesar is entitled make a claim that the JLSC acted ultra vires to Section 137 of the constitution. And against Carmona, Harris also ordered that she is entitled to seek review of the President’s refusal upon acceptance of Ayers-Caesar’s letter, to set aside her resignation letter.
Ayers-Caesar was granted leave by the judge to file further affidavits in support of her claim. He set next week Thursday at 1.30 pm, for a case management conference in the High Court, San Fernando.