Chief Justice Ivor Archie says he is not to blame for former chief magistrate’s High Court appointment.
Former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar was appointed on April 12, and resigned from her then-position only two weeks later.
Archie says Ayers-Caesar did not resign, but upon being sworn into high court, she would be required to vacate office as magistrate.
Ayers-Caesar left office with 53 cases left unfinished.
CHIEF JUSTICE Ivor Archie says do not blame him or the other members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) for the appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar to the High Court and the ensuing imbroglio.
The Chief Justice’s repudiation of concerns raised by the legal fraternity following the appointment of Ayers-Caesar to the High Court on April 12, and her subsequent resignation two weeks later — with 53 cases left unfinished — was contained in a letter signed by his Administrative Secretary Sherlanne Pierre and sent to President of the Law Association Douglas Mendes SC, yesterday.
The letter is in regard to today’s special general meeting of the association at which lawyers are expected to vote on a motion calling for Archie’s resignation and those of the JLSC’s members. In a five-page letter, Archie again provided the time-line relative to Ayers-Caesar’s appointment, resignation and discovery that she did not leave behind three part heard paper committals (as she told him), but rather 53 cases.
Archie said his letter was being issued ‘without prejudice’ as the issue surrounding Ayers-Caesar’s resignation is likely to be the subject of litigation. In direct response to calls for him to resign over the judicial dilemma arising out of Ayers-Caesar’s appointment and questions posed to him and the JLSC, Archie suggested that members of the Law Association independently research relevant legislation, in order to come to a well-informed decision.
“The JLSC does not appoint Supreme Court judges,” the Chief Justice stated categorically. “The President appoints judges pursuant to section 104 of the Constitution,” he added. Archie reiterated that the JLSC does not have powers over the office of Puisne Judge as this was not an office in the JLSC.
“This is a subtle but important distinction in the present context which confirms that persons appointed by the JLSC are not employees of the JLSC. It follows therefore that at no stage in the unfortunate chain of events that occurred has former chief magistrate Mrs Marcia Ayers–Caesar ever been an employee of the JLSC,” the letter said.
The CJ also went further to point out that while it accepted responsibility to inform the President of vacancies in the office of Puisne judge and make recommendations for the filling of same, neither the JLSC nor the CJ had any direct control over the date of appointment. He also said the JLSC has no authority to conduct ‘independent checks’ on the workload of a sitting magistrate.
CJ’S ROLE ‘RESTRICTED’
Archie repeated what the JLSC said in its May 8 statement on Ayers-Caesar’s standing in the judiciary that it was the ‘responsibility of every prospective appointee to the office of Puisne judge to place themselves in a state of readiness to assume office.’
He pointed out that as Chief Justice, his control is restricted to administrative matters consistent with the principle of judicial independence. The tracking and disposition of their judicial matters is the individual responsibility of every judicial officer.’
The letter pointed out that there is no electronic case management information system in the St George West Magisterial district. In so far as the High Court and the Magistracy are concerned, the Registrar and Marshall and Chief Magistrate are the respective custodians of the records and the CJ would not ordinarily interface with any other employees of the Judiciary (nor is he expected to) if he wishes to inquire into the work of the judiciary pertaining to judicial matters.”
He said the reports of the statistical unit in the department of Court Administration was not, “disaggregated in such a manner that would permit him to know the pending caseload of the chief magistrate.” He also set out in question and answer form some of the concerns which have been raised in the last two months.
Archie said the JLSC did not recall Ayers-Caesar giving any indication that she could not complete her workload and be ready to take up her judicial appointment in the customary three-month time frame given to all judicial officers.
“Candidates are expected to manage their professional responsibilities sensibly from the time they enter the application process. If a prospective appointment date fixed by the office of the president turns out to be unrealistic,” he said, “Only the candidate would have that information and it was the candidate’s responsibility so to inform the Department of Personnel Administration and the President’s Office.
Archie said he could not say what the DPA asked of Ayers-Caesar but noted that he spoke to her on April 10 – two days before her swearing in – and she assured him that apart from three very short summary trials that were for reasons outside her control not amenable to short term disposition she only had some paper committals that could easily be disposed of by another magistrate.
He said no one was asked to manually search the case sheets and records of the magistracy for every district in which she sat and noted that the JLSC would have no such power to do so nor would he have had ‘reason to deploy scarce judicial resources in such a task as there would have been no reason at that time to doubt Mrs. Ayers Caesar’s professionalism.’
SHE DID NOT RESIGN,
SHE VACATED POST
Archie said she provided the list of paper committals and ‘it was only as more information came to light that further checks were made.’ Archie also clarified Ayers-Caesar’s position as chief magistrate, saying she did not resign that post but upon being sworn in to the High Court bench she would have been deemed to have vacated office as a magistrate.
He also said Ayers-Caesar has not been restored as either chief magistrate or an ordinary magistrate. Archie said the JLSC did consider her failure to make full disclosure to the JLSC and the extent to which it would have reflected on her honesty and integrity as well as the issue of her fitness for office and the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
He also said the question of her being restored to the magistracy no longer arose and noted that the JLSC also gave consideration to the plight of the defendants with unfinished matters and to previous precedent in which magistrates who had been subject to the disciplinary action and been sanctioned had been allowed to continue on the bench.
Archie also reminded Mendes of the alternative arrangements made for the early disposition of her outstanding matters and noted that it was only the Director of Public Prosecution who could discontinue or file indictments for those persons before the courts who have been affected by Ayers-Caesar’s elevation and resignation.
“The DPP is not subject to anyone’s director or control,” Archie advised. Last week it was announced that the 53 part-heard cases left unfinished by Ayers-Caesar will be restarted’ de novo’ by the acting chief magistrate who will preside over the indictable offences while a team of magistrates will take over the summary cases. Several of the accused men who were affected by the imbroglio are to appear in court this morning.