Former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar is seeking to have the interpretation summons filed by the Attorney General struck out against her.
Ayers-Caesar is named as the fourth defendant in the legal proceedings filed by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on September 1 which seeks to have the court pronounce on what should be done with the 53 cases left in abeyance when she was elevated to the High Court as a judge on April 12. She subsequently resigned two weeks later. However, she claimed she was forced to do so and has since filed separate proceedings against the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) challenging this.
The judge hearing her case is expected to give his decision this week on whether she can pursue her judicial review claim.
The first hearing of the summons takes place tomorrow in the Port of Spain High Court.
Named as the first three defendants in the claim are the JLSC, acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle and the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC.
Sunday Newsday understands several attorneys representing accused persons whose cases were left in abeyance will also seek to intervene in the matter. Among them are attorneys Keith Scotland, Reynold Waldrop and former attorney general Anand Ramlogan SC, all of whom have clients whose cases were affected.
The claim filed by Al-Rawi asks the court to determine how to conclude the unfinished cases, pronounce on whether Ayers-Caesar is still a magistrate and if any of the cases can be continued by her or whether they can be restarted afresh (de novo) before Earle-Caddle.
The court has also been asked to say whether the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Inquiry) Act and the Summary Offences Act permit pending matters to be continued or completed by any other magistrate.
Gaspard, both before Earle-Caddle and in a letter to Al-Rawi, requested to know the status of Ayers-Caesar, saying he was not satisfied that her appointment had ended.
On June 7, six days after he appeared in court when several of the part-heard matters were called, Gaspard wrote to Chief Justice Ivor Archie asking about Ayers-Caesar’s status. Gaspard informed Archie that Earle-Caddle had indicated to him she could not state if Ayers-Caesar had resigned as a magistrate, adding he did not think Earle-Caddle could restart the unfinished cases. Gaspard said he could intervene and exercise his constitutional powers only if he knew Ayers-Caesar’s status. He received no response from Archie.
On June 8, Gaspard advised Al-Rawi of the possible need for legislative intervention since he was of the view that the matters could not be completed by Earle-Caddle in the manner in which she was instructed. Gaspard also warned of possible judicial review applications being filed by the affected accused.
Al-Rawi initially proposed legislation to treat with the problem but abandoned this course of action in August when the Opposition signalled they would not support it.
It is against this backdrop, Al-Rawi said, the claim was filed in the public’s interest as the issue of the unfinished cases had an impact on the rights of the accused and the wider public interest. The claim also notes the resolution will clarify the progress of pending cases.
However, attorneys for Ayers-Caesar – led by former AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj – said the interpretation summons will be an abuse of process against her.
Maharaj said Al-Rawi had no jurisdiction nor did the court. He said the claim already raised certain issues also noted by Ayers-Caesar in her claim against the JLSC.
“It is well accepted in Trinidad and Tobago that where there is a dispute between parties involving the interpretation of an instrument, that the court has the jurisdiction to interpret that instrument. In so far as these proceedings are concerned, the Attorney General is not seeking the interpretation of any instrument but is asking the court to make a declaration as to whether the fourth defendant is still a magistrate, in a matter which involves substantial dispute of fact as to whether or not the purported resignation of the fourth defendant as a High Court judge was lawful. This is therefore not a matter which falls within the procedure formerly known as the “interpretation summons,” Ayers-Caesar’s newest claim contends.
“The Attorney General has not shown that he has any interest in law in respect of the alleged issue of whether the fourth defendant is a magistrate or not. He has not demonstrated or claimed any legal or equitable right in these proceedings. Accordingly the claim is an abuse of process and does not disclose any grounds for bringing the claim.”
“This merely provided for a quicker process involving a claim in which there was no substantial dispute of fact and in which the principal matter in dispute was the construction of an instrument,” the claim further contends.
Maharaj further noted that even if the court had jurisdiction to hear Al-Rawi’s interpretation summons, there were disputes of facts as to the circumstances in which Ayers-Caesar purportedly resigned as a judge and whether she remained one.
“In any event upon the fourth defendant’s appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court and her having been sworn in as a High Court judge, her appointment as Chief Magistrate was automatically revoked in that she could not hold the office of both judge and Chief Magistrate at the same time,” the claim added.
“The Attorney General in these proceeding is in effect asking this court to consider an issue which is already before the Judicial Review Court.
“This is an abuse of process and oppressive to the fourth defendant, in that it amounts to a multiplicity of proceedings,” Ayers-Caesar’s application said.