PRESIDENTof the Law Association Douglas Mendes, SC, said he was “quite delighted” the Chief Justice spoke of the association’s report on judicial appointments.
“There are aspects of the report that he agrees with. That forms a basis for us as the association, hopefully with the cooperation of the judiciary, to approach the AG and to approach the leader of the opposition because it would require cooperation between the two to amend the constitution,” Mendes told reporters at the Hall of Justice at Port of Spain.
Earlier in the day yesterday, Ivor Archie in his address at the opening of the 2018/2019 law term publicly scolded the association and responded to some of its criticisms against him. While there are some “helpful observations” with which he generally agreed, the chief justice said the report has implicit and explicit assumptions.
“Nobody expects that everything in that report will meet with the agreement of everyone who reads it. What is important is, there are recommendations made by the committee that the CJ agrees with. I see only positive as far as the chief justice’s comments on the report,” Mendes told reporters.
That is important, he said, in the context of legislation that is currently before the Parliament to increase the number of judges on the high court by about 15.
Mendes said the association recommends that the Judicial and Legal Service Commission does not proceed to make those appointments until the association has had the opportunity to examine the appointment process and come to some kind of agreement.
“I am suggesting that we come to reach some consensus on the reform of the judicial appointment process before we then proceed to appoint these additional judges. As far as court pay is concerned, we were making proposals to have it better,” Mendes said.
Last month, the Privy Council ruled that the association is entitled to investigate allegations of misconduct made against Archie. Mendes had established a committee to investigate the claims against Archie. Archie has denied the allegations including a claim that he sought to expedite HDC housing for certain individuals.
Referring to the Privy Council’s ruling, Mendes said: “As a consequence, we will be continuing the investigations and we would be making no further statements on that until the process is complete. Whatever the outcome of the process, a special general meeting will be called.”
During his speech yesterday Archie criticised the association saying that in the report members purported to assigned ethnicities to the members of the bench. When asked to comment on criticisms Archie made, Mendes responded: “Those things do not need a reply. That is his opinion. At the end of the day those things that he focused on, I don’t think impact upon on the ultimate recommendations made by the committee.”
The law association being a statutory body represents the interest in the administration of justice, Mendes said. Apart from Archie, other officials had criticised the association.
“I do not take that personally. That is part and parcel of the role we take. I would wish it is not personalised. We may be wrong on occasions but we have to express our views and be part of the process,” Mendes said.