JUST why the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) did not get it right is shameful for TT, former vice president of the Law Association (LATT) Hendrickson Seunath commented yesterday.
“It took the law lords in England to tell us that not more than one judge, other than the Chief Justice, must be appointed,” Seunath pointed out, referring to Monday’s ruling by the judicial committee of the Privy Council on the JLSC’s illegal composition in 2017.
The Constitution provides for a five-member JLSC which comprises the Chief Justice, chairman of the Public Service Commission, a sitting or former judge and two other members with legal qualifications, one of whom must not be in active legal practice.
Seunath commended Justice Frank Seepersad’s judgement, which the law lords upheld, in Devant Maharaj’s constitutional motion against certain judges’ appointments by virtue of the then illegally constituted JLSC.
Maharaj’s complaint was based on retired justices Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer’s being members. They later resigned, but cited personal reasons for doing so.
Seunath, a former chairman of the LATT’s disciplinary committee, said he would always wonder why judges and attorneys did “not pick up this simple issue.”
He reiterated, “We have lawyers sitting on the commission, and non-lawyers.
They are knowledgeable and experienced, but could not read a simple two lines which say that not more than one of the two appointees must be a judge.
“That is why I say that we are in serious trouble. It’s a shame.”
Seunath also felt no practising attorney should be a member of the commission, to further insulate it from bias and favouritism.
“Imagine a lawyer appearing before a judge, but he or she is a member (of the JLSC) who determines if that judge is worthy of elevation or even to be removed.
“There is a reason why judges’ salaries are paid from the Consolidated Fund. It is the public’s perception that matters – (of) a lawyer arguing a case before a judge whom he had a say in appointing.”
When contacted, secretary to former Public Service Commission chairman Kenneth Lalla said he would comment today.