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Wednesday 22 May 2019
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Judge writes JLSC on appeal court appointments

Chief Justice Ivor Archie
Chief Justice Ivor Archie

A judge has written to Chief Justice Ivor Archie, as chairman of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), seeking answers about the filling of vacancies in the Court of Appeal.

Justice Frank Seepersad on Wednesday, wrote to Archie questioning if there is a new process to be engaged to enable appointments.

In his letter, Seepersad said he was aware of the pending departures of Justices of Appeal Peter Jamadar and Rajendra Narine and that appointments to the Court of Appeal would have to be made.

He reminded the CJ of the “detailed process” he outlined after the elevation of Justice Judith Jones to the appellate court.

In 2015, the criteria for the appointment and elevation of judges were met with strong criticism among judges and lawyers.

In response to critics – who he described as “disgruntled malcontents” – Archie said judges would be promoted on the basis of merit, not seniority.

“Elevation is not a long-service award or an entitlement that is accessible by the mere effluxion of time,” said the Chief Justice then. “It is an honour which is earned.”

He said the JLSC looked for a particular balance and a combination of skills and aptitude in the Court of Appeal because it was a collegiate decision-making body.

Archie also explained that there was a detailed process of consultation and all who were eligible had been considered. “Firstly, appellate judges are canvassed as to their assessment of the temperament, writing ability, overall suitability and team spirit.

"Then every member of the JLSC was supplied with several samples of written opinion work to assess not just the judge’s output, but the maturity, scholarship, clarity and potential to be a sound appellate opinion writer, not just in areas of specialisation but across the broad range of matters that are likely to come before the appellate court.”

Also, “The Bar was canvassed via the President of the Law Association who was invited to seek the view of the senior practitioners who appear before the court.”

Seepersad told the Chief Justice the merit list he spoke of was valid for one year, “and the last list which would have been generated has since expired.”

“I am sure that the JLSC is awaiting rectification of its flawed composition before the issue of appointments can be addressed.

“To date however, I have not seen any advertisements with respect to the filling of vacancies in the Court of Appeal. It is my understanding that in the absence of a current and valid merit list, the process and method of appointment would require inter alia the effecting of advertisements, the attendance at interviews and the sitting of examinations including psychometric testing."

Seepersad asked that the CJ indicate if there was a new process for appointments “so that all interested persons can be furnished with the requisite information so as to enable them to apply for the office of Judge of the Court of Appeal, once advertised.”

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