Magistrate retroactively promoted to High Court as Master

Sarah De Silva
Sarah De Silva

LESS than a month after she filed a lawsuit against the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) over allegedly being bypassed for promotion because of a disciplinary complaint, Sarah De Silva assumed duties as a Master of the High Court.

She filed the judicial review lawsuit against the JLSC and the Attorney General on December 16 and her case was deemed fit for urgent hearing during the Judiciary’s vacation period. It came up for hearing before Justice Ricky Rahim on December 20.

During that hearing, the JLSC agreed to extend the life of the merit list and to keep a position for De Silva vacant pending the determination of her case and the disciplinary matter.

On Tuesday, her attorney Anand Ramlogan, SC, informed Rahim the relief sought for her appointment as a master was achieved as she took her oath on Tuesday morning and assumed duties.

“We have succeeded in our mission. We got it after we filed the claim,” Ramlogan said asking for permission to withdraw her application.

However, the issue of costs was hotly contested by the JLSC’s attorney Russell Martineau,SC, who urged the judge to grant the usual order of each party to bear its own costs as the matter had now been rendered academic.

Ramlogan did not agree as he took the judge through the history of the matter. Ramlogan said the JLSC did not respond to De Silva’s pre-action protocol letter assuring her that the merit list would be extended beyond December 26 or further pending the outcome of the disciplinary complaint against her.

“The JLSC is the author of its own misfortune.”

Rahim has reserved his ruling on the issue of costs and after a one-hour hearing of arguments on the issue said he will deliver his decision electronically.

De Silva served as a prosecutor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for eight years before she was eventually appointed a magistrate in April 2018. She took up the appointment while her application to be a High Court Master was pending

While she continued to participate in the rigorous recruitment process for the position of master, a complaint was filed against her by the manager of a Tobago hotel over her conduct as a magistrate.

In late 2020, the JLSC wrote to De Silva informing her that she was successful in the recruitment process and had placed third on a merit list for promotion.

However, the JLSC warned that the final consideration of her for the position would take place after the determination of the misconduct allegation against her.

In February 2021, the JLSC preferred two disciplinary charges against De Silva and retired Appeal Court judge Andre Des Vignes was appointed to chair the disciplinary tribunal. While the tribunal was conducting its work in 2021, the JLSC agreed to extend the life of the merit list.

The tribunal was at an advanced stage when Des Vignes died in January 2022.

Several months later, retired magistrate Anna Ryan was appointed to chair a new disciplinary panel to consider the charges.

When the case came up for trial in September last year, High Court Judge Hayden St Clair-Douglas, who was assigned to prosecute the case, failed to produce any witnesses.

When the hearing was reconvened one month later, St Clair-Douglas indicated that the prosecution’s witnesses were uncooperative and reluctant to testify.

Her lawyers called on the JLSC to dismiss the charges but when no response was forthcoming from the commission, the judicial review application was filed since, according to Ramlogan, she did not know if the merit list would be extended a second time.

The complaint against De Silva was eventually discontinued on January 11 and she was appointed on Tuesday. Her promotion took effect on January 4, 2021.

In her lawsuit, De Silva sought an order compelling the JLSC to appoint her as a master with retroactive effect if the charges against her were dismissed.

The application contended that the JLSC’s delay in determining the disciplinary proceedings was unreasonable and unfair as persons who ranked below her on the merit list were promoted ahead of her.

It also alleged De Silva suffered unnecessary distress, loss, and inconvenience from the delay as she lost out on the increased salary and benefits she would have received as a High Court Master.

Also representing De Silva were Jayanti Lutchmedial, Vishaal Siewsaran, Natasha Bisram, and Jared Jagroo.

The JLSC was also represented by Tamara Toolsie, while Rishi Dass represented the AG.


"Magistrate retroactively promoted to High Court as Master"

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