Appeal Court judge recuses herself from EMBD case: brother was board member

Justice of Appeal Maria Wilson
Justice of Appeal Maria Wilson

ATTORNEYS involved in a claim by the Estate Management Business Development Company Ltd returned to court on Monday for an emergency hearing.

The EMBD is making a multi-million-dollar cartel claim against a group of contractors and a former government minister.

Days before the three-member panel were expected to deliver their decision, one of the judges suddenly recused herself. Justice of Appeal Maria Wilson said she had to step down.

At the emergency hearing on Monday, Wilson explained that her brother, attorney Fulton Wilson, was a member of the EMBD board when the contractors' claim for payment for work for the company was filed, as well as the EMBD’s counterclaim alleging Fulton Wilson was a member of the EMBD board from December 2015-2021.

On May 26, Wilson and Justices of Appeal Nolan Bereaux and Mark Mohammed heard a full day of submissions from attorneys for a group of contractors and the EMBD.

The judges had reserved their decision for June 30.

In a statement on Monday, Wilson said she only became aware her brother had been a member of the EMBD board when he called her on Saturday morning after all three daily newspapers covered an emergency hearing on Friday.

She said before that, she could not recall his involvement on the board, and admitted she was “totally shocked by the revelation.”

Wilson said on receiving the information, she immediately contacted her colleagues on the panel and asked for the court to convene on Monday.

She said it was imperative that the appearance of the panel’s impartiality was maintained in order to maintain the public’s confidence in the judiciary and it was “pellucid" to her that justice must not only be done but seen to be done.

The lead attorney for the contractors, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, congratulated Wilson for her stance, saying what had happened was unfortunate. He said he had no doubt the judge would have been impartial, as he maintained his clients had full confidence in the panel.

However, he said they had no alternative but to accept the judge’s decision to step aside.

In contrast, Senior Counsel Jason Mootoo, who is part of the EMBD’s legal team, said there was no reason for Wilson to recuse herself, since her brother’s conduct, as a past member of the board, was not in question. He said the “mere fact” of the judge’s familial relationship was not  sufficient reason.

“We have confidence in her ability to sit on the panel.”

Citing the time expended on the matter so far, and the expense, Mootoo asked for time to produce a note for the panel to consider.

The judges granted him and Maharaj permission to do so and will return to court on Wednesday.

Monday’s emergency hearing followed a similar hearing on Friday to discuss statements Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal made at a political meeting on June 19 in response to comments by the Prime Minister at a press conference on June 12.


"Appeal Court judge recuses herself from EMBD case: brother was board member"

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