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‘Don’t expect my resignation’
Chief Justice Ivor Archie was yesterday defiant and dismissive in his response in the face of an unprecedented vote of no confidence in him by the Law Association and calls for him to step down.
“I don’t think you can expect any resignation,” he said when contacted by the T&T Guardian in Barbados, where is attending a law conference co-hosted by the Canadian government and Barbados Bar Association.
Archie, who left the country hours after over 500 senior and junior lawyers voted at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, is scheduled to deliver a paper at the conference, which ironically has the theme, Improving access to justice in the Caribbean.
The two-day conference is being held at the Hilton Hotel and concludes today. The topics being covered include corporate governance, international business, foreign exchange controls, lessons in community law, money laundering legislation, legalising marijuana, technology and computer misuse, legal education, the right to privacy and practice management.
Asked to comment on the five resolutions approved by the Law Association during a special general meeting at the Hall of Justice on Thursday, the Chief Justice responded: “I really don’t have any comment.”
Pressed further on his response to the resolution seeking his resignation as Chief Justice and chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC), the body which selects and appoints judges, magistrates and other State legal officers, Archie again repeated that he had no comment.
His response was the same when asked about the vote of no confidence in him and whether he thought it was prudent to leave the country without meeting with Supreme Court judges or JLSC members following the decision of the Law Association.
The association was expected to transmit official correspondence to the Office of the Chief Justice and the JLSC secretariat detailing the approved resolutions yesterday.
Asked whether he was speaking for all the members of the JLSC—Justice Roger Hamel-Smith, Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer, Maureen Manchouck—named in the resolution, on the issue of whether they intend to resign or not, Archie advised, “You will have to ask them.”
However, judicial sources said yesterday that the possibility of JLSC members resigning in the face of the Law Association’s vote should not be entirely dismissed.
News of Archie’s absence was raised as a matter of significant concern by judges yesterday, as they questioned his priorities.
One senior judge, speaking on the condition of strict anonymity, said: “We did not even know he left. We are trying to find out if someone is acting for him.”
Senior judges and lawyers said Archie seemed to have dug his heels in deep and was not accepting any blame for the JLSC’s failure to conduct a proper due diligence of potential candidates for the position of a judge.
President’s House confirmed yesterday that Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca, the most senior appellate judge, had been appointed to act in Archie’s absence. There was no notification of how long Mendonca was appointed to act.
Calls and messages to the Chief Justice’s administrative secretary Sherlanne Pierre, seeking information as to whether Archie had in fact left the county and whether another judge was appointed to act, were not returned or answered.
There was no official notice issued by the Judiciary, as is the norm, about Archie’s departure or the acting appointment of Mendonca.
The move by the Law Association is a culmination of a series of unfortunate events surrounding the appointment and subsequent resignation of Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a judge of the High Court.
Ayers-Caesar, the former chief magistrate, left a total of 53 unfinished criminal cases before she accepted the promotion on April 12. She chucked the job two weeks later after prisoners protested that their matters were left undone and the JLSC subsequently blamed her for misleading it about the number of cases she left unfinished. The cases assigned to her at the San Fernando Third Criminal Court were also left undone.
Sources said Ayers-Caesar is gearing up to challenge her resignation as a High Court judge on the basis that she acted under duress. Her resignation letter was approved by the JLSC.
Meanwhile, the cases she left behind in the magistrates’ court are turning out to be a legal minefield for lawyers of how they should proceed.
In court on Thursday, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, said he had no evidence that Ayers-Caesar had resigned and advised the acting Chief Magistrate Maria Busby Earle-Caddle to proceed with caution in making a determination to start the matters afresh or transferring them before other courts.
ABOUT THE BARBADOS TRIP
A statement issued by the Judiciary at 5.48 pm yesterday announced the departure of Chief Justice Ivor Archie to Barbados.
It stated that Archie accepted the invitation of the Barbados Bar Association to present a paper at the inaugural Whitsun Weekend Law Conference in January on technology and the pace of justice.
The release said the conference concludes on Monday and engages a cross-section of judicial officers, academics, professionals and business leaders from within the region to explore topics that impact the social and legal landscape of Barbados.
The statement also announced the appointment of Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca to act as Chief Justice in Archie’s absence.
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