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All eyes on Archie at opening of new law term

Published: 
Sunday, September 16, 2018
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Chief Justice Ivor Archie lead the processsion of High Court Judges from the Holy Trinity Cathederal to the Hall of Justice during the opeening of the Law Term last year. Photo by:SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Ten years ago on this day, just over a month after celebrating his 48th birthday, Ivor Archie delivered his first address at the ceremonial opening of the law term as this country's Chief Justice.

Archie had been appointed to the position on January 24, 2008, creating history as the youngest person to have assumed that position in T&T.

His appointment to the post came at a time when his predecessor as this country's substantive Chief Justice Sat Sharma had evaded impeachment proceedings.

Archie defended Sharma's legacy in that opening address:

"First, of course, is Chief Justice Sharma who retired in January of this year. I would not wish the controversy that marked his last years at the helm to detract from the contribution he made during a long judicial career. During his time on the bench he delivered a number of landmark decisions and his tenure at the helm of the administration of justice featured such milestones as the implementation of the new Rules of the Supreme Court, the introduction of Audio Digital Court Reporting, the acquisition and refurbishment of a number of new judicial facilities and the introduction of the Family Court Pilot Project among others. His championing of the issue of the modernization of the Magistracy was a clarion call that led all the efforts to bring the administration of justice into the 21st Century. We wish him good health and a long and happy retirement."

Now as the judiciary prepares to celebrate the ceremonial opening of the 2018-2019 law term, Archie's 11th at the helm, his legacy also seems to be under threat.

The past two years have been a turbulent one for Archie with several personal and professional issues coming to the fore resulting in some of his senior staff being divided over his leadership.

The latest challenge to his leadership occurred in July before the High Court went on vacation when two High Court judges, Justice Frank Seepersad and Justice Carol Gobin, accused Archie of abusing his power by issuing a press release via the Judiciary in response to a private matter he currently has before the Privy Council.

Archie’s use of his office in this private matter has been deemed “inappropriate and unacceptable” by the judges.

However, in response to concerns raised, Archie told his subordinates that their time would be more productively employed attending to their own jobs and allowing him to attend to his.

The latest tiff between Archie and his subordinates came following the Privy Council’s decision to reserve its judgment in the matter of the Law Association of T&T (Latt) versus Archie to a date to be determined.

This controversy surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie arose late last year in a series of newspaper reports which accused him of attempting to persuade judges to change their state-provided security in favour of a private company where his friend and convicted fraudster Dillian Johnson worked. Archie was also accused of attempting to fast-track Housing Development Corporation (HDC) applications for his friends.

Archie only responded to the allegations once, where he denied discussing judges’ security but admitted to suggesting people for HDC housing. Archie has repeatedly refused the association’s request and calls from colleagues to directly respond to the allegations since then.

In November last year, the Council of Latt called on Archie to respond to the allegation that he discussed the judges’ security with a private individual. The association’s council then appointed a sub-committee to investigate the allegations and sought the legal advice of two eminent Queen’s Counsel to determine if the allegations were sufficient to trigger impeachment proceedings under Section 137 of the Constitution.

Archie is currently challenging the Latt matter at the Privy Council.

The Latt had previously passed a motion of no confidence against Archie for his bungling of the appointment of former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar to the post of a High Court judge, which also resulted in legal action being taken.

Eight years ago a chorus of dissension began to rise up

Eight years ago on this day when a chorus of dissension began to rise up against Archie as he used his address at the ceremonial opening of the law term to take aim at his naysayers.

"I am conscious that without my deliberately setting out to have that effect, some people may be a little offended by things I have to say, but by the most generous of reckonings I am more than halfway through my life and my tenure now, and I have come to that age and quiet pass in life where I lose no sleep. In a country where the national pastime is tearing each other down, I have no difficulty reminding myself and every other leader that our job is to lead and the job of talk show hosts is to talk. And as for social media commentary, why waste energy?

"Last year I talked about common sense. There is something else that is in equally short supply, and that is the vision. By definition, those who possess and deploy it will be the minority in every society. Chickens will scratch on the ground making noise over scraps and will always outnumber the eagles that have the benefit of a different and broader perspective. With that benefit comes the burden of being misunderstood and criticized, and the higher the eagle soars, the smaller it seems to the chicken. I can’t make eagles out of chickens"

"All of those of us who are in leadership positions must seek consensus and try to help others to understand and embrace the vision, and that involves explanation, consultation and sometimes persuasion, but at the end of the day, as Professor Liverpool said in another song, the driver must drive and everybody else must either push, sit tight or get off the bus!"

When Archie delivered his address at the opening of the law term last year he mentioned the challenging times he had to face during the year.

"The 2016/2017 term has been a challenging one and there is no reason to believe that 2017/2018 will be any different. However, in so far as we create the future that we inhabit by the choices we make, I face it with unbridled optimism in our capacity to overcome and to excel, no matter what comes our way," Archie said.

It will be all eyes on Archie as he delivers his eleventh address at the ceremonial opening of the law term tomorrow.

This year will also be President Paula-Mae Weekes' first ceremonial opening of the law term since her appointment.

Weekes is not a stranger to the ceremony however, after having served in the judiciary for two decades.

Weekes retired from the Judiciary on August 31, 2016. She was appointed President in March.

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