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JLSC did not act on facts—Koylass

Published: 
Friday, May 19, 2017
President Anthony Carmona,right, during yesterday's swearing in of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) newest member, attorney Ernest Koylass SC at the Office of the President in St Ann's

The newest member of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission said yesterday that it appeared the body “acted on the basis of oral exchanges rather than certifiable facts” when it appointed former Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a High Court judge.

In an interview yesterday, Senior Counsel Ernest H Koylass said he based this opinion purely from what he read in the newspapers.

He said he would not criticise either the Commission nor the persons involved because he did not know enough.

Koylass made it clear that the matter should not be dealt with in such a way as to attract a political flavour.

He said: “We should be careful that in seeking to review with a view to improving our processes we do not destroy the trust that the public should have in the Commission and the Judiciary in the Administration of Justice.”

Koylass said he was making no criticism of the Commission as it was then constituted because he understood the basis upon which it may have acted.

As to recent appointments to the bench, Koylass said: “I know that there is a lot of concern, which is now in the public domain, but I consider the occasion may be propitious for the Commission to look afresh at its processes.”

“I may add a credible and useful voice towards refining a process that will satisfy all concerned and most importantly the public interest,” he said.

He said accepted President Anthony Carmona’s request to sit on the JLSC, the body that appoints judges, magistrates and other legal officers of the State, because he wanted to make a difference.

“I feel as though I have a responsibility to discharge and I am hopeful that I am equal to the challenge in taking up the appointment at a time of public concern as to the operations of the JLSC,” he said.

Koylass said when he was approached two weeks ago it was not the first time he had been asked to serve on the Commission.

“I was offered this position before and on that occasion for particular reasons I was not minded to accede to the invitation,” he said.

So why accept now in the midst of a raging firestorm which has resulted in pre-action protocol letters and a public outcry from within and outside the legal fraternity over the actions of the Commission?

Koylass said: “It is because of all of that, that I am taking up the responsibility at this time. I consider that as attorneys we have a responsibility to the profession and the society at large to serve by giving of our time and expertise.”

Only recently, 11 senior counsel met to discuss the controversy which has erupted over the JLSC’s handling of the appointment and subsequent resignation of Ayers-Caesar as a Judge of the High Court over unfinished cases in the magistrates court.

The issue about the selection of judges was first brought into the public domain by attorney and UNC Senator Gerald Ramdeen who questioned the so called “robust process” used by the JLSC.

The Commission said Ayers-Caesar misled them on the number of outstanding matters which were before her.

Those over 50 matters remain hanging with no indication as yet from the Chief Justice as to how they would be dealt with.

Lawyers have argued that Ayers-Caesar cannot resume her role to complete the matters as she had already demitted that office and the cases would have to start afresh.

The Law Association will meet in special session on June 1, to discuss a motion calling for the resignation of the Chief Justice Ivor Archie who also sits as chairman of the JLSC, and members of the JLSC—retired judges Roger Hamel-Smith, Humphrey Stollmeyer and Maureen Manchouck, chairperson of the Public Service Commission—over their handling of the issue.