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No special treatment for Law Association vs CJ matter

Published: 
Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Appeal Court is treating the hearing of the matter between the Law Association and the Chief Justice Ivor Archie no different to any other application before the court.

An urgent application filed by the Law Association seeking to overturn a ruling by a High Court judge to convene a Special General Meeting of the organisation this week to discuss a report relating to serious allegations against the CJ has been shut down.

Justice of Appeal Prakash Moosai sitting in camera at the Hall of Justice on Friday, postponed the application to April 10, where the matter is expected to be heard by three of the most senior judges of the Appeal Court.

If the Court of Appeal had to accommodate the sitting of the Special General Meeting on March 15, it would have meant that all of the matters already fixed before the judges would have had to be re-arranged to give the Law Association's application priority.

Given that the purpose of the Special General Meeting is to consider and approve a report of an investigative committee—comprising Queen's Counsel Dr Francis Alexis and Eamon Courtenay—which examined the allegations against the Chief Justice, the earlier hearing was not entertained, sources said.

Archie has been at the centre of allegations made by Dillian Johnson, his one-time friend, that he tried to obtain a contract to provide security for judges and state housing through recommendations from the CJ. Archie has admitted to assisting people, excluding Johnson, by making recommendations to the Housing Development Corporation but has denied approaching judges to change their State-arranged security.

Johnson, who has since fled to the United Kingdom, seeking asylum, has also claimed that the police was ignoring a report he filed of an attempt to kill him.

Johnson has since issued a public challenge to the CJ to produce the US forensic reports which allegedly prove Johnson's photos and WhatsApp messages are fake. He is also denying the CJ did "improper favours for him," alleging there is a "homophobic element" to the issues.

In a statement dated March 8 and issued through British Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Johnson also weighed in briefly on the six-month sabbatical leave the CJ is scheduled to proceed on from Sunday, saying "it looks like an attempt to evade public scrutiny and accountability." It was the only reference to the sabbatical.

On the issue of the US forensic reports which allege the photos and WhatsApp messages he produced are "fake," Johnson appealed to President-elect Paula-Mae Weekes to "require" Archie to make the report public. He said "it is in the public interest that the truth be established." Tatchell, who is driving Johnson’s asylum bid, said he supported this call to the President-elect. Archie deferred leaving the country on Sunday after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley wrote to President Anthony Carmona seeking clarification on the issue of the grant of the sabbatical leave.

Archie, the T&T Guardian understands, has recused himself from determining the composition of the panel of judges given that he is a party to the lawsuit. Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca has taken charge of this.

The Law Association has also made a request for a five-member panel to hear its case given that the matter in its view had great consequence. The five-member panel is usually reserved for matters which involve significant constitutional importance.

In its appeal, the association is claiming High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo made several errors in her 19-page judgment delivered in Archie’s favour on Tuesday.

It is claiming Kangaloo misinterpreted the Constitution when she ruled it did not have the power to investigate the allegations against Archie before referring them to the Prime Minister to trigger an impeachment tribunal under Section 137 of the Constitution.

President of the Law Association Douglas Mendes SC and attorney Keith Scotland, who represented Archie, both declined to comment on the matter.

—with reporting by Rhondor Dowlat

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