With all the controversy surrounding him, Chief Justice Ivor Archie takes centre stage on Monday when he opens the 2018-2019 law term.
The Law Association has stepped up its investigation into allegations made against Archie, and while there were calls for him to resign, Archie has stood firm.
Word on the ground is that lawyers are planning to boycott the opening ceremony. The numbers have been dwindling for years. Less people turned up at the Trinity Cathedral for the inter-faith service. And fewer persons go to the Hall of Justice for the Chief Justice’s address.
What will happen on Monday? Will there be a boycott? Would Archie talk about the trial and tribulations over the last year? What hope can be bring to the judiciary which is at its lowest ebb since Independence?
Archie, 58, has been Chief Justice for the past ten years.
The past year has been a turbulent one for Archie. The latest challenge to his leadership occurred in July 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 had 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 the judges that their time would be more productively employed attending to their own jobs and allowing him to attend to his.
This controversy surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie arose late last year in a series of Express articles 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 recommending people for HDC housing. Archie has repeatedly refused the association’s request.
In November last year, the Law Association 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 challenged the Law Association which went all the way to the Privy Council, which ruled against him in August.
This will be the first time that Paula-Mae Weekes will attend the opening as President. Weekes was therefore as a judge.
Weekes retired from the Judiciary on August 31, 2016 at age 56, long before the mandatory retirement age of 65. There are reports that Archie and Weekes did not see eye-to-eye, and she decided to leave the judiciary before time.
It is something to note that Archie tried to go on sabbatical leave to the United States when Weekes was about to the sworn in.
Outgoing President Anthony Carmona turned down the leave and Archie had no choice but to swear in Weekes at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
PAULA-MAE WEEKES WHEN SHE WAS A JUDGE
CHIEF JUSTICE IVOR ARCHIE