Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who has gone abroad on personal business, is in trouble.
Weeks after allegations were made in the public domain, the Law Association has retained two senior counsel to look into the issue of whether Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley can be approached to initiate impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice.
The association has decided to take the bold move because it says the public ridicule being heaped on the entire Judiciary as a result of the allegations are now so dire something needs to be done.
In a letter issued to members on Monday, attorneys were told that the association’s president, Douglas Mendes SC, senior ordinary member Elton Prescott SC, and Master Christie-Anne Morris-Alleyne, met with Archie to discuss the association’s concern over the current situation on November 30.
During the meeting, Archie was told the association had taken note of allegations made against him, including that he allegedly discussed the matter of personal security for judges with a named person and that he had recommended/referred two or more individuals to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for accelerated housing grants.
They also told the Archie the gravity of the allegations and his failure to respond to them up to then had brought his office and the Judiciary into disrepute. The Chief Justice was also told the association’s council had “resolved to investigate the allegations to determine whether they are true or not.”
Two weeks after the meeting, Archie issued a brief statement in which he denied the allegations, although admitting he has from time to time recommended persons for HDC housing.
In the statement to members on Monday, the association’s secretary Elena Araujo said the committee set up to investigate the allegations will report to the council on or before December 29 and two senior counsel will be retained to advise on the question of whether there is sufficient basis to refer a question of misbehaviour by the Chief Justice to the Prime Minister for his consideration under Section 137 of the Constitution.
Araujo noted that upon receiving the advise from the committee, the association will convene a meeting of the general membership to “consider such advice and obtain directions as to the way forward.”
Section 137 has been used twice in the past. On the first occasion, it was used against Justice Richard Crane, but that inquiry was stopped in its tracks when Crane won his judicial review and constitutional motion cases.
On the second occasion section 137 was used by then Prime Minster Patrick Manning against then Chief Justice Sat Sharma, but that too failed and Sharma was exonerated.
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS
137. (1) AJudge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) AJudge shall be removed from office by the President where the question of removal of that Judge has been referred by the President to the Judicial Committee and the Judicial Committee has advised the President that the Judge ought to be removed from office for such inability or for misbehaviour.
(3) Where the Prime Minister, in the case of the Chief Justice, or the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, in the case of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, represents to the President that the question of removing a Judge under this section ought to be investigated, then— (a) the President shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two other members, selected by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Prime Minister after consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission in the case of a Judge, from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and Removal from office of Judge.
The Constitution criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a Court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such Court; (b) the tribunal shall inquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and recommend to the President whether he should refer the question of removal of that Judge from office to the Judicial Committee; and (c) where the tribunal so recommends, the President shall refer the question accordingly.