A simple press release from the Judiciary is causing a stir between two judges and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
After the Privy Council reserved judgment last Monday in the matter of Archie v the Law Association, the Judiciary issued a press release, which to many, did not make sense.
Two judges, Frank Seepersad and Carol Gobin, have taken issue with the Chief Justice over the press release.
The following is the thread of the conversation:
1) On 27 Jul 2018, at 8:17 AM, The Hon Mr.Justice Seepersad <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Fellow High Court Judges
I read with concern, a media release dated 23rd July 2018 issued by the Judiciary in relation to the matter between the Chief Justice and the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. The matter was instituted by the Hon The Chief Justice in his private capacity and not by or on behalf of the Judiciary. We are all part of the Higher Judiciary and no collective decision was taken by us to correct any media report or to clarify any issue that is before the Board for its consideration. In addition I am unaware of any meeting and/or position that the said matter impacts us as Judges or was instituted so as to clarify whether the Law Association can investigate our individual conduct.
I am of the view that the use of public office to further a personal agenda is inappropriate and unacceptable. In the circumstances, I wish to categorically distance myself from the said media release.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a restful and rewarding court vacation .
Sent: Friday, 27 July 2018 9:23 AM
To: The Hon Mr.Justice Seepersad <email@example.com>
Cc: Judges-Appeal Court <CourtofAppealJudges@
Judges-High Court <JudgesHighCourt@ttlawcourts.
Subject: Re: Press release dated 23rd July, 2018
As administrative head of this institution I do not need to be advised by you or anyone else on whether any matter impacts the judiciary as a whole, nor is the mandate of any meeting required to issue a press release. I do not run the judiciary by committee although as Chief Justice, it is my prerogative to consult with other judges as and when I deem necessary.
I have chosen to respond on this singular occasion since your email was addressed separately to me in addition to the other judges.
Your time will be more productively employed attending to YOUR job while allowing me to attend to mine.
Do have a good vacation!
3) From: “The Hon Mme. Justice Gobin” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 27 July 2018 at 2:09:16 PM GMT-4
To: The Honourable The Chief Justice Archie
<email@example.com>, The Hon Mr.Justice Seepersad
Subject: RE: Press release dated 23rd July, 2018
Having seen Frank’s email and the reply of the Chief Justice I wish to add my thoughts and comments.
1)Any press release coming from the Judiciary should be circulated to the judges. Up to the time of writing this one on a hearing between the CJ and the LATT has not been sent to us. If the CJ believed that a release was necessary because in some way it concerns a matter which “impacts the judiciary as a whole “ then the failure to send it to us is inexcusable.
2)The purpose of the release is clear even to the uninformed observer. Any explanation of what happened at the end of the hearing in London, “the eloquence of the CJ’s lawyers notwithstanding, “ought to have come from the Chief Justice’s lawyers whom he has retained privately, one assumes, to prosecute his private case against the LATT. The use of the stamp of the judiciary was inappropriate to put it mildly.
3)The statement of the CJ that “as administrative head of this institution” he does not need to be advised by Frank or anyone else on whether any matter impacts on the judiciary as a whole brings me no comfort. The events of the last several months which have brought us to this point clearly demonstrate that the CJ needs serious and objective advice on this very issue.I respectfully suggest he starts with a look back at our Code of Ethics and if something is not sufficiently clear , then he should exercise his prerogative to consult with some judges, starting with the three most senior ones.
4)The CJ needs to be reminded that what is impacting on the judiciary as a whole extends well beyond the legal issues that fall to be determined in this litigation.
5)At a recent meeting the judges agreed that a statement issued by the judiciary on sabbatical leave was misleading. Contrary to what was stated in it there was no adoption of the internal committee report nor were any administrative arrangements put in place. I am extremely concerned that the administrative machinery of the organization was used in that case to put out a false statement and more recently to promote a position or an explanation of a party to litigation. There is an obvious danger in allowing this to continue even by our silence.
For those of us who have been working without accumulated vacation leave calculated to exclude public holidays and weekends and rainy days and almost sabbatical leave, let us all enjoy our well deserved break.
The controversy surrounding Archie arose in 2017 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 persons 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 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.
The matter at the Privy Council last Monday with only Archie’s lawyers making submissions. The Board did not want to hear from the association’s lawyers in London. Judgment was reserved.