2017 would go down as one year Chief Justice Ivor Archie would like to forget.
It began okay for Archie but by April, he was under pressure. By the end of the year, Archie is facing the possibility of impeachment.
First, it was the blunder over the appointment of Marcia Ayers-Caesar to the High Court. Then came newspaper articles, alleging Archie’s relationships with persons described as convicted felons.
There were allegations that Archie attempted to influence Supreme Court judges to change their personal State-provided security in favour of a private company for one which one of his close friends was an employee. It was also alleged that Archie used his office to get state housing for these friends.
Archie was sworn in as Chief Justice on January 24, 2008, at the age of 47. He replaced Sat Sharma who had his own legal problems, but at the end of the day was exonerated and retired with his character in tact.
Will Archie go out in a blaze of glory or in disgrace?
There have been repeated calls for his resignation and the Law Association has taken the bold move to retain two senior counsel to determine whether there is sufficient grounds to approach Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, to invoke the impeachment provisions of Section 137 of the Constitution.
Under Section 137, Dr Rowley would have to make representations to the President who will then appoint a tribunal to investigate the allegations. The tribunal then reports back to the President who takes action accordingly.
This Section was used in Sat Sharma’s case, but the tribunal recommended that no action be taken. Sharma returned to office after his suspension was revoked.
Archie has been told of the association’s concerns at a meeting with its president Douglas Mendes, SC, and senior member Elton Prescott, SC, on November 30.
Marcia Ayers-Caesar was the Chief Magistrate. She applied for a job as a High Court Judge. She was appointed the Judge on April 12. But five days after her elevation, prisoners rioted in the cells of the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’s Court.
They complained that Ayers-Caesar had left part-heard cases unfinished. Her tenure on the Bench lasted 15 days before she resigned.
After her resignation, it was eventually revealed by the Judiciary that she left some 53 cases in limbo. She has denied this. Ayers-Caesar is also challenging in a judicial review lawsuit, the revocation of her appointment as a judge.
This situation led to the Law Association passing a motion on June 1 expressing no confidence in the Chief Justice and calling on him to resign. The association also embarked on a public consultation project, soliciting views from the public on the process of appointment of judges and most recently, after the series of new reports on Archie’s conduct, established an investigative team to look into the allegations that he used his influence to assist his friends.
Months later, reports revealed a special relationship with security officer, Dillian Johnson and the Chief Justice. Johnson was described as a convicted felon. It was alleged that Archie met with judges and tried to influence them to use Johnson’s private security company to handle all security arrangements for judges.
Since then, two judges – Carol Gobin and Ronnie Boodoosingh, have called on Archie to defend the allegations made. Archie released a short statement, which many felt, he did not deal with the allegations.
The last year has ended, and the new year has begun.
What will 2018 hold for Archie and the Judiciary?
IVOR ARCHIE, RIGHT, AND PRESIDENT ANTHONY CARMONA AND MARCIA AYERS-CAESAR