January 27, 2022

Trinidad lawyers to meet on chief justice allegations on Friday

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From Caribbean News Now

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Council will meet on Friday to consider a preliminary report on allegations involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who is expected back from an overseas trip this weekend.

LATT members told the Trinidad Guardian that it is the preliminary salvo in their quest to investigate the issue following weeks of allegations against the embattled chief justice.

The association recently appointed a five-member committee chaired by LATT head Douglas Mendes SC to review the allegations against Archie.

LATT has also engaged two senior counsel to examine the situation to see whether there is sufficient basis to refer a question of alleged misbehaviour by the chief justice to government for consideration of impeachment proceedings, under section 137 of the constitution.

Allegations surfacing against Archie in recent weeks include discussing judges’ security with a close personal friend and seeking to expedite Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing for applicants. The chief justice has admitted to seeking the interest of people in need of HDC housing but has denied discussing security for judges with anyone outside the judiciary.

The Law Association instituted the probe because of the negative overall effect the matter is having on the entire judiciary.

Mendes and other LATT council members met Archie on November 30 concerning the allegations, which were viewed as bringing the judiciary into disrepute. At that meeting, Archie was informed of LATT’s move to probe the allegations and reportedly told the group he would consider what was discussed.

Archie later addressed the allegations in a press release, where he admitted he has “from time to time” recommended people for housing but denied discussing the issue security for judges.

The LATT has said its investigatory committee on the allegations would report to the council on or before Friday. If the association’s investigation is not completed by Friday its timeframe for completion will be extended, the Guardian reported.

Following the committee’s report and advice from senior counsel, association members will discuss the report’s contents and decide on the way forward.

Meanwhile, however, Israel Khan SC wrote to Mendes and the committee seeking clarification of the identities of the two senior counsel.

“While I adhere to the protection of Chief Justice Archie’s right not to be discriminated against by reason of race, origin, colour, religious or sex (which includes sexuality) and that he has the fundamental rights to join a political party of his choice and the freedom of association, I’m gravely concerned whether CJ Archie and the two silks are members of the Masonic Lodge.

“It’s well known throughout the Western world that members of the Masonic Lodge have pledged their lives to protect one another and would breach all ethics and principles of law to assist each other in time of need.

“While I uphold Chief Justice Archie’s fundamental right to freedom of assembly, I as a senior silk in our jurisdiction will have a fundamental objection, if he is a member of the Masonic Lodge, and the two silks retained by LATT are members also,” he said.

The issue concerning Archie has been further fuelled by criticism from former chief justices Sat Sharma and Clinton Bernard, and Khan has called on high court and court of appeal judges to “say something” on the issue of Archie’s alleged “misconduct”, the Guardian reported.

In an open letter to the judges, Khan said that the allegations made against Archie are scandalous and, if true, demonstrate he is a disgrace to the legal profession and unfit to be chief justice.

Khan said if Archie cannot or would not publicly refute the very serious allegations, there are only three options open to him: “Resign now, or face a tribunal triggered under Section 137 of the Constitution and/or face criminal charge of misbehaviour in public office (15 years jail if convicted).”

He said judges would be aware “that never in the history of the entire Commonwealth has a chief justice been accused of such scandalous misbehaviour.”

The government has, for its part, declined to become embroiled in the controversy, saying the administration is watching events unfolding, has no basis for intervention and noting that Archie had responded to the allegations.

IMAGES:

Chief Justice Ivor Archie

Israel Khan SC. Photo: Trinidad Guardian

For more on this story go to; http://wp.caribbeannewsnow.com/2017/12/27/trinidad-lawyers-meet-chief-justice-allegations-friday/

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