May 26, 2022

War of words erupts between Trinidad chief justice and other judges

Pin It

By Youri Kemp From Caribbean News Now

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — While the Privy Council in London is getting set to deliver a ruling on the matter of Trinidad and Tobago Chief Justice Ivor Archie v The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT), a war of words erupted over the weekend after leaked emails between Archie and other Supreme Court justices showed the judges’ displeasure with Archie for issuing a press release without their consultation on the same matter.

In the leaked emails obtained by Caribbean News Now, Archie is read in a back and forth exchange of words with fellow justices, Frank Seepersad and Carolin Gobin.

In the first email, dated July 27, 2018, at 8:17am, Seepersad wrote: “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 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.

“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.”

Archie then responded to Seepersad on the same day at 9:23 am with: “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.”

Gobin then at 2:09 pm, who also copied the other justices of the court in addition to members of the appeals court, responded and sided with Seepersad saying: “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.

“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 and 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.”

Archie is challenging a ruling by acting chief justice, Allan Mendonca, in late May 2018 on the matter of whether or not the LATT has the authority and purview to investigate Archie in his capacity as chief justice. Mendonca sided with the LATT in his ruling after an initial court of appeal ruling sided with Archie in that the LATT had no jurisdiction to investigate Archie at all, in addition to raising questions on whether or not such an investigation can be impartial and fair, considering the source.

Archie is currently on vacation after initially asking for a six month sabbatical leave in early May, which was denied, causing Archie instead to opt for a 35-week extended vacation.

Clouds of suspicion over Archie’s conduct as chief justice and if whether or not he was “compromised”, swirled as early as January 2011 when then minister for justice, Herbert Volney, who was a sitting member of parliament for the United National Congress and also a former subordinate to Archie on the court, questioned the integrity of Archie and also “cautioned” the public on Archie’s susceptibility to being compromised as well as a host of other matters Volney raised in parliament.

Among the controversies swirling around Archie is his alleged involvement in a public housing fraud scheme with two men, one of whom died in late May, Kern Romero, who was also convicted of fraud in the matter said to involve Archie. The second man, Dillian Johnson, has gone on record stating his involvement in an intimate relationship he claims to have had with Archie, which he feels was behind an attempt on his life in December 2017.

Johnson was sitting on his porch on December 19, 2017, when armed men pulled up to his house and fired numerous shots in his direction as he fled through an alley way away from his attackers. Johnson had recently just finished an interview with a Trinidadian journalist, detailing the issues surrounding the fraud scheme he was convicted of and also details of his personal relationship with Archie.

Johnson subsequently fled to London where he has reportedly sought asylum.

Archie has denied any claims of any wrongdoing or any involvement in any wrongdoing, sexually or professionally or criminally, and described the allegations against him as a cruel, political witch-hunt by his opponents.

The Privy Council met on Monday of last week on the matter of Archie v the LATT, and is expected to return on Monday with its decision.

The emails:

From: “The Hon Mme. Justice Gobin” <[email protected]>
Date: 27 July 2018 at 2:09:16 PM GMT-4

To: The Honourable The Chief Justice Archie <[email protected]>, The Hon Mr.Justice Seepersad <[email protected]>
Cc: Judges-Appeal Court <[email protected]>, Judges-High Court <[email protected]>

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.

———————————-

From: The Honourable The Chief Justice Archie
Sent: Friday, 27 July 2018 9:23 AM

To: The Hon Mr. Justice Seepersad <[email protected]>
Cc: Judges-Appeal Court <[email protected]>; Judges-High Court <[email protected]>

Subject: Re: Press release dated 23rd July, 2018

Frank,
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!

Chief Justice
Sent from my iPad

——————————

On 27 Jul 2018, at 8:17 AM, The Hon Mr. Justice Seepersad <[email protected]> wrote:

The Hon the Chief Justice
Appeal Court Judges
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.

Frank

IMAGE: Chief Justice Ivor Archie

For more on this story go to: https://wp.caribbeannewsnow.com/2018/07/29/war-of-words-erupts-between-trinidad-chief-justice-and-other-judges/

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About ieyenews

Speak Your Mind

*