Ball in PM’s court Lawyers make case for CJ’s impeachment

The ball is now in the Prime Minister’s court on whether he thinks there is sufficient evidence in the Law Association’s (LATT) report to invoke the impeachment proceedings of the Constitution to have Chief Justice Ivor Archie investigated for judicial misconduct.

The report was sent to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday, president of the association, Douglas Mendes, SC, confirmed.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the Office of the Prime Minister said the Prime Minister also confirmed that he received a letter and documents from the LATT.

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Rowley is expected to seek legal advice on the report, and according to senior legal practitioners, earlier this week, he is the only one under the Constitution to make a decision on whether what is before him is sufficient to invoke section 137 of the Constitution which sets out the process to remove a Chief Justice (CJ) from office.

“The doctrine of necessity will kick in. It will be a tough political decision in the run up to 2020 elections,” a senior attorney said.

On Tuesday, the LATT’s members voted in favour of referring the allegations against Archie to the Prime Minister for further action.

In its letter to the Prime Minister, LATT’s secretary Elena Araujo said she was sending the report, the opinions of the association’s external counsel, a letter from the CJ’s lawyers calling on the association to declare there was no basis to make a reference to the PM under section 137 and the association’s reply.

She said the committee was unable to substantiate some of the allegations against Archie, but was satisfied there was “sufficient substantiation” of others for referral to him.

Araujo also pointed out that there was a difference of opinion by LATT’s counsel as to which of the allegations, if true, constitute misbehaviour. “But, they were both of the view that the evidence gathered was sufficient to justify a referral by the Law Association to you under section 137.”

“I wish to emphasis in closing, that the association has made no finding of misbehaviour against the Honourable Chief Justice but only that there is sufficient evidence to support a referral under section 137 for you to determine whether a representation to Her Excellency the President under section 137 is warranted.”

In a public call to judges and masters of the High Court and magistrates, vocal attorney, Israel Khan, SC, suggested they write to the Prime Minister asking that he set in motion the impeachment proceedings so that a tribunal can be established to determine if the allegations against Archie are true or false.

“This scandalous imbroglio not only impacts upon the proper functioning of the Judiciary but on the entire country and our international standing amongst the commonwealth countries.

“The Chief Justice must be cleared and if he cannot be cleared then he must demit office.

“History will not absolve you, if you, the judicial officers, remain silent–as if it is not your business: It is your business to have a “clean” Chief Justice presiding over the administration of Justice.”

Khan also called for the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, which appoints judges, magistrates and other legal officers, headed by Archie, to hold its hand on new appointments until the CJ is cleared of the allegations against him.

“All is not well on Knox Street, Country first, then your personal quiet life.”

The allegations

According to the LATT’s report, the committee established in November, last year, considered a series of allegations, for which it received the advice of two Caribbean jurists, that he recommended people for Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing; that he discussed the judiciary’s security needs with his friend–convicted fraudster Dillian Johnson, “in terms which suggest that the Chief Justice was informing him of opportunities which might be available and of interest to Johnson”; that the Chief Justice had developed close personal relationships with people engaged in criminal activities; and that the Chief Justice recommended certain people for HDC housing and urged HDC officials to fast-track their applications; as well as unilaterally discontinuing security arrangements for a judge.

Members were told that the LATT exercised its power, as stated in the Privy Council’s judgment, in August, which cleared the way for the association to continue the process, make a formal complaint where justified and defend the judiciary against unjust criticisms.

“Moreover, given the Government’s declared intention not to become involved, the council considered that it could not shirk its statutory responsibilities to seek to determine whether there was indeed any substance to the allegations made against the Honourable Chief Justice,” the report said.

LATT’s committee interviewed several people, including Express journalist Denyse Renne, and wrote to former HDC managing director Jearlean John, current managing director Brent Lyons, former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and Dr Rowley.

John, Lyons and Moonilal responded, while the Prime Minister did not, nor did he acknowledge the committee’s letter.

According to the report, Archie communicated with Rowley “sometime after the election in 2015” recommending several people for HDC houses.

It added, “The committee was particularly concerned that neither the Chief Justice nor the Prime Minister had responded to the allegation that the Chief Justice recommended three persons for public housing to the Prime Minister.”

The report also said the LATT was not “interested” in the CJ’s close personal relationships.

“That is his private business. The committee was concerned with what appeared to be his lack of judgment in developing these relationships with persons who have brought the office of Chief Justice into disrepute by their activities.”

“As already noted, in his press release the Chief Justice did not deny the allegations that he contacted the senior HDC officer orally and by Whatsapp and neither did he deny that he communicated with the Prime Minister.

“Moreover, he did not even refer to the allegation that he had made recommendations to the Prime Minister among the many extracts which he had deemed defamatory. Finally, despite being asked specifically about these communications… the Chief Justice has as yet not responded.”

The report said the committee had inferred that Archie sought the prime minister’s assistance and recommended several people for State housing because “a person with whom he had a close personal relationship, asked him to do so, and not because of need and merit as he claimed.”

Chief Justice’s responses

Archie was given an opportunity to respond, and the committee considered his December 15, 2017, press release in which he said it was false to suggest that he discussed the issue of private security for judges with them, but admitted that in 2015, he did recommend the names of “some needy and deserving persons” to the HDC, “for such consideration as might be appropriate.” He specifically denied that he ever recommended Johnson.

The committee reported that Archie did not deny that he recommended to the Prime Minister three people for housing; that he made contact with a senior HDC official to have the applications fast-tracked; that he discussed judges’ security arrangements with Johnson; a Whatsapp exchange between him and Johnson; that he had a close personal relationship with Johnson and another convicted felon, Kern Romero; that Johnson met him in Guyana (at an official engagement) and stayed with him at a hotel there; that Romero showed his “clients” photographs of the CJ and correspondence with him to give them confidence that he (Romero) could depend on Archie to assist in getting them HDC houses.

Archie has said the images purportedly with Johnson were doctored and not authentic.

The committee said while the CJ complained of all the newspaper reports being defamatory, he singled out three of the allegations: that he was corrupt by using his office with convicts for their benefit to get a private security contract for judges’ personal security; that he used his office with convicts to defraud people to obtain HDC housing and that he recommended Johnson for HDC housing.

The committee said by January 20, it had come to the conclusion that there were a number of allegations which had been sufficiently substantiated to warrant seeking a response from Archie and wrote to him seeking answers.

The questions put to the CJ also named the people he allegedly assisted to get HDC houses, and those who assisted him.

 

Source: Newsday https://newsday.co.tt/2018/12/16/ball-in-pms-court/

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