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Dear Editor: Judicial independence in T&T is under attack by a “select group of lawyers”

“Judicial independence essentially means that judges and other judicial officers are free to exercise the functions of their office without fear of reprisal, retribution or termination. The elements of such independence are security of tenure, financial security and administrative independence.

“Each of these elements is essential to ensure that democracy itself functions without undue influence from the State, unsuccessful litigants and third parties—like a select group of lawyers.”

The following Letter to the Editor on a perceived assault on judicial independence in Trinidad and Tobago was submitted to Wired868 by senior lecturer and barrister, Dr Emir Crowne:

Photo: A judge calls for order.

Judicial independence is under attack in this country. It is under attack by the very bar that prides itself on independence and self-governance. That stinging irony aside, these attacks should not be taken lightly.

The Supreme Court of Canada described judicial independence as: “[the] lifeblood of constitutionalism in democratic societies… An independent judiciary is absolutely necessary to ensure that the power of the state is exercised in accordance with the rule of law and the provisions of [the] Constitution.

“In this capacity, courts act as a shield against unwarranted deprivations by the state of the rights and freedoms of individuals… Judicial independence further represents the cornerstone of the common law duty of procedural fairness, which attaches to all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative proceedings, and is an unwritten principle of the Constitution.

“The twin aspects of judicial independence and impartiality are relevant to [the current matter]. The first is the requirement that the judiciary function independently from the executive and legislative branches of government… The second is the recognition that judicial independence is necessary to uphold public confidence in the administration of justice.”

(Application under s. 83.28 of the Criminal Code (Re), [2004] 2 SCR 248—internal citations omitted).

Judicial independence essentially means that judges and other judicial officers are free to exercise the functions of their office without fear of reprisal, retribution or termination. The elements of such independence are security of tenure, financial security and administrative independence. Each of these elements is essential to ensure that democracy itself functions without undue influence from the State, unsuccessful litigants and third parties—like a select group of lawyers.

Photo: UNC senator and attorney Gerald Ramdeen.
(Copyright CNC3)

Indeed, the Law Association can pass any motion it wants. It matters not. The motions are purely symbolic; and, in a sense, ‘miss the point’.

As members of the legal profession, you cannot tout the importance of an independent judiciary while at the same time passing motions for the removal of judges. It is an affront to the very principles that a self-regulated bar—in a democracy no less—is supposed to stand for.

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100 comments

  1. What Judicial Independence ???

  2. Be careful, remember he can get instructions from beyond the grave. His SC stands for SoCoyant

  3. On the greater issue curently being debated, it seems as if the substantial issue has been ignored in the midst of the PNM/UNC talk. The Court of Appeal upheld Justice Seepersad’s substantive ruling by mandating the Government to publish that the Valuation Forms as VOLUNTARY practice. This cleared up conflicting info by the Ministry of Finance.

    The UNC contended that the forms were not in the law, and therefore should not be considered as a mandatory part of the process. Justice Seepersad upheld that the forms were not part of the process according to the Property Tax Act and allowed for an injunction given the deadline set by the Min of Finance.

    The Court of Appeal upheld Seepersad’s ruling of the Forms being voluntary, and since the deadline had passed, removed the injunction.

    The fact is that the Government sought to initiate a mechanism to gain private info by disguising it as part of a legal process. Remember a certain person who said that citizens had no right to privacy? The Government has since been held in check.

  4. So the judiciary made big big tata and no one must complain.

    The “respected” lecturer seems to be trying to “manners” people for complaining against the judiciary for the immature behaviour it demonstrates by giving excuses after excuses rather than admitting its mistakes and moving on.

    People have the right to voice their disapprovals of events in this country.

    Or, does the lecturer seek to stifle this voice.

    He enjoys his voice but condemns others by saying they have ulterior motives.

    Seems he also have ulterior political motives.

    These people real good yes. They feel they alone have rights.

  5. I am sure that GOD Almighty looking into the hearts of all the comments here, is saying: They are all the same. And all that is being said here is either Politically or Racially based and Biased. I agree with the Dr Crowne to some extent that most of the Attorneys challenging the Present Administration are (perceived or actually) members of the Opposition and that they are bent on challenging the present Administration legally. This is what our Cherished Democracy affords us. I do not agree with their every challenge but I agree with their right to do so. As for the Judgements and subsequent reversal of same was expected by me. For some reason I was convinced that the judgements would have been overturned and that the Judge knew it would have gone to the Appeal Court. I am saddened that the People of this Nation is split by Race and Politics. The Opposition made a mess of things when they were in Office (Not Power) and were dismissed. When I look back at how they managed the affairs of our country, I am glad that I voted to dismissed the UNC from office. I am not totally pleased with the Present Administration but their Five (5) contract is also coming to an end and they will be evaluated. This Country is at the cross roads of time and need all hands to transform our Economy.

  6. Most of these statements are base on race, and what race you are to each his own

  7. Oh yeah well time to push back on that one.

  8. If the boots were on the other side….still waiting to see the outcome of the emailgate!