Chief Justice Archie should stand firm; Fixin T&T alleges that Law Association is political tool

“The actions of the [Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago] are serving to further undermine confidence in the very institution it claims to be seeking to protect. Any success realised will set a bad and extremely dangerous precedent.”

Fixin’ T&T slams the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) for its perceived call for Chief Justice Ivor Archie to resign and urges Archie to stand firm in the following release:

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie (left) signs a MOU for use of a new automated Case Management Information System. (Copyright Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago)

FIXIN’ T&T implores Chief Justice (CJ) Ivor Archie to robustly resist ongoing attempts by the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) to force his demitting of office in the absence of a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into recent elevations to the High Court.

The LATT, it can be argued, has been a tool of specific political interests for quite some time. FIXIN’ T&T deems this painfully flawed effort by the LATT in this imbroglio to be highly irresponsible and currently the single greatest threat to our Administration of Justice.

The actions of the LATT are serving to further undermine confidence in the very institution it claims to be seeking to protect. Any success realised will set a bad and extremely dangerous precedent.

FIXIN’ T&T commends Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s handling of misguided calls for his—the Prime Minister’s—intervention by quite correctly referring to the clarity provided by our Constitution on the removal of a sitting CJ.

FIXIN’ T&T holds absolutely no brief for CJ Ivor Archie. In our view, he has done very little to influence the desperately needed transformation of our Judiciary. For that reason, we have publicly asserted our position that as a CEO in the private sector he would have been fired a long time ago.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (centre) is escorted to the podium by two models during the Inaugural Conference of the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers in June 2009.

That said, while the CJ is a CEO, the Judiciary is not a corporation. It is true that our Judiciary, under CJ Archie’s watch, was recently brought into ridicule and disrepute.

FIXIN’ T&T publicly denounced the CJ’s high handed, dismissive and arrogant response to this spectacle; a very offensive and despicable strategy employed by servants to the public who hold high office.

We would have expected the CJ to acknowledge the national outcry on the gravity of the situation and recommend a thorough, independent and transparent investigation.

That also would have been our expectation of a responsible LATT. Even with the full appreciation that ethics must transcend legality, the approach by the LATT and some ‘legal luminaries’ thus far, seems void of respect for and adherence to due process and the laws of natural justice.

The ‘watershed’ moment in this scenario, as described in some quarters, is not the vote taken by the LATT last week. Rather, it is the opportunity that this and other events of the past month have presented to:

Photo: Recently appointed Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) president Douglas Mendes SC.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
  1. Honestly examine and assess the state of our Judiciary using history as a guide;
  2. Revise the methodology employed in the selection of a CJ to include the involvement of our Parliament;
  3. Revise the methodology employed in the selection of Judges to include the involvement of our Parliament;
  4. Identify and fix the systemic deficiencies in our Administration of Justice;
  5. Strengthen the independence of the Judiciary;
  6. Review the role of the CJ as the Chairman of the Judicial Legal and Services Commission;
  7. Examine our Constitution to determine if the guidelines for removing office holders like the CJ and the President of the Republic should be revised.

FIXIN’ T&T deems as imperative, the need to have systemic checks and balances for the highest of public office holders effectively implemented. That the President of our Republic, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice seem accountable to no person nor entity only redounds to the detriment of our Trinidad and Tobago.

FIXIN’ T&T urges the LATT et al to avoid the path of least resistance, exercise constraint and the discipline required to effectively treat with this delicate and complicated matter.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (centre).
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)
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  1. Fixin’ T&T is totally wrong and misled on this issue. They must apologise or resign. Their actions are destroying the very fabric of justice.

  2. because we love carnival, every day is a carnival in TT, and it relieves those responsibly from doing the work we need

  3. I think fixing T&T is jumping into a dangerous arena. Dr
    Rowley was right to stay out

  4. Barnum and Bailey.Ringling Bros..3 Ring Circus Bring in the clowns and elephants and tattoo women under the Big tent ..Marcia may have acted under duress?..A Chief magistrate not knowing her rights?..No wonder the “53′ matters were part heard.’

  5. Btw, I think Fixin T&T has put its neck on the line if it cannot defend its suggestion that the LATT might be a political tool. I find that to be a remarkable and possibly reckless statement.

  6. its interesting the LATT different reaction to the CJ and to Seepersad

    Speaks volumes

  7. Lasana Liburd after reading Marcia’s leaked letter, Helen Drayton’s column I am thoroughly baffled by the merit of their recent no-confidence motion against Archie and JLSC.

    • Why? Seems to have confirmed JLSC’s failure to do due diligence.

    • No. The JLSC cannot look into people’s caseloads. The CJ can. And prior to appointing her, by Marcia’s account he did look into it. He asked the official who could give an account of the full caseload: the Chief Magistrate.

    • Helen outlines it as well. And so does Marcia.

    • Okay Rhoda. I know we are having this debate in two places. Lol.
      I’d say the Chairman of the JLSC and the Chief Justice (himself to himself) ought to have seen the conflict of interest in the Chief Magistrate reporting on the Chief Magistrate before her pending promotion (herself on to herself).
      I don’t think it clears him from his responsibility.

    • But this will not be a case of herself unto herself. She is not awarding herself something, she is applying for a very senior position within our democracy. She was asked a direct question and answered in a non-truthful manner. Fact is, Marcia, there are 52 cases pending, not 28. Would the CJ have allowed the swearing-in ceremony to continue now she has 52 cases pending?

    • 28 or 53, there were cases pending.
      Natural justice-the issue of the number of outstanding cases was not raised with her.
      My issue as I clearly state is with how the matter was handled by all involved thereafter.

    • Her letter here saying 28, but to me , the CJ in his release stated less. Let me find that… brb

    • I agree, as I thought I read a smaller figure initially as well.

    • And theb ssue was also whether they were paper matters or part heard.

    • And in my mind, if she deliberately or otherwise misled the JLSC and CJ on the number of cases outstanding, it does not absolve him as he indicated she had not resigned as Chief Magistrate (how can you assume in another position while holding on to another?); failed to inform the DPP (and other stakeholders?) of her status, and then issued statement that matters would be heard de novo, despite statement from Ms. Choate that no decision had been made.
      Her part (and culpability, albeit at different point in situation unfolding) and his are not mutually exclusive.

    • …think process people. If the CJ’s letter to the LATT is correct, scheduling of the swearing in is a matter of the Office of the PResident and the applicant. In that case, the due diligence of the CJ argument is moot

    • Then due diligence should have been done before the recommendation was made to the president. Isn’t the JLSC the recommender Kwesi?

    • Lasana Liburd well if we cannot expect honor in our courts, where can we? Also the process relies on honor of the individual, because the actual number of cases does not necessarily reflect the difficulty of the cases and the time to dispose of them – so it’s beyond the number and he did ask and was given a response

    • Lasana. not really.

      You top the list, but you have a large caseload. You tell the President’s office give me 8 weeks instead of 6.

    • I’d say the courts are the last place to “expect” honesty and the first place where you’d expect people work extra hard to find the truth.

    • The JLSC and CJ should not have left those considerations at the discretion of the Chief Magistrate. That is shirking their own responsibility.
      Are you really saying that the JLSC is blameless after everything that has transpired Kwesi?

    • Is that grounds enough for the CJ’s resignation?

    • Ezra that I couldn’t say. I’d say no. But I think the CJ’s problem was irking people by being wrong and strong.
      If he doesn’t admit to erring then what is to prevent a repeat? If he really thinks he is blameless then he might as well go.

    • Ezra Joaquim, a legitimate question.
      And on the face of it, and from everything that has transpired (and for which he issued a statement clearly articulating why it wasn’t his fault), the answer is no.
      But if immediate stakeholders are raising questions, and expressing loss of confidence, given who you are and what you do, you should take notice!
      Interestingly, the court does provide mediation services.
      Maybe at this point, the relevant stakeholders (CJ, LATT) could get together and decide on a way forward.
      I do think, however, the stick your nose in the air and ignore (because you are ‘above this?’)’ clearly is not working.

    • Lasana, I’m going with the response to the CJ to the LATT. In there a process is laid out that is the basis of precedence.

      there, the CJ’s argument was that one’s caseload is not relevant to the selection process. and if you think about it, it shouldn’t be…then persons can be penalised and saboutaged from advancement by simply increasing their case load…and persons would be encouraged to eliminate their case loads inappropriately to win favourable consideration.

      If the caseload is not relevant for the creation of the shortlist, one can argue that it is not the JLSC’s purview to even consider.

      But he said he had that discretion as CJ which he did not exercise. He went on further to say that the process an precedent is that the coordination of swearing in happens between President and the applicant. If that is indeed the case, then this argument is moot.

    • So we have established that, good!

      Let’s look at Marcia’s actions now… you have 53 pending cases in actuality, you told the CJ it’s 28, as she claims. She apparently made no suggestions as to how to deal with her “28” cases. So as an officer of the court, was she just going to walk away from 53 pending cases?

      Isn’t that Marcia shirking her responsibility? In the CJ’s case it’s an appointment but in Marcia’s case it’s 53 open cases she almost walked away from!

      Does Marcia’s actions warrant her removal from office?

    • What about the 16 cases she just dismissed?

    • Kwesi, whilst the case load in actuality does not impede selection it clearly affects availability. It is reasonable to say to the JLSC, “thank you for your consideration, I have matters before me in my magistrates court that I simply cannot walk away from, can we consider an appointment date 3 or 6 months from now whilst I put things in place?”

      Why does the CJ have to chase down your case load? As a presiding officer of the court that information should be readily forthcoming from the applicant with a plan for moving forward. That’s what I would have expected from a future judge.

      Now that has gone through the roof, the CJ and JLSC will now have to ensure that the information is available via independent means. Can’t even trust a msgistrate apparently!

    • Wait til I tell all yuh she was offered more time to sort out she cases *ducks*.

    • How can the case load be irrelevant if it affects availability of the applicant Kwesi? How does that make sense?
      And if it is irrelevant then why was she asked to resign? Plenty contortions in this argument man.

    • Because she was found to be dishonest.

    • Again, I am going on the CJ’s letter.

      He argued that appointment scheduling is done by the Office of the President.

      if that is true, as appointment scheduling is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT activity from identification of candidates, then he hasa point that such was outside his purview.

    • Who recommended the applicant to the President? And what information was to be considered?

    • Helen Drayton echoed the CJ today. She said caseload was not a primary criteria. Let me find the quote.

    • Kwesi, the JLSC advises the president of the judges to be sworn in. The president will schedule the time. The JLSC could have also advise the unavailability of Ayers-Caesar due to her case load and lack of transition planning.

    • “The requirement to obtain information on outstanding work of candidates is only one aspect of the process to evaluate the suitabiloty and good standing of a person applying to become a judge…The process included assessment of their crendentials, a written examination and testing to assess their reasoning and cognitive skills, decision-making, testimonials, writing samples, interviews and psychometric testing.”

    • Well, that’s the part then. Rhoda, do you think the Chief Justice has anything to apologise for?

    • The crux of the matter is these 53 cases that apparently was abandoned by Marcia and by extension, the judicial system.

      And as Rhoda Bharath reminded us, it is highly unusual for 16 cases to be dismissed in one day. Was she going to dimiss all 53? That is not the action of an ethical person! How can you then elevate her to the judicial bench with peace of mind?

    • Lasana Liburd…she would have been recommended on the understanding that she met all of the above criteria.
      In Marcia’s letter today she seemed to be implying that Archie knew she had a heavier caseload. If that is the case she will then have to prove collusion on the part of the CJ…as in the man know she caseload was heavy and filled with part heard matters and he still recommend her…that is kankatang.

    • Rhoda I’d think the CJ would make it his business to know. That’s the one part where we are not in sync on this.

    • Lasana Liburd with respect to Archie having to apologise…only if he knew she had a heavy caseload…and if he admits that he knew he might as well resign too.

    • I’d say ignorance of her workload doesn’t reflect too well on the CJ either.

    • Well…the only reason we not in sync is because of the officeholder and chain of command. Archie had to ask the CM about magistracy work load. Marcia was the CM. She was dishonest about her workload. Given how the organisation structured, I not sure who else Archie should have gone to. But I am subject to education and instruction here.

    • Id say they have to rethink some of their processes.

    • Well, he did subsequently find out other than from the CM. As did she. I don’t believe his only source of info was ever confined to the Chief Magistrate. That’s where I think he lapsed.
      Of course it is easier to just ask the Chief Magistrate. But he is supposed to look at the best way to do his job not the easiest.

    • From Marcia’s version he found out from the ag Chief Magistrate. Her replacement. So technically is the same post/officer.

    • This discussion is circular – people are proposing that, despite process and protocol, the JLSC should advise the President’s Office on availability when established process says that the Office liaises DIRECTLY with the applicant to schedule appointment.

    • Nerisha and Lasana, yes, I agree that the CJ could be a little more forthcoming with information. He is a Public Servant after all. This is indicative of a point made in another thread… the perceived untouchability of Perm Secs, ministers and other senior government officers. I had to remind an immigration officer 10 years ago that he’s in service to the citizenry, we’re not here begging favors.

      That aside, I also believe that the CJ’s public pronouncements would have had to be limited since it is quite clear Mrs Ayers-Caesar is going to take the matter down the legal road.

      When it’s all be done and dusted I think we will see all the sorry and beg pardons thereafter.

    • Kwesi it is very simple. If caseload is relevant then it ought to be included in info on the applicant. Unless you’re saying the president would investigate that himself. Which is ridiculous.
      Thankful everyone else on the thread is agreement that it is relevant and the only sticking point is how the Chief Justice was supposed to ascertain her caseload.
      The issue about scheduling is a red herring.

    • The President can only act on the advice of the JLSC. SO the JLSC advises him that there are 5 persons whom have met the criteria to be judges, we would like them to be sworn in.

      The swearing-in ceremony datw and time is set as per the President’s schedule. So the CJ is correct in that regard.

      What we are saying however, is because an issue with Mrs Ayers-Caesar’s workload has been brought to light, maybe the JLSC couldn’t have withdrawn Mrs Ayers-Caesar from being sworn in, in the first place. So in effect, her caseload did not affect her at the selection process but should have given pause to her appointment (swearing-in) by the President. This would have had to happen again, only on further advice to the President from the JLSC.

      Basically, had everyone known she had 53 cases pending her appointment could have been reserved for another time when a case management plan was suitably in place.

    • Ezra, my contention is once her caseload would have some bearing on her availability–which we agree it does–then the onus should be on the JLSC to check before making the recommendation.
      That’s being professional and efficient in my books.
      If you call a company to provide you with internet, you don’t ask when they can come and install before you sign off on the deal?
      How can you recommend someone before finding out when they can start work?

    • But the onus currently isn’t.

    • If so, common sense has been lacking in this process for sometime and ought to be applied ASAP. Now if there are already things in place to give the magistrate all the time necessary to complete his/her caseload, then that’s a different matter.
      Then Marcia’s indecent haste would be the sole issue.
      And in that case, I’d say the Chief Justice wasn’t at fault.

    • Proper procedures is exactly what is lacking! Not even common sense, common sense is not common! ?

      Had a procedure been in place to verify and manage case load, Marcia Ayers-Caesar would be sitting in the judiciary by now. She would not have even heard all 53 cases, some could have been transferred to another magistrate depending on how far along they were.

      The JLSC needs to implement an effective transition program so that magistrates can move seamlessly into the judiciary when appointed.

      The CJ does not have to resign in order for that to happen.

    • Ezra, if scheduling is the remit of the President’s Office, then the JLSC cannot get involved. It would breach procedure for the JLSC to get involved.

      Your initial argument seems to invalidate your recommended way forward.

    • Kwesi you’re not letting go off this notion that it was the president office’s timing that threw off an otherwise perfectly smooth operation…

    • Anyway we really starting to go circular now in truth. Lol

    • Lasana, I just responded to Ezra’s comment. Above he said:

      “The swearing-in ceremony datw and time is set as per the President’s schedule.”

      he then said:
      ” So in effect, her caseload did not affect her at the selection process but should have given pause to her appointment (swearing-in) by the President. This would have had to happen again, only on further advice to the President from the JLSC.”

      This final statement is illogical. The JLSC was not party to scheduling, so how could they be responsible for RE-scheduling?

      Which is my initial point of circular logic. Carry on.

    • Okay. I got you. It is muddled.

    • The President can only act on advice. He is not selecting the judges, he is only swearing them into office. Even if the President sets a date and time for the swearing-in, the JLSC can still advise him to do otherwise BEFORE the swearing-in has actually taken place.

    • I think the recommendation should not be made to the President at all until the JLSC has found a capable and ready judge. Is that what you mean Ezra?

    • Ezra Joaquim and Lasana Liburd…the JLSC is whonadvise him to revoke her appointment…so yes an appointment can be made and revoked. The struggle now is to ascertain if a judge can be so easily removed. That is what Marcia is now arguing. And using constructive dismissal as the crux of her case.

    • Perfect. So once madam Ayers-Caesar caseload was brought under control, then her name should have been put forward to the President.

      I guess the above is a lil confusing because of the timeline with Ayers-Caesar. Had the JLSC known in time, maybe her swearing-in could have been postponed. (By the JLSC asking the President to do so!)

    • When we really need some legalese, Justin Phelps and Emir Crowne and the like are nowhere to be found. Lol

    • Yes, if they knew in time they could have not appointed her until a later date. But did they? No, they did not. Had she been honest this could have been avoided.

    • Or, of course, if they had checked in the first place. I’ve to make sure the carousel still wukkin! ??

    • Well Rhoda, it was revoked due to her resignation so that’s easy. But now she is contesting her resignation. If the resignation is thrown out then she is still a judge!

    • Lasana Liburd you is one clong eh. I going and fight for truth justice and the American Way. #wanderwoman

    • I’m eating jerk chicken in Ocho Rios tbh. No law for me tonight…

    • Hahaha. Fine Emir. Be a jerk then. ?? Kidding, kidding…

    • Not sure what the question was. After recent events, I’d say the answer is rum.

  8. Kirk Waithe, I’d love it if you can say why you feel the Law Association is “arguably” a political tool.

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