Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Judicial independence in T&T is under attack by a “select group of lawyers”

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!

  9. For we fight against principalities and powers in high offices.

  10. true, they all have their own personal vendetta and ambition

  11. There is always a select group of ppl trying to achieve a certain goal. like trying to control all of the wealth by influencing the politics behind the scenes or that group that uses its influence to manipulate the outcome for certain agenda. There’s always a select group.

  12. Yes,The strikebreaker son and daughters still working for the slave master.

  13. Research these names…Patrick Jaggessar, Jagdeo Singh, Gerald Ramdern

    • Also, Sherman McNicolls, Marlene McDonald, Keith Rowley, Michael Anisette, Michael and Lennox Carew, Ken Julien, Vernella Toppin-Alleyne… and thrown in we can add Varun Dabideen, Asha Harrypaul and others in the mix. The list is just too bloody long!!

  14. I think this gentleman is correct. For those who do not agree that is ok because not everyone is blessed with wisdom and an eye For integrity.

  15. Bunch of frigging thieves missing the treasury

  16. The looks OF the facial expressions says a lot terrible

  17. A true “no confidence” could not be passed. It was a nonsense. When objection was registered to it, the lawyers said that they were entitled to record their lack of confidence, which they did. But then they went public and tried (wrongly) to sell it as a true no confidence- with the (alleged) significance that CJ had thereby lost legitimacy, and CJ should resign. That tends to undermine the admin of justice in my view.

  18. I am not casting aspersions on the motives of all who may have called for removal of the Honourable CJ, (which in my opinion is a disproportionate penalty for the reasons proffered for such removal), but the lack of morality issue……. With whose yardstick are we measuring morality? The ones currently under police investigation for serious wrongdoing? Whose exactly?

  19. How come the law association have not made a decision on Ramdeen as yet where he was taking instructions from a dead man

  20. Dead men tell no tales… Unless the submitting n filing brief by someone else. It was from the great beyond… A money making scam… Concocted by the dead man specialist and friends… Yet today they are welcomed in that hall as a companion and champion… What is the difference… Where are the honest GOD fearing people of this nation… Hah what ah thing!!!

  21. All are them are run away horse

  22. I also agree with the barrister.You see the system have no order, to control these group of hoodlums.

    • I totally agree with you.
      If we did not have the Privy Council this group of hoidlums would wreck havoc on decent law abiding people. Lol.

      Imagine they break the law, go on dates with govt funds, so stipid as to run up hyge roaming fees, not concerned with the cares of the citizenry, try to creat fear in the population.

      Do you know how many public servants had to go to the Privy Council to get redress because they were bypassed for promotion or not promoted because the PNM viewed them as of a recalcitrant minority.

      If not for these lawyers taking the fight against PNM nepotism crapaud smoke we pipe. Ho, ho, ho.

  23. Well it’s simple! All these lawyers and judge who doing things they should not do day will come. That’s why u c people suffering and u wonder why! Paying for their doings. It’s called Karma.

  24. I agree with the observation and comments of the senior lecturer and barrister about the attack on the judiciary by a certain group of lawyers .

  25. Since Rowley at the helm our Country has become totally dysfunctional. All basic systems are failing us because this Government lacks basic Education, they don’t seem to know much.They blasted dunce.I can’t name a single Minister who knows their job.The are thr laughing stock of the Carribbean.Shameful and a disgrace to our nation and the region.

    • Say what!!!!, where are you living, like you in lala land…..

    • You really don ‘t know the Caribbean.

    • Listen to to The Head of Caricom’s welcome speech in. Belize when Dr Rowley became PM. Listen to town meeting at Mona UWI. Him representing Caricom and Latin America in Washington DC and I can go on. It is a certain section of this society that disrespects the gentleman in no ordinary way.The Caribbean reads and are very aware of Caribbean and world affairs and prides themselves. Not fooled by fluff.

    • It takes a dUNCe to make such a statement, not surprised?

    • lol. Keep supporting nonsense and you watch our Country destroyed. Soon they will throw patients on the grass to die, there will be no fuel for the Coast Guard Boats in Tobago.No marine transport to Tobago, No medecine in hospital, Hiv injections, to clean a cespit from the Corporation will be $300. Everything in the grocery will be over priced, our Government Ministers will cannot form proper sentences.Crime escalated.No medecine, Hiv injections, taxes galore. Ughh I won’t even bother. You all are so blinded. Have a nice day!

    • Too late anyway lol All of those have already happened.

    • Out of this foolishness.Wheel and come again.

    • All facts, they can’t even pass legislation,lieing to an entire nation, like we are fools! This has become the norm. But that’s their style. Keep the people uneducated, because they too are uneducated lol Bluffing their way through. A sad bunch of losers! lol I guess you don’t hear much from them anymore.They have been mandated to stay quiet by the P.M lol It sad oui. Garcia!,Moses, Salty Deeyalsingh, Impsbert! Shafah!Smitty , Rowley! lol #bombsquad of jackass lol???? Hindsy lol Sinanan?

    • So true, and unfortunately, an earache to listen to them speak….mm

  26. Apparently, the majority of lawyers who voted in the No Confidence motions held by the LATT and who said that they did not have confidence in the JLSC and the CJ, Mr Crowne is say that they are a “select few”. Who then are the ‘unselected many’? Persons such as Mr Daly, Pamela Elder S.C., Israel Khan S.C. , the President of the Law Association, Sophia Chote S.C., among others, supported the No Confidence motion. This was not a UNC thing, or an Indian thing, it is a governance ‘thing’, it is a ‘fairness thing’, it is an ‘accountability thing’.

    The mere unprecedented large turnout at the Law Assoc meeting suggested that this was not a ‘selected few’ issue.

    • Correction: The persons identified in the previous comment spoke about issues relating to the CJ and JLSC and their variance of opinion to that of the Offices mentioned. There is no evidence that they supported the motion.
      Though from their writings and public comments, they opposed certain issues which in fact was a part of the discussion for the motion by the LATT.

  27. If was the other way around it would’ve not been a problem. How convenient

  28. Judicial independence my …….

    What we have in TT is a govt determined to bend the judiciary to its way with pliant judidicial officers in extremely high position.

    You have a PNM determined to bend the law to coerce and ram down the population’s throat warped version of the law.

    You have a group of UNC lawyers trying to get proper interpretation of the law and you have a group of PNM people angry about the whole thing.

    I am very glad that the UNC has not agreed to switch to the Caribbean Court and to retain the Privy Council. If not for the Privy Council certain sections of this country would be persecuted by our version of INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY.

    Why do our senior public servant have to go to the Privy Council for redress for nonpromotion and other ills committed against them by the PNM.

    • That is nothing but the truth but you know what the red and ready clip can’t see beyond their noses

    • I don’t know if you have a mirror, if you do pls look into it first or i suggest you do some self searching. Who promoted Frank Seepersad to the high court while he was president of the Southern lawyers association in front of others? He was the youngest to be given that position. Who and on what grounds did the former Ag gave himself silk, gave Kamliar silk and attempted to hoodwink Archie with silk also, but thank GOD he smelt the rat and returned it. Who placed Carmona as President? Who put the present JLSC in place and now find that they don’t belong? How did files/notes from the courts appeared on Ramdeen desk? Who represented a dead man for 2yrs and said he didn’t know? So when you speak of pliant judicial officers in extremely high position, its your Kamliar and them who did that and more.

    • Steve St Louis are you suggesting that the politicians put judges on the bench.

      Please see who recommended him.

      Who recommended people to the JLSC. Again please find out.

      Your questions suggest you have info but in fact you are just ranting. Noise making does not make you right.

      And whats your beef with Carmona.

      Please do research instead of ranting.

    • Steve St Louis you hit the nail on the head!

    • Its hard to pass ranting and raving by PNM sycophants. Lol.

      The CJ and the JLSC are responsible for selecting judges or promoting judges. Get that through you PNM head.

      The Pres appoints them based on the selection by the above persons. Do you get that or is it too difficult.

      Steve St Louis you draw conclusions based on wrong facts.

      Again I ask what is your problem with Carmona as president.

      Stop ranting and have an intelligent discourse.

    • what is proper interpretation of the law

    • One that applies to all and not one’s personal interpretation.

      Thats why we have the courts to arbitrate presuming that the court is not biased. Lol.

  29. Remember that two lawyers featuring prominently in this Judiciary issue, are the same ones that orchestrated an ill fated attack on the law association recently

  30. Even if one is unbiased in his thinking, how could you interpret the lawsuits brought against the state by lawyers and claimants who are all UNC activists and their matters heard before a particular high court judge who allegedly belong to the same movement, with all the results being the same. It appears that because they have no control over the executive they want to control the Judiciary, in an effort to protect and save themselves (not the wider community) from highlighting and explaining the road map to their massive resources.

  31. Power they want power they would never get in this land.

  32. This garbage is a waste of time to read. What is his opinion more valuable than hundreds of local lawyers who deal with bias lax judges daily?

  33. The writer has made two fundamental flaws in his thinking that – given his impressive qualifications and experience – are almost unforgivable.

    First, there is the implied condition that the Chief Justice is an ordinary judge, and that it is wrong to remove him from his position. By implying this condition, Crowne is conflating the position of the Chief Justice with the position of the Chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. While they may be the same person, and that person is the Chairman because he is the Chief Justice, they are two separate offices. They both serve different functions, and in no way should be conflated or confused with the other. This is quite an elementary mistake and makes it quite obvious that if you start an argument from a false premise, you will never arrive at a true answer. Obviously, there’s a lot more I can write on this but I leave it up to readers to do their own research.

    Second, there is the other elementary mistake of ascribing political motives to legal actions. There is a prima facie case of the JLSC being unconstitutionally constituted. Several reasons have been brought up in the public domain for this, one of which is that two of the retired judges are over the prescribed age (http://bit.ly/2sGkbGU).

    Cases are assigned to judges arbitrarily, and if two cases are linked they assigned to the same judge (paragraphs 6 – 12 here: http://bit.ly/2sRW9rD). Implying that the judge is politically motivated to find in favour of the Opposition is almost contempt of court. It is impugning the character and reputation of the judge. Crowne ought to know better.

    Sadly, their very independence means that judges are not able to comment in public regarding any matters, not even to defend themselves. They cannot even be seen to be biased in any manner (remember Sherman McNicolls and the Panday matter?). While a judge is entitled to vote, for example, he cannot be seen to be allied with any political party, neither can he even comment on which party he supports.

    I want to address the issue of the bar attacking the judiciary. The bar has in no way attacked the judiciary but has expressed reservations in the conduct of the chairman of the JLSC (who happens to be the chief justice). The fact that the chairman, the JLSC and indeed the chief justice did not conduct due diligence in the matters that brought the judiciary into disrepute is indeed casting a stain upon the GLS E and the office of its chairman, and the office of the Chief Justice. You will notice that I have treated them as separate entities, which indeed they are. The bar was and is entitled to hold its titular head to account.

    I also want to address the issue of “select group of lawyers”, which the writer has used to imply that such a group of lawyers Is politically motivated… Apparently consistently. I personally do not see it this way – and before I continue, I confess I hold no brief for these lawyers, and in most cases personally dislike them – but what I see is a group of lawyers who are willing to stand up for constitutional defence. Many of these lawyers have built their reputations on constitutional and human rights grounds, so it is no surprise therefore that anyone with complaints in these areas will seek them out. The fact that they are aligned with one particular political party may or may not be coincidence but that is certainly their right. In the same manner, there are lawyers are aligned with the other political party, but no one seems to notice.

    The point I am trying to make is that these lawyers are making important changes to the law, especially where the administrative arm of the government is abusing its powers. Crowne of all people should appreciate the balance of the separation of powers and the rule of law. the rule of law is a concept many people do not understand even after many years of legal experience, and sadly, I see here that Crowne falls into that bracket.

    My final point is that anyone/everyone has the right to stop abuse of power, constitutional shenanigans, and blatant disregard for the law/rule of law, as can be seen from the recent Privy Council judgement in favour of R Dumas.

    Keep in mind the final arbiter will be the Privy Council.

  34. Kamla put them there for that purpose because she knows that she is not a good leader and need help

  35. A BUNCH OF PEOPLE THAT SHOULD BE IN JAIL

  36. They are not Lawyers but British Citizens who have invaded our Land by joining a Corrupt Union Shop called the Law Association……Let drive out of TnT if they will not renounce their oath to the fake Monarch Elizabeth 2 that has an International Warrant for Crimes against humanity.Notice since 2009 she never left England,? We need to drive out the QC also.

  37. They are not Lawyers but British Citizens who have invaded our Land by joining a Corrupt Union Shop called the Law Association……Let drive out of TnT if they will not renounce their oath to the fake Monarch Elizabeth 2 that has an International Warrant for Crimes against humanity.Notice since 2009 she never left England,? We need to drive out the QC also.

  38. Or controlled by de government!

  39. Judaical Independence was lost when the PNM took control of the Judiciary to illegally convict Basdoe Panday .. the PNM removed the then CJ and supplanted a crony, who to this day is still doing their bidding …

    Archie was appointed under a cloud of suspicion, and at ever opportunity instead of quelling the suspicions, as he should attempt to to. He instead does the opposite, by always making.. suspicious decisions which always appear to be biased to the PNM ..

    Ivor Archie is being attacked because of cronyism,, he is by-passing qualified magistrates to appoint lesser qualified PNM cronies…

    We currently are in a situation where we have magistrates who can sue the judiciary under the equal opportunities act, and if they do? what court is going to hear those cases?

    The Main question in all for this is the Promotion practices and appointment practices of Ivor Archie ..

    IS loyalty to the PNM the sole criterion sued for appointing and promoting magistrates? If the PP/UN accuses the CJ of this and the JSC and CJ refuses to be transparent in their processes . Then the lawyers attacking the CJ, have the public interest on their side ..

    Anyone who defends the CJ’s right to secrecy and lack of transparency totally devoid of morals.

    The CJ lost the plot when his nepotistic appointment resulted in the premature restarting of 43 odd cases ..
    The perturbed supporters of the opposition see this error as a valid reason to remove the CJ, without openly accusing him of being a closet PNM sympathizer …

    BUT any sitting C.J. should never behave in a way which makes people believe he is in league with the Government or Opposition, or any political party. Ivor has failed in that respect as Justice Sharma also did . even though, in hind sight Sharma’s name was cleared, and it was shown that it was Mc Nichols who was in league with the PNM … (see Privy Council rulings on the Panday matter)

  40. One question Emir. Do you see the move by the Law Association and by Ramdeen, Sturge and company to be similar?
    Or do you see clear differences?

  41. I note with interest that the writer omitted to address the issue of accountability, which in my view gave rise to this imbroglio. So the Judiciary is virtually sacrosanct and beyond reproach? I strongly disagree.

    • I agree 100% ! Its so fake! In the end, they too are ” employees”! Not beyond reproach. When there are internal rumblings amongst any group! who historically covered up for eachother! DO NOT PICK SIDES! allow the drama to unfold on its own! The entire country always knew sheep from goat.!

    • Crowne is confused as to what is the judiciary, and what is the JLSC. Appalling that someone with his level of experience should make such a mistake… I don’t even have words to describe this. Even a first-year student knows the difference… well, maybe not his students.

  42. Judicial independance my foot!! Since when has this been a reality ??

  43. Yes I agree , the Constitution should be amended to address the 21st cenuiry issues, we currently face, but we run the risk of the problem of lack of implementation (which to me is our primary problem) .What is the use of all these laws and then lawyers use technicalities to win cases. More than that it halts the country from moving forward. One foot forward, two step backward, so whey we going? Nowhere, we static. how and when will we get it right. he was quite accurate in his comment that it is the lawyers of the Judiciary themselves who are contributing to the continued erosion of the institution..

  44. Ramdeen bring back all the money

  45. The judicial principle of Judicial Review is well established as a tool to prevent authorities from acting ultra vires. Why then can’t the judiciary be asked to abide by the very principle they claim to be the guardian of?

    The application of appeals is another method that highlights the fact that one can question a judicial decision without eroding confidence in the Judiciary.

    Therefore the writer of this article needs to amend his thinking to a more modern progressive one.

  46. Justice must not just be done but it must appear to have been done. That means that perception is as important as reality. Therefore if the judiciary has taken actions that appear to be contrary to fairness, then that should be addressed.

    T&T has given up Colonialism and the Monarchy, and under the principles of democracy, persons have the right to question practices that appear unfair or contrary to natural justice. A true principle of democracy is that all can be held accountable, regardless of their professional standing in society.

  47. I’ve not read this level of horse manure from even a layman, much less a ‘senior lecturer and barrister’.

  48. Succint and sobering…thank you, Emir Crowne

  49. I was waiting for someone to say this. I have found this fiasco to be purely self serving.

  50. Constitutional Reform NOW…

  51. I can’t wait to hear from Mr Daly.