Home / View Point / Martin Daly / Destroying the judicial guardrails; why we will all pay for Archie’s alleged HDC forage

Destroying the judicial guardrails; why we will all pay for Archie’s alleged HDC forage

It is not surprising that the issue of the allocation of public housing is front page news once again. What is astonishing is that it is allegations concerning the conduct of the Chief Justice that have put the issue back on the front page—but first, a little recap.

In April 2016, long after town was saying it, the Trinidad Express finally broke the news that approximately 70 media employees or their relatives had been allocated houses over a five-year period having been “recommended” by ministers or their satellites. At that time, I described the situation as the media cookie jar.

Photo: Trinidad Express senior political reporter Anna Ramdass received an HDC house on the recommendation of a government minister.

Notably, however, there were several wet blanket comments from media interests intended to damp down criticism of the significant conflict of interests between the media’s weighty responsibilities to be impartial in the public interest and its gratitude for political largesse. Moreover, there was not one worthwhile editorial on the subject.

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT), however, commendably put out a detached statement on the subject recorded on social media:

“The investigation suggests that these allocations were fast tracked and that journalists might have received priority housing placement from State officials because of their professional influence within the media.

“The implications of this matter are far-reaching and affect the fundamental integrity of newsrooms and their duty to the public interest.”

Two months later, I wrote: “The housing allocation wrongdoing will never be reversed. It suits both political sides to access that lucrative drawer of the repeatedly raided national cash register to fix up relatives and friends, to reward political fidelity regardless of merit, or to unduly influence policemen, journalists and others in the performance of their duties.”

Photo: The Fidelis Heights HDC compound.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Never, however, could I have imagined that there would be allegations that the Chief Justice or any member of the Judiciary would be involved in “recommending” third parties for housing—let alone, allegedly going further by speaking to officials regarding the applications of third parties for public housing.

Arguably, the line between “recommending” and “interfering” in the due process of allocation of public housing is a mirage. But, in any event, the existence of a practice of significant office-holders getting involved in the allocation of housing provided by the State or State agencies is not applicable to members of the Judiciary. Judges cannot act in this way and be parties to such a practice.

The Judiciary has been placed in a uniquely protected position by the Constitution and must observe the restraint that is necessarily complementary to the enjoyment of the protected tenure of such office. Judges must therefore restrain themselves from conduct which puts them in a position to be or to appear to be beholden to anyone, or, in local parlance, have files capable of being ‘buss’ if they do not return some favour.

The jumping of housing queues is a particularly sensitive subject and one traditionally enmeshed in political patronage. The Judiciary cannot be—or be seen to be—part of the contact system.

Every word of the MATT release quoted above may be applied with equal force to the Judiciary’s getting involved with State agencies in the provision of public housing for third parties. That is against the public interest.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (centre).
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

The Judiciary is the principal among the “guardrails” against the politicians and other public officials when they try to run fair play and honesty off the straight and narrow road on which those requirements of a civilised society should travel.

The concept of the “guardrails” of democracy was the subject of a commentary by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Like several conservative commentators who have no time for Trump, Krauthammer has welcomed the guardrails of democracy holding fast “against the careening recklessness of this Presidency.”

The Chief Justice has not answered the allegations. Perhaps he won’t bother even if the allegations multiply. He never even begged pardon for the judicial appointments fiasco known as the Marcia mess.

He knows that so-called civil society and most lawyers are gutless and we all know that politicians thrive when institutions are weak.

Let’s be clear, however, that once respect for the judicial guardrails is destroyed, we will all pay dearly.

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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78 comments

  1. Regarding the many, many ‘missteps’ of Chief Justice (CJ) Ivor Archie, I cannot help but think this man is a prime example of an unwanted pest, namely an Alabama tick.

    Having disgraced, on many occasions, the Office of the Chief Justice – and by virtue of the posts he holds due to being CJ, the Offices of Chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC), and the Head of the Bar – he now digs in like the proverbial Alabama tick, hoping to ‘ride’ out the mess he has made. One wonders if he is openly ‘obtuse’ like the warden in Shawshank Redemption, due to the ‘pay-out’ coming at the end of his tenure.

    Beginning before the Marcia Ayers-Caesar fiasco, and still continuing, the CJ has been involved in controversy after controversy. For anyone who knows the parameters of the Rule of Law, they would understand the many breaches committed by Archie in respect of moral and ethical behaviour, even as the legal position he finds himself in becoming more and more untenable.

    Lately, I realise that the Rule of Law is severely handicapped, as it is more of an ‘honour code’ and can be ignored willy-nilly as in Archie’s case, and there is no enforceability of the moral and ethical codes touted by so many. Flying in the face of ‘justice’, Archie has simply ignored everyone who calls for an account of his behaviour, feeding off the public’s ‘blood’ all the while, like the afore-mentioned tick. What we need is a damn good anti-tick pesticide.

  2. When the judiciary system is compromised democracy and fairness no longer exist.

  3. Mr Archie these people have their agenda, you are the C.J. Let them know their place.

  4. “Nigel, as an employer I’d think it important that employees not only avoid conflicts of interest but also the potential for conflicts of interest. And I think it reckless to create situations where you might have to recuse yourself or have your impartiality called into question.”

    Lasana first of all I think that there are a lot of assumptions that are being proffered as fact. According to the Express “Archie’s intervention saw the applicants receiving housing, bypassing hundreds of applications which had been in the system for years.” We don’t know that any of this is factual. We would need to know where in the process the applications were, and whether the alleged intervention by Archie did indeed speed the process along for the beneficiaries of the HDC houses.

    Secondly, as I asked earlier, IF he did in fact intercede/make a recommendation, did he do so in his official capacity as CJ, or was he interceding to help friends in his personal capacity?

    Third, even IF the allegations as written are true… where is the conflict of interest? What am I missing here? Perhaps it would be an abuse of his office to make the recommendations, but that is separate from a conflict of interest. Is the allegation that he intervened to help someone in power who might then be positioned to return the favor? How do his alleged actions fit in the description of conflict of interest that you posted? Genuine question.

    Why would he need to recuse himself in any future matters concerning the government? Is it being alleged that he helped a specific government Minister or someone similarly connected to the government?

    • One: the issue is the implications of the request more than the success of it.
      Two: I genuinely don’t think that point is worth the debate. Lawyers get off on talking about certain technicalities (like maybe whether going to Tobago is or isn’t an overseas trip) and I just am not up to that this evening.
      Three: I believe Rowley is on record in explaining the importance of a Cabinet post in being able to exchange favours with colleagues for constituents and your community. I think he said so in reference to getting Clarence Rambharat a seat at the table as it would mean he also had the benefit of being able to do more for Mayaro.
      One of these services that ministers barter is housing. So what does Ivor Archie offer in return for something politicians can choose to grant or deny? Is there a spoken understanding? An unspoken one? Might it be that the housing minister felt one way about what he was doing and the CJ another?
      We even remember a case of Ramadharsingh even using promised houses to allegedly sleep with constituents.
      Whatever was or wasn’t promised, I think it is well known that politicians use houses as sweeteners.
      I’m sure you can find stories that speak to such already.
      And just the perception of that should be enough for CJ to stay clear. He is already given a salary and perks to keep his eye on the ball.

    • Btw, I’m being short only because I’m focused on our Intercol reporting and such. But I still wanted to try and respond.
      Not that the points you make aren’t worthy of discussion but I just know I won’t be able to keep up with an extra debate.

    • Not an issue, I have been busy as well.

      1. What are the implications?
      2. Perhaps insignificant, perhaps not. If you don’t think him intervening in his personal capacity is proper… then are you suggesting that he could never again intercede on behalf of anyone while he holds office?
      3. This is actually quite common, during legislative negotiations members employ quid pro quo negotiation on behalf of their constituencies. Put another way, if you want me to help get your bill passed then I will need for you to return the favor when I need to get something done for my constituents. No impropriety there unless it’s used for direct personal gain, or otherwise abused or not in the public’s interest.
      What can Archie offer to a government Minister? A favorable judicial ruling or intervention? Assuming the intercession was made directly to that Minister? Archie himself doesn’t hear that many cases as a sitting CJ. Perhaps he could try to influence a matter heard before a lower court, but that’s highly unlikely. I doubt he would jeopardize his career over a ‘favor’ from which he himself doesn’t benefit. And such a relatively measly favor at that.

  5. What is the real agenda of these ” so called Paragons of Virtue”…. …… These men and women who pose as ” Squeaky Clean”………. Yes these so called ” Good Citizens? Mr CJ ……… Do not move an inch……………. Do not even flinch

  6. Me thinks Mr Daly is trying real hard to destroy the man. I am not on any side but even if he did recommend the person still have to qualify for house.. keep trying to destroy the CJ.. sad country..

  7. I agree with Mr Daly. Remember also the ‘Smart man’ from the TTDF who breached protocol by personally inviting and hosting the AG, his family and Stewart Young in Cumoto without the knowledge and permission of the Chief of Defence Staff, contrary to established protocols. This ‘Smart man’ was subsequently given an apartment at Victoria Keys.

    Who is the CJ’s MP? Just asking.

  8. This is where zero tolerance begins.

  9. Adrian Philbert you don’t buy papers every day?

  10. Amazingly Mr Daly seems to only have a moral compass when it applies to others..

  11. Steups and gtfoh with this article.

  12. A well worded and relevant journalistic piece, but tell me, does Archie really cares? Another example where the law was not meant for everyone and there is those who are well shielded. A very poor example of a human being indeed!

  13. i still have no problem with the housing as it wasnt a gift

    however this

  14. Daly is absolutely right. Many find straw arguments equivocation or apply the general laissez faire attitude all to common. As I said elsewhere and I repeat here..::” Archie has a duty of punctilious rectitude in the conduct of his affairs both private and publ…The Code of Conduct for Judges at paragraph 2.1 states ” A judge shall ensure that his conduct is above reproach in the view of reasonable fair minded persons and 4 A judge’s conduct both in and ought of court is bound to be the subject of public scrutiny and comment. Judges must therefore accept some restrictions on their activities….” Regarding the matter at hand, the uncontested facts are that the CJ communicated with a convict regarding the security arrangements of judges, in a manner inconsistent with best practices in procurement if not directly in breach of the Central Tenders Board Act. The Chief Justice has a certain duty to act fairly and it on the face of it conflicts with a private interest. Finally the Chief Justice has no business in making behind the scenes recommendation for the recommendation of housing, this should remain within the realm of political patronage and opens up the possibililty of a quid pro quo with politicians administrators etc.These matter should be pellucidly clear I would think. I have to dispel my personal bias when persons do not see these problems not perhaps in these terms but conceptually, I wonder if they are ignorant as in not knowing or dishonest as in knowing but for collateral reasons refuse to see a relative simple principle…”

  15. I reiterate, the CJ was wrong, but who is going to stop this long tradition? These corrupt practices are not only present in HDC but throughout:, SEA placing CXC scholarships, obtaining a job in the public Service, moving up the ladder for an operation, recruits in the POLICE, ARMY, FIRE, PRISON etc,( parents know someone). Who is demanding change form these CORRUPT practices? A few disparate voices.NO BODY is there to enforce such, or more importantly stop them from being appointed to office, WE ARE TOLD, of appointees day before they enter office. We the citizens have no say and we demand none either. They are all political appointees. Our Parliamentary system of Government”WINNER TAKES ALL” perpetuates such inequities and I daresay,NO one is going to touch that since it works for the party in POWER, so its simply talk talk talk about CONSTITUTION REFORM

  16. You’d think Daly would cite something that speaks to this. A case, a code of ethics, an established convention. Something.
    Instead, in typical Daly fashion, he finds something to lather us with his sanctimony then declares it wrong because ”he say so’.

  17. the issue is if by granting the CJ request was the CJ beholden to the govt or the minister?

    for the CJ to have violated any ethics then there should be an incident showing CJ political bias

    is there any such incident?

    • Do you understand what conflict of interest means?

    • there is no conflict of interest UNLESS that minister had a case brought before the CJ

      • The Minister is part of a Party that was a party to a hearing on which the CJ removed a judge and placed himself in. The matter was the UNC vs the EBC 2015 when the UNC challenged the legality of the decision by the EBC to extend voting hours.
        BTW the court found that the EBC acted illegally but declared that there should be no remedy. The Legal Officer who advised the EBC on the illegal move is none other than the current Head of the EBC who is alleged to have close familial and other ties to the PNM, and who is not the most qualified for the position.

    • furthermore the CJ acquired no gifts

    • show me a case where that minister or any of the 12 reached before the CJ and the CJ didnt excuse himself

    • To begin with, he should not put himself in a position where he has to recuse himself if there is a matter involving the Govt as a Chief Justice.

    • Lemme just leave you the definition of Conflict of Interest:
      1. A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
      2. A situation in which a party’s responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party.

    • Now when you said Kyon Esdelle that the CJ would have to recuse himself if something came up involving that Minister (and you could arguably stretch that to any high power minister since Kamla could have played that card too), then guess what?
      You just explicitly admitted yourself that Archie created a conflict of interest.

    • there are many incidents worldwide of CJ given gifts by parties
      there are incidents of CJ giving gifts

      so ill repeat again
      no gift was given
      a favor was given
      and having a conflict of interest happens all the time and thats why its beholden to declare it and step aside
      a coi of itself isnt a problem…failure to declare it is

    • Kyon I feel you’re an amateur gymnast yes. Lol. I’m not. Ok pardner.

    • once u cant refute what i just said im good

    • if everytime a coi may develop someone resigns or is removed there wont be any judges…its beholden on judges to declare coi and step aside at the time of a case being brought to them

    • For me to Google what gifts are and are not allowed for Chief Justices in other jurisdictions would be an insult to you Kyon.
      It would suggest that I think you don’t understand what Conflict of Interest means and need me to read and spell for you. And it would suggest that I think you can’t follow right and wrong and just want to know what foreign people are or are not doing to follow suit and say “I’m like a Turk” or “I’m like a Bangladeshi” or “I’m like an Italian.”
      I’ve no intention of insulting you.

    • u starting to get personal instead of answering the questions

    • so let me show u a little stuff

      “Justice Clarence Thomas ruled on Bush vs. Gore while his wife was collecting candidates’ resumes to recommend to a new Bush administration.

      Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at a National Organization for Women conference soon after ruling on a case in which the group had submitted a brief to the court. (Ginsburg sided with NOW in the case.)

      Justice Antonin Scalia was part of the court majority siding with anti-abortion advocates who said a Massachusetts law allowing a buffer zone around abortion clinics violated the 1st Amendment — even though his wife had been on the board of a pro-life organization and served as a “crisis counselor” to pregnant women. ”

      they were mandated to declare their CoI and they didnt

      show me where the CJ sat on a case with the then housing minister and didnt and ill say remove him

    • I’m not getting personal. I’m protecting your honour. I’ve said it creates a potential for a conflict of interest and you agreed with me. We don’t need much more than that I think.
      We don’t need to read about Luxemburg or Slovenia or Nigeria to see what they are doing. They are flesh and blood just like us. I trust our brains to figure it out. And I think we already have.

    • Happy to know you’re well read Kyon. But you got it right the first time. Potential for conflict of interest.

    • Lasana you’re conflating potential conflict of interest, with actual conflict of interest. If the CJ finds himself in a situation that suggests recusal might be appropriate, then that is a potential conflict of interest. If he recuses himself then he has averted an actual conflict.

    • Nigel I said potential conflict of interest a couple times. There is no conflation.

    • Lasana here is the conflation:
      “Now when you said Kyon Esdelle that the CJ would have to recuse himself if something came up involving that Minister (and you could arguably stretch that to any high power minister since Kamla could have played that card too), then guess what?
      You just explicitly admitted yourself that Archie created a conflict of interest.”

      Archie putting himself in such a situation creates a potential conflict, not an actual one. Rather than confirming it, recusal voids any actual conflict.

    • Nigel S. Scott if you go through thread though you would see several times I explicitly said potential. This is Facebook not a legal document where you read over each post three times. But I’m sure you will see me use that term enough times to get my drift.

    • I have no idea what the “this is… not a legal document” comment is supposed to mean. I read the entire thread (it’s not that many comments) before commenting. I did see where you used the term “potential conflict” in several other instances, however you seem to think that mere potential for a conflict of interest is problematic. You then went a step further to conflate the issues in the comment above.

      If this was not your intent then fine, but don’t act like a) there was no conflation; or b) I’m on here playing legal “gotcha” nitpicking at inconsistencies. I haven’t commented on this issue despite the fact that it’s been percolating for the past two weeks, because frankly I don’t see what the big deal is.

      Since it’s now to the level that Martin Daly, S.C. has to weigh in with his disapproval I say let me try and understand what the concerns are. That’s the only reason I’m even responding, not casually reading and/or carelessly responding, as your defense suggests.

    • Nigel S. Scott exactly one comment up from your first comment is one example.

    • Nigel S. Scott and I explained what I meant when I said it is not a legal document in the next sentence.

    • I’m commenting kinda on the move so these are partial responses. I’m not saying you’re carelessly responding and I’m not putting up a defence either. You said I conflated potential conflict of interest with conflict. And I’m saying there is evidence in the thread to show that isn’t so. That’s all.

    • I re-read your “not a legal document” comment and I still don’t see the relevance nor do I understand how it fits. Reading something three times seems to indicate that we must very understanding (by the reader before commenting) or accuracy (by the poster.before posting), but I don’t know which of those two was your inference. But that’s not that important, we can move on.

      I already acknowledged that you used the term “potential conflict” elsewhere, I don’t need to cite, or have you cite specific instances. Your use of the term is still inconsistent with the conflation I pointed out, but fine, if you’re unwilling to say that was in error then we can also move on from that, it’s not that serious.

      It still however, doesn’t help explain your concerns over Archie’s actions, beyond the apparent naked assumption that mere potential for conflict is problematic. Actual conflict, or even appearance of a conflict, IS problematic. Potential for a conflict isn’t, since there are mechanisms in place to avoid the conflict. Your position seems to be that even the need to implement these options creates or confirms the existence of an issue, which it does not.

    • Okay I understand the partially responding and your explanation regarding the apparent conflation.

    • Nigel, as an employer I’d think it important that employees not only avoid conflicts of interest but also the potential for conflicts of interest. And I think it reckless to create situations where you might have to recuse yourself or have your impartiality called into question.
      You were hired to do a job and that ought to be your first priority. Enjoying the perks when they can potentially cause issues with your job ought to be flagged.
      And this is not even mentioning what I’ve said many times already: NO allowance should be given for public servants to prioritise anyone for State housing unless they themselves fit the criteria and are applying.
      The only possible exemption for me would be in the case of natural disaster or close. And even then I’d say there ought to be one transparent body to see about that rather the CJ or Minister of Gender Affairs sending a note or a text message to the Minister of Housing.
      As far as I am concerned, if one of Keith Rowley’s constituents asked him for a house, all Rowley should be able to do is help that constituent understand the process for applying or pointing them towards the agency that deals with special disaster cases. That’s it.

    • but then lasana u dont know that ministers and MPs can recommend for a house

    • and u dont know the minister has a quota availabe for such….also as i showed …CoI always arise all over the world…it is only then the person recuses themselves….

    • Kyon Esdelle how do you get that I don’t know that Ministers have housing allocations based on what I said? What I’m saying is I object to it. And I gave the reasons. I don’t believe we should do things just because we used to do them.

  18. do ministers have a quota beyond the usual lottery? why then cant officeholders ask the minister for use of that quota which they have been doing for years

    you rephrased the question too

  19. Wrong is wrong and right is right, I agree with you Lasana,but understand me. the CJ ( if it is true) actions is a norm, its the inconsistency by citizens to target people , We have no watch dog group to insist those elevated to high office do the right thing, since politics is in everything. By the way its over 18 years i have waited for an HDC home and bypassed. The amount of rent I have paid I could have paid off for my home.(thousands go home and millions are outstanding, only if they had done the right thing. But I belong to NO party, has no party card and name has been knocked off the system since 2011. The actions of the CJ and every politician who gave their friends homes with some having more than one is a reality in CORRUPT TT. In the final analysis who cares about the thousands waiting on HOMES, no one. People highlight things conveniently and in many cases have an agenda.What is the outcome NOTHING a few voice in the wilderness. Trinidad is friend tell a friend or you with a Minister ( the latter is a way of life for many successive government Ministers) Who is going to change that? Finally so the CJ should be run out of office? Should he be the exemplar. I hear tell and former AG helped many of his workers including a cleaner to get a home, (referral letter) Was he wrong? or should he have taken the example of another AG whose nose was so far up in the air he helped NO one to get an HDC home and said, that was not part of his portofolio. Should the “good AG” as touted by his employee be held accountable for such actions? This is Trinidad and this is how things are done. Why should the CJ be the sacrificial lamb? In this case there is more in the mortar than the pestle re the CJ. Just my opinion

    • But Rossana, Daly pointed to a story when he criticised the media over the HDC contact thing. So how could this possible be selective targeting on his part?
      I’d understand if he said it was wrong for the media but right for the CJ. Then you would have a case. But that isn’t what he is saying.
      In fact, I recommend you look for all the people who felt it was wrong for political reporters to ask Ministers for HDC homes and then check their thoughts about the CJ now asking for homes for his friends.

  20. Hmmmm like he is also a very close frien…nice

  21. Seems that Trini conventions dictate the CJ did nothing wrong…”All ah we tief”. And if a UNC member or supporter says that water is wet, you know that’s a lie because nothing that comes out of their mouth can be true……. smh…. So those that question the CJ’s actions should be ignored…..Move along..nothing to see….loving the Emperor’s new clothes..

  22. Rossana and Kyon, you all twist the question to something you are more comfortable with and then answered that. Lol.
    Nope, the question is not whether people in high office ask politicians for favours. And the question is not whether the house is free.
    It is whether there is a conflict of interest in requesting favours from politicians in your capacity as Chief Justice or political reporter. (And this is apart from the obvious fact as to why should the CJ be allowed to pick 12 or even one person to jump the queue when thousands of citizens are waiting for years–even decades–for their number to call).

  23. many office holders refer ppl for houses …why should the CJ be different since it was 12 ppl he asked for.

    furthermore its not a gift since the people still have to pay for the houses

  24. Clarify for me. Is it that CJ Archie is the only person holding high office in T&T is alleged to be guilty of such an act? ( Pray tell I’m not condoning the alleged action) I ask given Marlene MC Donald first dismissal from office for monetary collusion with her partner, only to find out after it is a norm by many politicians to do same. MY main problem is the how the goal posts shifts and targets particular people , while others go scotch- free. The Law Association led by a a particular of rogue lawyers have spent the last 7 years targeting CJ Archie. At one time it was Dana Seethal. There is talk of an independent Judiciary, that is non-existent in T&T, what we have instead is politicking. Perception is everything and for me personally the tit-for-tat is tiring. Attempts at hounding the CJ out of office is a plan by the Opposition and at this time I don’t know what to believe (that’s the plan of the Opposition: confuse the general public and maybe we can put doubts in their mind) However because of the Opposition unscrupulous actions and history I dismiss their many witch-hunt. Martin Daly has my undivided attention, the others I dismiss. Overall the lack of consistency of holding wrong doers accountable is what has me perturbed.

  25. I’d say Ivor Archie is the new Teflon Don. It’s astounding the way everything seems to roll off his back–he almost never responds to anything.

    • He doesn’t have to; he is the CJ. And when he speaks not a damn dawg bark. Power and the ability to corrupt…

    • In the end Gotti was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. My view is that since Archie was appointed as CJ in circumstances that raises an issue of a pro quid pro, where a President’s term was at an end and his reappointment was coincidental with the President’s reappointmen..I suspect tha tRowley is not inclined, if at all to move against Archie once Carmona is free to make a new CJ appointment.I suspect that once Carmona is gone and a President of the PNM choosing is installed that Rowley will see the light. Rowley can’t talk seriously about Beetham with Archie still in office.After all an inquiry was set to remove former CJ Sharma for less.

    • ”quid pro quo.” And Archie was/is eminently qualified on the merits.