Julius Caesar, the maximum leader of Roman times, was assassinated in the year 44 BC.
The dates in the Roman calendar were denominated differently from the manner to which we are accustomed. The mid-point of every month was known as the ides. Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March, a date corresponding to March 15.
In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the soothsayer (seer man) warned Caesar to “beware the ides of March.”
I am referencing the ides in order to introduce what may be a political sub-plot by means of which the now discredited Chief Justice may be given a soft landing in March 2018, when the term of the current President of the Republic also expires.
Under our Constitution, judges other than the Chief Justice are appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (the JLSC).
A Chief Justice cannot be appointed by the JLSC because the Chief Justice is Chairman of the JLSC. As an alternative to how all other judges are appointed, the Chief Justice is appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
Some discerning commentators firmly believe that the Government’s reluctance to face up to its responsibility arising out of the allegations against the Chief Justice is driven by a lack of confidence in what appointment the current President might make to the office of Chief Justice after the required consultations. There is genuine concern given the peculiar nature of some of the current President’s decisions during his term.
As a consequence of this, the Government might more easily face up to its responsibility in March 2018 when the current President’s term expires, a few days after the ides.
There is another straw in the wind pointing to the ides of March. There is talk that the Chief Justice is going on extended leave in March. One might discount that as ole talk because who will grant such leave and on what credible grounds? However a report to that effect did appear in a daily newspaper recently.
There may also be dots to be connected between the Chief Justice’s recent trip to the Netherlands and other leaves of absence.
On Thursday last, the Law Association described the continuing silence of the Chief Justice as “nothing short of reckless.” On Friday afternoon, the Chief Justice, after more than a month of stubborn silence, issued a skeletal and obviously incomplete response.
He admits “forwarding some names of needy persons to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for consideration as may be appropriate” but omits saying whether he followed up his “forwarding.” He also glaringly omits answering whether he also approached the current Prime Minister for housing for third parties.
Another glaring omission is the failure to answer whether he has had dealings or relationships of any kind with named convicted persons. In the absence of a denial, the allegations of association with persons convicted by the Courts of which the Chief Justice is head cannot be ignored.
It therefore remains my position that it would be constitutionally perverse to expect any member of the Judiciary to function with the trust and confidence of the public intact if he has had dealings or relationships of the kind.
I have previously shared with readers the Privy Council’s decision confirming that misbehaviour includes conduct affecting the perceptions of others in relation to the office so that any purported performance of the duties of the office would be widely perceived to be improper.
Interestingly, the canons of judicial conduct expressed by the American Bar Association are also directed to avoiding the appearance of impropriety and the abuse of the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or of others or to allow others to do so.
The Chief Justice’s purported answers to the allegations cry out for interrogation. The current situation is manifestly destructive of public trust and confidence.
Can the country and the rest of the Judiciary afford to casually await the ides of March to see what resolution of these troubling matters might turn up?