Did Madame Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell try to bully the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) by improperly using an injunction as punishment against the National Sporting Organisation (NSO)?
On Friday 2 March, the Court of Appeal will rule on the validity of Donaldson-Honeywell’s injunction order, which blocks the TTTTA from registering and preparing its selected players, Aaron Wilson and Yuvraaj Dookram, for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
The stand-off is a key part of a broader legal battle between Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung and the TTTTA over the NSO’s decision not to select the France-based pair for the prestigious competition. The trial date for their High Court battle is Monday 5 March, which is just 24 hours before the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) must submit its final list of athletes for the Games.
On Wednesday, Justice Nolan Bereaux granted an application for an expedited hearing by the TTTTA, which contends that Donaldson-Honeywell “misdirected herself” on 31 January when she dismissed the players’ motion for arbitration but kept an injunction in place and threatened a “wasted costs order” as well as damages against the NSO.
The TTTTA, which is headed by president Ian Joseph and general secretary Aleena Edwards, is represented by attorneys Stefan Ramkissoon, Dinesh Rambally and Kiel Tacklalsingh while St Louis and Chung are represented by attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Sheriza Khan and Matthew Gayle.
“The learned Judge has by her said order of the 31st January 2018 in the form of a most unusual ‘unless order’ fixed the trial of the matter for hearing on the 5th March 2018,” stated Ramkissoon, “with the curious admonition ‘unless prior to that date the matter is voluntarily referred by the Defendant to arbitration’. The Appellant with due deference to the learned Judge considers this form of order as being a form of bullying justice before judgment.
“[…] In Bean on Injunction 8th Edition at page 4 paragraph 1:04 the learned Author points out under the rubric ‘Requirement of a substantive claim’ that ‘There is one overriding requirement: the Applicant must have a cause of action in law entitling him to substantive relief. An injunction is not a cause of action (like a tort or a breach of contract) but a remedy (like damages)’.”
The TTTTA’s legal team further claimed that by accepting—at least initially—Donaldson-Honeywell’s dismissal of their request for arbitration, St Louis and Chung can now only be motivated by the prospect of ensuring that Wilson and Dookram do not go to the Games either.
“[St Louis and Chung] have accepted the dismissal of the substantive claim by the Court since no appeal has been filed against it,” stated Ramkissoon. “It is submitted that this acceptance of the Court’s order is significant because it highlights not only the frailty of the entire claim as raised in the defence filed by the [TTTTA] but also that the real aim of the Respondents in this case was that once they were not selected to participate in the Games no other player should participate.
“It was either them or no one else with an ultimate goal of a pyrrhic victory.”
Crowne, a Canada-based sport attorney, has previously blamed the legal tussle on the TTOC’s failure to allow athletes to demand arbitration. At present, only NSOs can trigger arbitration.
“It is materially unfair to athletes for the TTOC to operate under such a unilateral appeal scheme,” stated Crowne, in an email correspondence with TTOC president Brian Lewis. “No fair and just sports dispute resolution system operates a unilateral appeal scheme. None. The TTOC, despite its talk of governance reform, has therefore done little to provide a meaningful dispute resolution mechanism for its athletes.
“NSOs, left to their own devices, have no impetus or motive to bring their disputes forward [to arbitration].”
Ironically, Lewis also opined that arbitration was the best way forward for this affair. However, he suggested he would not intervene unless directed to do so in line with the TTOC’s Constitution.
“The Olympic Committee stands ready as always to act, when required by the parties involved,” Lewis told Wired868 in January. “We believe these matters can be best resolved through the process of conflict resolution.”
However, the TTTTA opted not to use the arbitration route.
It means the case, arguably, boils down to whether Donaldson-Honeywell will continue to block the table tennis body’s preferred athlete for the Commonwealth Games. And, of course, damages.
The Court of Appeal will deal with the former matter tomorrow when a three-member panel considers the High Court Judge’s use of an injunction against the NSO.