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Daly Bread: Sabbatical or tactical? A look at Archie’s controversial leave and section 137

In a column published on 17 December 2017, I foretold that there was a political sub-plot by means of which Chief Justice Archie would be given a soft landing in March 2018.

At that time, I also referred to talk that the Chief Justice would be going on extended leave in March 2018 and to a report to that effect in a daily newspaper. I specifically asked: Who will grant such leave and on what credible grounds?

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
(Copyright Office of The President)

My prophesy is now a reality. The outgoing President of the Republic has purported to grant to the Chief Justice sabbatical leave of six months. An exchange of correspondence between the Chief Justice and the President is now in the public domain; but there is still no clarity as to by reference to what law or settled arrangements the President “approved” the purported sabbatical.

Last Friday’s media release from the Judiciary does not justify the purported grant of leave at all, let alone explain how the President got into this.

It plainly acknowledges that sabbatical leave for judges was an “agreement in principle” subject to “the development of administrative arrangements to give effect to the facility.” Even after a committee was appointed to deal with this, it remained, as the media release admits, an agreement in principle.

How, therefore, did the President become the authority to grant the leave facility to the Chief Justice?

Moreover, is Cabinet approval required for the carrying forward of recommendations of the Salaries Review Commission? If so, where is it?

The Office of the Prime Minister says he knew nothing about the granting of the sabbatical until last week but, curiously, the President of the Industrial Court, Mrs Deborah Thomas-Felix, knew of the Chief Justice’s plan to take a sabbatical since November last year.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (right) swears in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Reuters)

The dealings between the President of the Republic and the Chief Justice seem clandestine and both gentlemen may have put themselves out on a shaky limb.

We must be thankful that the Government has woken up to the reality of what has been happening with the office of the Chief Justice.

It is deeply regrettable, however, that the Government was not alert and knowledgeable when the Attorney General was unwisely saying that the threshold for an independent enquiry under section 137 of the Constitution had not been crossed when the allegations that the Chief Justice may have used his office to obtain preferential treatment for third parties came into the public domain.

Does the Government now regret giving such a bligh?

There are other suspicious circumstances surrounding the sabbatical. The documentation in the public domain represents that the President of the Industrial Court is one of the supervisors of a project in which the Chief Justice will be involved during his purported sabbatical at the Federal Judicial Centre in Washington.

Photo: President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix.

In a commendable demonstration of what accountability and keeping public trust means, the President of the Industrial Court promptly told us that she was unaware that she was to be the Chief Justice’s supervisor. Therefore, there may also be an element of misrepresentation about what are the arrangements and purpose of the purported sabbatical.

In much the same way that town knew that the sabbatical was coming, town also knows that it is super-convenient for the sabbatical to begin before the Chief Justice would be obliged to be present to administer the oath of office to President-elect Paula Mae Weekes.

Town is asking whether her relationship with the Chief Justice when she was on the Court of Appeal bench was really an “excellent” one?

Given the circumstances of the purported grant of the sabbatical, it looks less like a genuine sabbatical and more like a contrivance and a tactical retreat intended to give a fig leaf of respectability to the flight of the Chief Justice from the consequences of bad management of the judicial appointments process and the only partially answered allegations of questionable conduct.

The commencement of the sabbatical has been briefly deferred by mutual agreement for more discussion. Now that the Government has woken up, will it have the necessary nerve and statecraft to hardball Archie?

Will it, if necessary, reconsider its position on the use of section 137?

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.

Editor’s Note: Release from Office of the Prime Minister on 13 March 2018:

In response to the letter of March 7th from Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley to His Excellency President Anthony Carmona requesting an explanation of the authority by which the President has purportedly granted sabbatical leave to the Chief Justice, Mr. Ivor Archie, the President has responded reaffirming his decision.

The Honourable Prime Minister is examining the situation and will report to the country in short order.

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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21 comments

  1. Editor’s Note: Release from Office of the Prime Minister on 13 March 2018:�13 March, 2018
    In response to the letter of March 7th from Prime Minister Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley to His Excellency President Anthony Carmona requesting an explanation of the authority by which the President has purportedly granted sabbatical leave to the Chief Justice, Mr. Ivor Archie, the President has responded reaffirming his decision.
    The Honourable Prime Minister is examining the situation and will report to the country in short order.

    • Frankly, I expected that response, but the issue is: has the President provided a legal justification for the Archie leave and therefore imprimatur of the sabattical, or was it just Presidential fiat, punto final. In my view, Archie should have provided the President 6 months notice, details of the financing of the sojourn , whether he had any reserved decisions how his leave will impact the judiciary and the docket and any mitigaging steps he took.. After all it is the first sabbatical and he will be creating a precedent. In the event that Archie had made a decision in his own favour contrary to the skeletal policy the state can apply for judicial review of Archie granting Archie the sabbatical.

  2. This CJ has been at utter embarrassment to the judicial system and the country in the past year. It is best he get that 6 month Sabbatical and leave the Judiciary in the hands of someone more competent and less scandal prone.

    We can ignore that he seemed to favour going on lots of foreign trips ever since his tenure as well as the the allegations of homosexuality (which until T&T archaic laws change remains illegal). His recent and troubling missteps and issues that cause concern are-
    1. His handling of the Ayers Caesars appointment and
    2. The allegations of using his position of power to get state housing for a friend as well as trying to persuade judges to change security to that said friend’s company is just too much.

    The Justice System is dependent on confidence in the people put there as much as for their technical skills in managing it.

  3. Why is Daly starting to sound like the village maco? He better stick to pan and Mayaro full moon.

  4. One more time..If Archie was so keen on Labour studies there were Cipriani Labour College/UTT/ Costatt/JTUM/NATUC/FITUN..are really willing to buy this rationale?

  5. Wired, you guys really give these creatures like Martin Daly life to peddle their agendas. Good luck with that.
    They continue to try to make their problem and agenda, that of the working class man. It may have worked early in the 20th century with the Water Riots, but we in 2018 see them for what they are

    • Lol. Inly conspiracy theories. Now the CJ is trying to slight the incoming president. Stupes. Focus on the criminals.

    • These people really believe we went to bamboo school yes. What next. Are they expecting the PM to finish their dirty work after inferring all along that they were both corrupt and in cahoots. Please Mr Rowley doh fall for that let them fight their own battles.

    • Their main challenge is that they still think that we are in the Era where people thought that law was a noble profession with persons of good character.
      Guys like Daly and Khan and those in their clique have influenced many generations to follow their agendas using their snake oil salesmen techniques and the gift of gab.
      I’m just thankful for an educated generation who can see through them now. What was the hook line from Voice’s calypso this year again? “Fire go ……

  6. Lasana Liburd, its an accepted business term lol.

  7. Agreed. The only thing I take exception to is: chief justice should not be capitallised.