One year ago, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) brought itself into disrepute and tarnished the institutional reputation of the Judiciary by the blunder of the appointment and “un-appointment” of the then Chief Magistrate, Marcia Ayers-Caesar, to the High Court Bench. The JLSC never begged pardon for its blunder and the fall out from it is still unresolved.
Following the Ayers-Caesar debacle, allegations about the Chief Justice—the Chairman of the JLSC—in the media became another source of concern for the institutional reputation of the Judiciary.
Although a little slow out of the starting blocks, the Law Association did a number of things—one of which was the appointment of a Committee, chaired by a former Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Madame Justice Desiree Bernard. Many persons, including me, testified before the Desiree Bernard Committee.
What did the JLSC do? It told us two Fridays ago it had “a cordial and informative discussion” with the Desiree Bernard Committee. It acknowledged that it had agreed that the answers it provided to the Committee’s questions would be provided in writing, subsequent to the conclusion of the meeting.
Some of the Committee’s questions reproduced in the Trinidad Express newspaper went at the heart of the due diligence that arose out of Ayres Caesar debacle.
In breach of its agreement to do so, the JLSC did not provide the written material. The public only found out about the JLSC’s breach when the Committee reported this last month. We also found out that the JLSC met with the Committee nearly a year ago on 17 July 2017.
Only after a recent editorial in the Express criticised their failure to do so, did the JLSC then confess to and apologise, as part of a public relations exercise, attempting to dilute its failure. The press release issued on behalf of the JLSC contained the usual bland pronouncements that accompany such failings.
The relevant part of the statement said: “The JLSC remains committed to the process and stands willing to provide the Committee with written confirmation of their fruitful discussion in due course and also wishes to state that it welcomes any further collaboration.”
The mamaguy is apparent on the face of these words. It is also real bold face to say the JLSC will provide their written confirmation “in due course” when everything done. They jokey yes.
They get ketch and now make a valueless statement about commitment. The plain fact is the JLSC did not want to tell the Committee how they go about their business.
It is important to fully expose how the mindset of a critical constitutional institution is hell-bent on evasion of accountability, as reflected in the mamaguy statement. There is no institution that can credibly operate above the reach of accountability to the public—but these JLSC people obviously think otherwise.
In light of the above, it is astounding that the Attorney General is pursuing legislation in the form of a Bill entitled The Criminal Division and District and Traffic Courts Bill, 2018. Among other things, this Bill, if passed, will not only leave judicial appointments in the hand of these dismissive JLSC people, but will give them the capacity to make a broader range of appointments.
The Attorney General, as I said in a recent television interview, is living in dreamland when he suggests that how the appointment of judges are to be made in the future is “an entirely separate” issue.
While I accept that further judicial appointments cannot wait an entire reform of the appointment process, it is unacceptable to have more appointments made by this JLSC while the serious issues surrounding the JLSC and its Chairman, the Chief Justice, are unresolved.
The Attorney General wanting to give the JLSC a greater remit at the moment does not make sense to me. I smell the rat of mutual back scratching.
In view of the proximity of the date, July 23, on which the Privy Council will hear the Chief Justice’s appeal against the Law Association—which has been attempting to pursue further investigation into the allegations—I will leave the subject meanwhile.