It appears that Chief Justice Ivor Archie has lost his appeal to the Privy Council in his attempt to restrain the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) from investigating allegations of misconduct made against him in the media.
The Privy Council did not call upon LATT’s lawyers to respond to the oral submissions made by Archie’s lawyers at the hearing on Monday last, 23 July, but further comment must await the delivery of the Privy Council’s official decision and written reasons.
Nevertheless, a series of disquieting events began unfolding for more than a year, concerning maladministration on the part of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC)—of which the Chief Justice is the Chair—and subsequently concerning misconduct of the Chief Justice himself. These events give rise to a need to pay careful attention to the role and conduct of the Attorney General.
He has seemed keen to protect the Chief Justice. In my view, he has not observed the detachment required of his office.
More recently, the Attorney General has been cavalier and dismissive of concern expressed by LATT regarding certain Bills he was putting before Parliament prior to its recess. LATT pointed out dangers contained in these Bills for the already imperilled Judiciary.
One of these Bills, if passed, will not only leave judicial appointments in the hands of the now discredited JLSC; it will also give that body the capacity to increase the number of judges and recruit them from outside the region.
Do I smell the influence of insidious networks?
Given the recent impatience of the Attorney General in responding to a number of legitimate challenges, it may be that the obvious need for putting appropriate watchful distance between his office and that of the Chief Justice will continue to escape him.
I have already specifically raised the relevance to these Bills of what might be the result of the Chief Justice’s appeal.
Let’s see whether the delivery of the reasons of the Privy Council will bring the Government around to a mature mood, thereby making it unnecessary for discerning commentators to comment further on the performance of the office of Attorney General in relation to the Chief Justice affair.
Meanwhile, my love of history returned my attention to the life and work of Louis D Brandeis, one of the most famous and influential persons ever to sit on the bench of the US Supreme Court. One well known dictum of Brandeis was: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
With respect, the Attorney General needs to refresh his understanding of the constitutional nuances playing out in this Chief Justice controversy, and not embarrass his Prime Minister—on whom the Constitution places responsibility relating to misbehaviour of a Chief Justice.
Prior to his appointment to the US Supreme Court, Brandeis settled in Boston, Massachusetts in which state Harvard University is located. It is reported that the grade point average with which Brandeis graduated was not surpassed at Harvard Law School for nearly a century.
Brandeis believed that it was “dishonourable to submit to bad government.”
“We want a good government,” he said, “not because it is good business but because it is dishonourable to submit to bad government. The great name, the glory of Boston, is in our keeping.”
The occasion of this statement was a public address in support of having the legislature of the state of Massachusetts enact legislation, which he had drafted designed to make it a punishable crime for a public official to solicit a job and favours from regulated public utilities—into which politicians in Boston at the time were stuffing their friends into jobs.
Perhaps the Government will come to an appreciation that current circumstances have caused the quality and reputation of our Judiciary to be placed partly in their keeping.
Playing around with alleged misconduct and handing a discredited JLSC the power to make a greater number of appointments to a Judiciary increased in size will do irreparable damage to our country for generations to come, bearing in mind that many judicial appointments have security of tenure until retirement.