Home / Volley / Global Football / Dear CJ: ‘[Your] unwarranted statements reflect negatively on my competence as a judge’; Gobin on Fifa ruling

Dear CJ: ‘[Your] unwarranted statements reflect negatively on my competence as a judge’; Gobin on Fifa ruling

“[…] I am sure that I do not need to remind you chief justice that there is more to the management of cases than fixing timetables. First instance judges often have to remind litigants and lawyers of the significance of what we do.

“A judge who refuses to defer to a defendant whose conduct is unlawful, intimidatory, deliberately contemptuous, is not being overzealous. Such a judge is only doing what the oath of office requires…”

The following is a letter by Madame Justice Carol Gobin to Chief Justice Ivor Archie on the court of appeal’s ruling on the Fifa v TTFA case and the comprehensive overturning of Justice Gobin’s initial verdict:

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

I believe it was Justice Linda Dobbs who said that ‘fairness is in the DNA of judges’, and I am sure that we would all like to think so. You would therefore understand chief justice, why I must raise my concerns about the ‘observations’ and guidance you gave in the very short judgment you delivered in the above and respond. 

You noted that in the proceedings before me there was ‘less than prudent case management and an uneconomical deployment of judicial time and resources’. You formulated new guidance: ‘zeal is to be commended but it should not obscure the need for caution’. 

The import of the statement was not lost. In ordering TTFA to pay the costs of it, Bereaux JA, described it as ‘a wasted trial’.

These gratuitous observations were made even when no party to the appeal raised the issue. Fifa had filed no application for a stay of my default trial directions, and TTFA had agreed that the trial should proceed. I believe that these unwarranted statements reflect negatively on my competence as a judge, though I am sure that was not what you intended.

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.

Quite remarkably, chief justice, they were made without reference to my reasons for proceeding in the manner in which I did. The court of appeal, on the basis only of the calendar it would seem, concluded that it would have been wiser to have waited for just a few days for the outcome of Fifa’s appeal, to save precious judicial time. 

This is against the background of Fifa’s declaration to the world, that the appeal was filed ‘as a formal step’ and that even then it did not recognise the jurisdiction of our local courts.

I am sure that I do not need to remind you chief justice that there is more to the management of cases than fixing timetables. First instance judges often have to remind litigants and lawyers of the significance of what we do.

A judge who refuses to defer to a defendant whose conduct is unlawful, intimidatory, deliberately contemptuous, is not being overzealous. Such a judge is only doing what the oath of office requires.

The authority of our courts is the foundation of our justice system. How we respond in the face of a patent attempt to undermine and deride it, ultimately defines our judiciary.

Photo: Fifa president Gianni Infantino (centre) poses with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from left), National Security Minister Edmund Dillon (second from right) and Speaker of the House Esmond Forde (third from right) after an exhibition match at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 April 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

 

It is clear that for some reason and somewhere along the line, and after the trial, Fifa changed its position on recognising the jurisdiction of the ‘local courts’. Its appeal changed character from one filed as a ‘formal step’ to one it decided it would actually pursue before you. Because of that, your judicial time was well deployed but no one could reasonably suggest that I should have allowed a possibility of Fifa’s vacillation to dictate the pace at which I discharged my duty in the high court.   

As for the concerns about the waste of time on the trial, I do not consider that my judicial time was wasted on an undefended trial for default judgment on affidavits. There is   nothing unusual about default trials where declaratory relief is sought. 

In the end, the TTFA had the hearing it was entitled to for all of an hour and a half. Fifa chose not to participate. My docket remained well under control. No other matter suffered for want of my attention. 

The outcome of the appeal has caused me no regret. I respect the ruling of the court of appeal but urge you to have a look back at the 2012 JEI Distinguished Lecture of Justice Saunders, now president of the CCJ, for his advice as to the need to reverse respectfully for the maintenance of public confidence in the system.

Photo: Madame Justice Carol Gobin.

I end by seeking clarification on the guidance that first instance judges are now mandated to follow, because quite frankly I do not see myself doing anything differently if this were to arise at any time in the future. 

For obvious reasons, I am forwarding this letter via email to Bereaux JA and the first instance judges.

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8 comments

  1. Wish they had appealed to the Privy Council. The Chief Justice’s judgement would have been thrown out like dirty water and the matter would have been referred back to the local courts because of clear and present bias on the part of the CAS.

  2. I am no legal mind but from the street corner the learned judge was going to do what she did from the first day. The TTFA constitution did not matter but we are not judges so I am staying out of judge tory. Young people and citizens like myself don’t have any confidence in our justice system and judges.

  3. CJ Archie had many bones to pick with J Gobin previously. Even before this letter of J Gobin I had said that CJ Archie should have recused himself from participating in the Appeal because he could not be objective and fair in responding to the Judgment delivered by J Gobin in the matter involving TTFA and FIFA. This CJ is taking justice down a slippery slope of vindictiveness and nonsensical reasoning. Better to see the back of him to salvage the dispensing and administration of justice in T&T. This man has no shame left any more. I knew before hand that J Gobin will be upset at the miscarriage of justice delivered by the Appeal Court with J Bereaux fronting for hatchet man Archie who continues his slide into dictatorship and abuse of his authority and misconduct in public office.

    • This is a completely unfair comment.

      Much as patriots may be unhappy with it, the Appeal Court judgement seems unassailable on LEGAL grounds so the fact that Justice Gobin was involved does not seem really relevant.

      I am all for sending slings and arrows–heavy artillery, even–the CJ’s way.

      But NOT when he is in the right!

      • I don’t think the ‘legal grounds’ of the Appeal Court are worth much salt.

        Gobin J was entirely correct; courts don’t like ouster clauses and nowhere would an Appeal Court reverse judgment dealing with ouster clauses – except Trinidad, as we see.

        I could bet my last penny that if this was to go to the Privy Council, the correct forum for the battle would be cited as the courts of TnT, not FIFA.

    • Too much drama. Too much.

  4. This, Wired868, is indisputably dirty linen. Admittedly, there is a FIFA logo and/or a TTFA logo on it but I am not at all certain that that justifies its laundering here.

    I confess that I am among those who can’t wait for our very bright but overly smug CJ to get his comeuppance. However, as your Spain-based lawyer inter alia makes clear, in so far as the recent judgement is concerned, Mr Archie and Mr Bereaux are on very, very solid legal ground.

    Either Madame Justice clearly did not go to Bishop’s or any school where Greek and Roman history was taught or she is simply too modest to proclaim it publicly. So, Wired868, I think you would do well to recommend to her that she read up on the Roman military commander and statesman, whose nickname was “Delayer.”

    Quintus Fabius Maximus “Cunctator” Verrucosus is famous for waging a war of slow attrition, avoiding direct engagement whenever possible.