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Archie steers clear of Marcia fiasco

Published: 
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
President of the Law Association Douglas Mendes, left, chats with former president of the association, Reginald Armour SC during yesterday’s interfaith service commemorating the opening of the 2017/18 law term at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain.

Chief Justice Ivor Archie chose to shy away from the debacle caused by the short-lived judicial appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as he gave his annual address to the nation yesterday.

Archie only made a veiled reference to the controversy, which largely overshadowed the performance of the Judiciary since it arose in June, as he spoke during the opening of the 2017/2018 Law Term at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday afternoon.

Describing his speech as anti-climactic from the onset, Archie mentioned the issue at the end, only to state that he was unable to comment on it.

Archie said: “It would be inappropriate for me to refer in detail to matters that are sub-judice but I will say that the Magistracy, which continues to deal with tens of thousands of matters each year, will get some attention this year.”

Archie also took a slight jab at senior attorneys who called for a boycott of the ceremony due to his (Archie) handling of the issue.

“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make it clear that this event is about you—all the people of the nation for whom we exist, who we serve and to whom we are accountable, not just the lawyers, although we welcome those attorneys who have chosen to attend,” Archie said.

It was difficult to assess the impact of the call to boycott as the number of attorneys present was more or less the same as in recent years, save an except for the absence of a handful of prominent Senior Counsel.

However, ten out of the 45 judges, including three Appellate Judges, were notably absent.

Archie’s method of dealing with the controversial issue was met with mixed reviews from the legal professionals in attendance.

Law Association president Douglas Mendes, whose organisation passed a no-confidence motion against Archie and the members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) over their handling of the situation in July, said he was “mildly disappointed.”

Mendes said: “He obviously had constraints in what he could say because it is before the court. I think having regard to the views expressed by the Law Association that he could have spent a few more sentences, at least telling us what processes have been put in place to address these cases now that the Government has decided not to go the legislative route.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi dissented as he said he supported the position taken by Archie.

“It would be improper for a judicial officer in his position to speak to matters such as that, when the JLSC for which he is the chairman of is before the court,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi noted that Ayers-Caesar’s judicial review, in which she is claiming that she was pressured by Archie and the JLSC to resign and the State’s interpretation lawsuit seeking clarification on the 53 unfinished cases left in limbo by her promotion and later resignation, would come up for hearing shortly. The first hearing of the State’s case is scheduled for October 2.

Both Al-Rawi and Mendes said the decision by some attorneys to boycott was acceptable as they exercised their democratic right in doing so.

Mendes said in his opinion the move was unnecessary in the circumstances.