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‘Judiciary will self-destruct’

...if major changes are not made
Published: 
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Ivor Archie being sworn in as Chief Justice.

This country’s Judiciary “will self-destruct if major changes are not made”, a High Court judge speaking under the condition of anonymity has said.

The judge made the statement in light of the current imbroglio facing the Judiciary.

Within the past few months, the Law Association of T&T has passed a resolution calling for Chief Justice Ivor Archie and other members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) to resign in the face of the controversy surrounding the appointment of former magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a High Court judge and her subsequent resignation.

Ayers-Caesar said her removal as a High Court judge was “unlawful and unconstitutional” as she was put under pressure to resign. She was sworn in as a High Court judge on April 12 and resigned on April 27.

In a pre-action protocol letter, Ayers-Caesar threatened to take President Anthony Carmona and the JLSC to court if she is not given her job as a judge back. Ayers-Caesar said if she was not reinstated as a judge, she will be suing for compensation “for loss of office and the benefits that go with it” in addition to claims she is entitled to be a judge. She will also be suing for damages to her reputation.

The JLSC and Archie have come under fire.

On June 30 retired Justices Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer both resigned from the JLSC citing unfair criticism as their reason for doing so.

In the face of criticisms Archie, however, has remained adamant that he will not be resigning.

Judges disenchanted but not divided

Judges are “disenchanted but not divided”, four judges speaking to the Sunday Guardian under the condition of anonymity have claimed.

“The Judiciary is not divided, there is still an overwhelming commitment to serve the people however, the majority of judges are disenchanted with the Chief Justice,” a judge stated. They said he has not been truly fulfilling his role as head of the Judiciary. 

“Each judge just has to plod through in a vacuum,” the judge stated.

The last time the judges all met as a body was a year ago.

“There is no consultation or collaboration and there is no evident desire by the Chief Justice to change,” a judge stated.

On January 24, 2008, Archie was sworn in as the eighth chief justice since this country’s independence and created history as the youngest person to have assumed that position in T&T.

Archie came to office at a time when this country’s Judiciary was facing a trying time after then chief justice Satnarine Sharma has been suspended twice while attempts were made to impeach him.

Sharma was first suspended on July 28, 2006, after the police obtained a warrant for his arrest on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of public justice.

The charge against Sharma arose out of complaints by then chief magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls that Sharma tried to unduly influence the outcome of the integrity trial against former prime minister Basdeo Panday.

On November 30, 2006, Sharma was charged but the case collapsed on March 5, 2007, when Mc Nicolls refused to testify.

As a result of this, president George Maxwell Richards lifted Sharma’s suspension and Sharma returned to his job.

On June 13, 2007, however, Sharma was suspended for a second time after Richards appointed a three-member tribunal to investigate whether he should be removed from office.

The tribunal chaired by Lord Mustill eventually cleared Sharma and on December 21, 2007, Richards lifted the suspension for a second time and Sharma returned to work.

Sharma retired a month later when he turned 65.

Baton passed to young Archie

The baton was passed to then 47-year-old Archie.

Archie was selected to become Chief Justice by the Cabinet led by former prime minister Patrick Manning.

“Behind that decision was a lot of internal lobbying and political machination. Bold as the decision had been at the time, it has come back to haunt a new PNM administration in Port-of-Spain,” former high court judge Herbert Volney stated in a Facebook post earlier this week.

Hamel-Smith, who was the next in line in seniority at the time and held on for Sharma during his two suspensions, along with three others, were overlooked in favour of Archie.

In a special sitting to mark his appointment Archie pledged to resist any attempts of interference by the executive.

During that sitting Archie is reported to have said that “challenging circumstances present fertile opportunities for fundamental change”.

“We will always resist stoutly any attempt to infringe on the independence of the Judiciary, but as jurists we ought never to presume any attack without weighing the evidence. We must find ways to achieve maximum co-operation within the boundaries of the constitutional framework, all the while respecting and observing the boundaries that define the respective arms of the State,” Archie said then.

WHO IS IVOR ARCHIE?

Archie was born in Tobago on August 18, 1960.

He attended the Scarborough Anglican Boys’ School and then when on to Bishop’s High School before eventually moving on to St Mary’s College in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where he completed his Ordinary- and Advanced-Level examinations respectively.

Archie graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1980 with a Bachelor of Sciences Degree (Upper Second Class Honours) in Mechanical Engineering.

He practiced as an engineer firstly at Trintoplan Consultants Limited in Trinidad, and then with Schlumberger (Africa) as a Wireline Logging Engineer stationed in Lybia.

He then proceeded to study law at the University of South Hampton in the United Kingdom.

In 1984 Archie returned to T&T after obtaining his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and entered the Hugh Wooding Law School where he received his Legal Education Certificate (LEC).

He was admitted to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago, and began his legal career in private practice and then in service to the governments of Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands as State Counsel and Senior Crown Counsel.

He also served as Solicitor General of the Cayman Islands, and acted as the territory’s Attorney General on a number of occasions.

In 1998 Archie returned to T&T and was appointed a Puisne Judge of this country’s Supreme Court of Judicature.

On April 2, 2004, he became a judge of the T&T Court of Appeal.

Archie is also an elder at his local church assembly, and a member of the Lydians choir.

He is married to Denise Rodriguez-Archie and has two children.