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CJ claims in two-hour meeting with judges: Plot to get me out
Chief Justice Ivor Archie reportedly made the bold claim yesterday that he believed there was an orchestrated conspiracy to get him out of office. He made the claim before the majority of the country’s 40 Supreme Court judges. Reliable judicial sources told the T&T Guardian that Archie’s statement stunned some of the judges who had gathered at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, for a meeting.
Notice for yesterday’s meeting was issued on Friday and came after a series of newspaper articles questioning the overseas travel of the Chief Justice, the delay by Archie and the Court of Appeal in delivering certain judgments and the failure of the Judiciary to fast-track civil litigation initiated by the People’s Partnership administration against former public officials accused of mismanagement and fraud.
It also followed a legal threat last Thursday by two death row inmates—Lester Pitman and Gerard Wilson—to trigger impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice on the basis of misconduct, owing to his failure to deliver judgments in their cases for almost four years.
In response to a pre-action protocol letter sent by Pitman’s attorney to the Solicitor General on November 25, Chief State Solicitor Christophe Grant yesterday stated that three attorneys from his department—Sean Julien, Petal Alexander and Nisa Simmons—have been assigned to address the concerns raised in Pitman’s legal letter.
“We have taken note of the very serious issues raised in your aforesaid letter and will endeavour to provide an expeditious response to same within the usual timelines for these sort of matters,” Grant wrote in his reply, which was copied to Sherlanne Pierre, the administrative secretary to the Chief Justice. Yesterday’s meeting, which began at 2 pm at the judge’s common room on the third floor of the Hall of Justice, ended shortly before 4 pm.
Among the issues raised were media leaks from the Judiciary and the previously unpublished submissions to the National Constitution Reform Commission by Justice Carol Gobin, which suggested that the salaries of tardy judges should be withheld. At yesterday’s meeting, Justice Gobin reportedly defended her right to speak in her private capacity, reliable sources said.
Archie’s conspiracy claim mirrors the view of Sunday Guardian columnist Maxie Cuffie and former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, who both pointed fingers at the Executive as being behind a plot to remove the Chief Justice from office. Cuffie stated on Sunday that it was clear to him “the government was attempting to apply pressure through a media campaign led by its proxies aimed at forcing him (Archie) to resign.”
Maharaj, in an interview with the T&T Guardian last Friday, said: “I don’t like the smell of this attempt to impeach the Chief Justice for delays in judgments. It smells of a political conspiracy to get rid of him.” At the meeting, judges agreed to deliver judgments in a more timely manner, sources said.
Pitman’s and Wilson’s cases
Pitman was convicted in 2004 of the Cascade triple murders. John Cropper, 59; his mother-in-law Maggie Lee, 68; and sister-in-law Lynette Lithgow-Pearson, 57, were found dead by police on December 13, 2001 and the Appeal Court reserved its decision in March 2010. Wilson was sentenced to hang in 2001 for the murder of pensioner Esther Mae Vidale, 77, and the Appeal Court reserved its decision in his case in November 2009.
The Appeal Court intends to hand down its decisions in the Pitman and Wilson cases next Wednesday.
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