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CJ takes blame
Chief Justice Ivor Archie has taken full responsibility for his failure and that of other judges to deliver justice in a timely manner. In a three-page statement issued by the judiciary’s court and protocol manager Jones P Madeira yesterday, however, Archie promised to speed up the delivery of judgments by setting laudable benchmarks for judges and masters to meet next year.
Over last few weeks, Archie and other judges of the Supreme Court have faced unprecedented criticism for their delay in handing down judgments, some of which are outstanding for more than four years. Yesterday’s statement said the judiciary “views with utmost seriousness all of the relevant concerns expressed. It acknowledges the problem and takes responsibility for the state of affairs.”
It acknowledged that “timeliness and quality must co-exist in all decision making if there is to be sustainable public trust and confidence in the administration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago.” But as a caveat, the judiciary stated that while it would do all in its power to speed up the delivery of justice, judges are “conscious of the fact that a bad judgment delivered speedily can create binding precedent that seriously undermines confidence in the administration of justice.”
Among the factors Archie raised in defence of the judiciary was an increased workload of the Court of Appeal, a vast number of procedural appeals, the vacancies in the Court of Appeal, because of the death of Justice Wendell Kangaloo, who died in July, and the retirement of Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer in December 2012.
On November 25, two death row inmates, Lester Pitman and Gerard Wilson, took legal action against Archie, accusing him of violating their constitutional rights over his failure to deliver their judgments for close to four years. The convicted killers even threatened to remove the chief justice from office for what they termed was judicial misconduct. Archie, who was among the three judges who heard their appeals, had reserved judgment in March 2010 in Pitman’s case and in November 2009 in Wilson’s appeal.
Both judgments are listed to be delivered next Wednesday. Last Monday, Archie convened a meeting at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, of almost all the 40 Supreme Court judges and three masters of the High Court, to discuss the public criticism levelled against the judiciary over its failure to dispense justice speedily.
At that meeting, Archie, 53, spoke of people plotting against him to force him out of office, but assured he would not allow any pressure to cause him to demit office before his retirement age of 65, according to reliable judicial sources. Archie told the judges he was aware that some people were “caucusing on the weekends,” but did not identify who were his conspirators, one judiciary insider said.
Judicial sources said Archie was more than likely pointing fingers at fellow judges who have been critical of him for failing to perform effectively, or ensure that those judges who were failing to perform were disciplined. In his statement yesterday, Archie said he was “surprised at widespread reports of a plot to have him demit office.” “No such assertion against the state was made,” the statement said.
At the meeting, Justice Andre des Vignes, in a two-page prepared statement, chastised Justice Carol Gobin, for her recent statement to the National Constitution Reform Commission. Gobin defended her decision to speak out in her personal capacity during the judges’ meeting last Monday. Des Vignes himself was the subject of public criticism over delays in the hearing of a high-profile civil case of the Urban Development Corporation against its former executive chairman Calder Hart.
He publicly defended himself earlier this month, saying that several factors led to an apparent delay in Udecott’s $65 million lawsuit.
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