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Marcia set to break silence
Former chief magistrate and High Court judge Marcia Ayers-Caesar intends to write to the Law Association to give her side of the story in the ongoing saga which has left more than 50 part-heard matters which were before her in the Magistrates’ Court in abeyance and put her under the public microscope.
There has been a deafening silence from Chief Justice Ivor Archie on the meeting of silk which has unanimously criticised his handling of the Ayers- Caesar matter and on the petition from attorneys from the association calling on both himself and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) members to step down.
But well placed sources yesterday told the T&T Guardian that Ayers-Caesar sought legal advice on the weekend and will be writing to the association on the matter shortly.
In a statement to the media on April 27, Archie accused Ayers-Caesar of not making himself or the JLSC “aware of the full extent of her obligation” in the Magistrates’ Court before she was sworn in as a judge. Ayers-Caesar took the oath before President Anthony Carmona on April 12.
For her part, Ayers-Caesar, also in a statement to the media announcing her resignation from the High Court after the issue in the magistracy arose, said “upon mature reflection I am of the considered view that it would have been preferable that I advise the Judicial and Legal Service Commission of the full slate of my list and request further time to bring matters to completion before confirming my readiness to assume duties as a judge of the Supreme Court.”
A well-placed source told the T&T Guardian that while the wording of her statement seemed to imply that she had told neither Archie nor the JLSC of her unfinished magisterial commitment, Ayers-Caesar did in fact present the Chief Justice with a list of her part-heard matters and she felt the time had come to clear the air on the issue given the raging debate which has gone on about it thus far.
In his statement in the wake of her resignation, the CJ had accused Ayers-Caesar of failing “to manage the transition from the magistracy to the High Court in a way which ensured that undue hardship was not placed on stake holders.”
The T&T Guardian was told that “the country had not heard both sides of the story, and there is no doubt that the country will get to know both sides. The lady will speak and will do so by writing to the Law Association.”
Also yesterday, former attorney general Anand Ramlogan SC wrote to the CJ demanding answers on how Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer could be members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission when they are both over 65, which is not in keeping with section 136 of the Constitution.
But former AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said the issue is deeper than this. He said: “We cannot have a commission appointing and promoting persons to the High Court, the court is the guardian of the Constitution and neither the individual being appointed nor the public knows how or why they are appointed.”
Speaking briefly before leaving for St Vincent yesterday, Maharaj described the situation as “unacceptable.” He said he had long argued that the system needed to change.
“When I was AG I wanted it to change, but there was no support.”
He has promised to speak more on the issue on his return home.
Meanwhile, the “silk” of the profession who met last Friday intend to follow up that meeting with a list of questions which they want the Chief Justice to answer.
Among the questions they want answered:
1. What day did Ayers-Caesar apply for the job as a judge?
2. What is the date of acceptance?
3. Was she asked about her part heard matters and what was her response?
4. Was a psychometric test done and who did it?
5. What was the “robust selection process” utilised which cleared the way for Ayers-Caesar and two others to be appointed?
The list of questions will be sent to the Law Association for responses from the Chief Justice.
Even as the senior counsel prepare their list of questions, a legal source said based on their historic meeting last Friday, the Chief Justice owed a duty to meet with them and provide answers. According to the high-ranking judicial officer, “One would expect that when prominent senior counsel speak in unison, it would be prudent on the CJ and the JLSC to meet with them and hear their concerns. Bear in mind this kind of meeting never happened before, it is of great importance to the judicial and legal system. It is contemptuous of him and the JLSC not to respond to them.”
In a release subsequent to their meeting last week, the senior counsel had also called on the Law Association to get answers into what transpired with Ayers-Caesar’s appointment process.
The T&T Guardian yesterday sent a list of questions to the CJ’s Court Protocol and Information manager, Alicia Carter-Fisher, but received no response.