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Mendonca holds on

Published: 
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
CJ jets out on two-month vacation
Justice Allan Mendonca PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

With Monday’s inauguration duty done, Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s now on vacation.

But rather than a six-month period, Archie has only taken two months of normal vacation—resolving concerns within the judiciary about his using accumulated leave he claimed to have.

Less than a day after Archie administered the oath of office to President Paula-Mae Weekes, Archie, who’s been battling various issues recently, began vacation from yesterday. This ends on May 9.

A statement signed by Court Protocol and Information officer Alicia Carter-Fisher confirmed the CJ’s departure from the country. The statement added that Justice of Appeal Allan Mendonca will act in Archie’s absence.

An official indicated this was normal vacation leave and not accumulated leave, noting Archie is entitled to approximately six weeks of vacation.

Archie had been in the spotlight for Monday’s inauguration of Weekes, as it was his duty to invite her to take the oath of office.

While front-line guests—such as Weekes, outgoing president Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley—received loud applause on arriving and departing, there was a lesser amount for Archie. But he handled duties professionally—exchanging jovial conversation with Weekes—showing no sign of his challenges.

There was no reply from President’s House on whether Archie’s leave was approved by Carmona in his final few days last weekend, or Weekes, who officially took up duties yesterday morning.

An official at President’s House said communication staff had departed when Carmona demitted office. They said meetings were held yesterday on settling-in procedures. However sources said once Carmona approved the leave before he left, Weekes would have been informed as part of handing over/debriefing duties. They added Rowley would also have been aware of Archie’s vacation—likely informed by letter—and the fact it was normal vacation and not accumulated leave.

“...Hence the appointment of Mendonca as acting CJ,” they added, noting Rowley had expressed concern about accumulated leave last week.

Legal officials said written instruments of appointment are necessary for an acting CJ rather than an official swearing-in function. If for some reason the acting CJ cannot act, the next person in line to act as CJ is Justice Peter Jamadar, they added.

With his departure yesterday, Archie has—so far—overcome issues both on his initial-then-aborted sabbatical bid, and on taking accumulated vacation also.

He’s also now off the local landscape following his various issues—most recently legally by besting the Law Association of T&T (LATT) on the latter’s bid to investigate allegations of misconduct against him. This is being appealed.

After the LATT issue, Archie again fell into controversy when he moved to go on the six-month sabbatical fellowship study course in Washington, USA. He said he was going to study “rest and reflect.” Archie applied last November to Carmona for the leave. It was granted in February.

However, after Carmona contacted Rowley to discuss appointing Mendonca to act in Archie’s absence, Rowley took issue with the sabbatical. But Archie then changed the sabbatical leave request to an accumulated 35 weeks leave request. But Rowley also sounded a warning to Carmona on this and the CJ eventually reduced the leave.

Govt readies to tackle sabbatical issue

Documents are being prepared for Government to seek a court interpretation of the sabbatical for judges issue, officials of the Attorney General’s office confirmed yesterday.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said last week Government would seek court interpretation of the sabbatical issue which Chief Justice Ivor Archie had initially sought. Apart from clarifying it in the event it was sought again, Rowley revealed Government had conflicting legal advice on it.

One set of senior counsel advice received by the AG confirmed a case for sabbatical, while a legal opinion Rowley received differed from this. As such, Rowley said he told the AG to take steps to have the courts interpret the issue.

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