Chief Justice Ivor Archie will address a country divided over the state of the Judicary when he delivers his annual address at the opening of the 2019/2020 Law Term this morning.
Archie, whose private and professional decisions have been under pubic scrunity for some time, may choose to use the opportunity to address his numerous critics including colleagues, prominent attorneys and most recently the organisation’s non-judical staff.
Such a move would not be unprecedented as Archie has used the forum in the past to address controversial national issues, to highlight developments within the Judiciary and to advocate for reforms.
In an exclusive statement granted at the request of Guardian Media, High Court judge Frank Seepersad shared his concerns with the current state of the organisation he represents.
While he praised recent efforts to improve the criminal justice system through procedural and administrative reforms, Seepersad questioned the sustainablity of the efforts in light of existing financial constraints.
He also questioned the knock-on effect of the measures on long-standing public servants, who stand to lose their positions.
Seepersad also cited a recent poll by pollster Nigel Henry, which gave the Judiciary an 12 per cent approval rating, as a cause for concern.
“This statistic is so shockingly low that, even if one factors in margins of error and other polling deficiencies, the head of every single judical officer should be bent in shame,” Seepersad said.
Seepersad, who boycotted last year’s ceremony along with several of his colleagues, said he would be attending this year for a specific purpose.
“Engulfed by shame, my focus at Monday’s ceremonial opening shall be directed upon prayerful petitions to catalyse change,” Seepersad, who is also a Presbyterian lay minister, said.
The outspoken judge added: Judges of the Court of Appeal have made direct and poignant statements in two matters involving, the Chief Justice and yet in defiance of logic, convention and propriety , the Chief Justice continues at the helm of this imploding institution seemingly emboldened and unaccountable. (See justice Seepersad’s statement below)
Like Seepersad, Senior Counsel Israel Khan, himself an outspoken critic of Archie, said that he would be attending the ceremony unlike in recent years.
Khan, in a statement sent on Friday, called on other attorneys to do the same in a show of solidarity for the institution.
“I refuse to cut my nose to spite my face in this brazen “bacchanal” involving Ivor Archie: I am a strong supporter of the Judiciary and I will continue to do so,” Khan said.
Khan also made a prediction on what one of the topics Archie may adress may be.
“Thus I am hoping against hope that when the Chief Justice addresses the nation via his ceremonial speech on the occasion of the 2019-2020 Law Term he will announce his resignation and save the Judiciary and the country from the rapid polarization on the grounds of racial and socio-economical lines involving the allegations of misconduct made against him,” Khan said.
During his speech, Archie is expected to report on the performance of the organisation over the past year as well as on the changes within in.
Although the ongoing staff restructuring across the different arms of the Judiciary has been touted to improve efficiency and the quality of justice being dispensed, it has directly led to staff members being forced to compete and qualify for new positions, the duties of which they have been essentially performing for several years.
The majority of those affected are public servants, who will now have to be absorbed into other areas of the public service if they fail to be rehired under contracts.
In April, amid daily protest action from the Public Services Association (PSA), outspoken High Court Judge Carol Gobin wrote to the Judiciary’s court executive administrator Master Christie Anne Morris-Alleyne to enquire about the restructuring.
“The lack of information or detail and uncertainty is causing us all a great deal of worry. My staff are extremely despondent and fearful about the future,” Gobin said at the time.
Most recently, High Court judge Devindra Rampersad also sought to question the lack of consultation for the restructuring.
In an email, sent to all of his colleagues, last week, Rampersad suggested that the change would directly affect his and his colleagues’ ability to dispense justice in a timely manner.
Rampersad said: “If a litigant has to now wait an extra two months or more for a hearing, their grouse is not expressed in terms of deficiencies of the HR department, but it is addressed as a deficiency of the Judge.”
Rampersad also questioned whether the situation would worsen as the Judiciary moves to double its complement of judges to address the much-maligned criminal justice system.