One year ago, I broke with tradition and spoke directly to the media about my views in relation to the opening of the 2018/2019 Law term.
One year later, and having been contacted to express my views, confronted with the current circumstances which cannot be condoned, I feel compelled and constrained to clearly articulate my concerns.
This institution which is entrusted with the sacred obligation to be the guardian of the Constitution and the law, continues to be plagued and characterised by chaos and now stands dangerously close to the brink of complete collapse.
Complaints in relation to the Judiciary and its administration have been made by various sectors.
The Assembly of Southern Lawyers has complained that many southern courts are not functioning adequately and there is no funtional replacement for the old San Fernando Court which now partially shares space with the High Court.
Citizens with matters at the Princess Town Magistrate’s Court have to daily undertake the arduous journey to Rio Claro .
Family lawyers have complained that southern Trinidad is still without a Family Court and the Mayor of San Fernando has publicly aired concerns that the former San Fernando Magistrates’ Court is now a sordid site and the structure poses public health challenges.
Although laudable transformational measures have been undertaken in relation to Criminal Justice Reform, these efforts have not been accompanied by the requisite resources, infrastructure , stakeholder engagement or information.
As reported in the press many Judiciary employees currently operate under a state of uncertainty as their job security is under threat and the image of distraught valued Judiciary team members protesting on the steps of the Hall of Justice cannot go unacknowledged.
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 .
The lengths to which the Chief Justice has gone to evade cross examination in a matter involving a former Judge demonstrates that the office holder is of the view that the rules don’t apply to him. Although every witness is routinely subjected to cross examination so as to test their credibility, the Chief Justice obviously felt that he is above due process.
The public at large appears to be disillusioned and if one accepts the recent Nigel Henry poll , this institution is confronted with an unprecedented crisis as only 12 percent of the persons polled indicated that they had confidence in the Judiciary. This statistic is so shockingly low, that, even if one factors in margins of error and other polling deficiencies, the head of every single judicial officer should be bent in shame.
Every effort has to be made to remedy this ensuing mess. It simply cannot be business as usual. Under the stewardship of this Chief Justice this institution now holds the unenviable acolade and distinction of being the public institution in which the public has the least confidence.
In the face of the unacceptable and unfathomable state of affairs, the only viable recourse is to seek devine intervention.
Consequently, unlike last year, I shall attend this year’s opening. Engulfed by a shame, my focus at Monday’s ceremonial opening shall be directed upon prayerful petitions to catalyse change.
A prayer will be raised that all of us who have taken an oath to serve the people of Trinidad and Tobago shall recomit to the discharge of our responsibilities in a manner which is devoid of bias, dismissive of insular and/or irrelevant concerns and for all our decisions whether judicial or administrative to be characterised by fairness, empathy, equanimity and equity .
God will be asked to remind every judicial officer that we must be bold and independent as institutional loyalty and the discharge of our constitutional obligation demands that we must do all within our remit to charter a new course.