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Judiciary torn down middle
High Court Judge Frank Seepersad yesterday joined High Court Judge Carol Gobin in calling on Chief Justice Archie to resign, as the judicial and legal fraternities remained spilt on whether the embattled CJ is entitled to take a six-month sabbatical.
In an email thread amongst judges, which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, Seepersad, like Gobin, who also criticised Archie’s move on Wednesday, said he felt it was unlawful.
“The Chief Justice’s unilateral grant of sabbatical leave unto himself, at taxpayers’ expense, amounts to an egregious abuse of office,” Seepersad said.
He also strongly criticised Archie for claiming the sabbatical was needed for him to rest, reflect and participate in a fellowship at the United States Federal Judicial Centre in Washington, DC.
“I have great difficulty in accepting that a sabbatical should serve as a period for rest and reflection. It is objectionable that any judge should describe the privilege and honour associated with judicial service as ‘onerous’,” Seepersad said.
“I am certain that the additional responsibilities associated with the Office of the Chief Justice are significant, but if the office holder can no longer effectively discharge same, then it is time to graciously exit the position.”
While he acknowledged the sabbatical issue and other allegations raised against Archie were unproven, he questioned the CJ’s responses to them.
“To date the Chief Justice’s responses to the serious allegations levied against him have been at best superficial and my concerns have not been eviscerated,” he said.
Seepersad said the entire situation was continuously diminishing public trust and confidence in the judiciary and by extension the administration of justice. While several senior attorneys have joined the call for Archie to resign and claimed the sabbatical was not lawful, veteran attorney Gregory Delzin expressed a dissenting view.
In an interview with CNC3 yesterday, Delzin claimed the sabbatical for judges, which was discussed by the Salaries Review Commission (SRC)’s 98th Report, dated November 13, 2013, was passed by Parliament.
“Plain and simple English, if a sentence starts with the word we recommend, it constitutes a recommendation and if Parliament did not accept it, they would have used words to that effect,” Delzin said as he responded to questions over the failure of Parliament to include the issue in both its lists of approved and rejected recommendations.
To buttress his case, Delzin pointed out that after the SRC report was approved, the judiciary appointed a committee led by former Appellate Judge and President-elect Paula-Mae Weekes to deal with the matter.
“Whatever administrative arrangement, it was accepted by the judiciary that it was passed because it instituted a committee to work it out. Why else would the judges form a committee to deal with the administrative procedure?” Delzin said.
However, Delzin could not confirm if the judiciary’s committee report was even adopted as official policy.
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