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Thomas-Felix: I’m not CJ’s sponsor

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Industrial Court President Deborah Thomas-Felix is denying she is a sponsor or collaborator in the research which Chief Justice Ivor Archie will be pursuing in the United States.

In fact, she said yesterday she was “surprised” when she saw newspaper articles with details of the sabbatical and her name listed as a supervisor. She also said the labour research listed in the CJ’s application was not the topic which he will be embarking on.

“I can say as a fact that I am not his supervisor, or collaborator,” Thomas-Felix told the T&T Guardian, adding as far as she was aware his research is related to labour, “but it has something to do with human rights.”

Details of President Anthony Carmona’s approval of the CJ’s six-month sabbatical were widely circulated in the media yesterday.

Archie said he will be focusing on a research paper titled “How Has Labour Law in the Commonwealth Caribbean Developed Differently from other jurisdictions given our unique legislation and constitutional framework?” In doing the research, Archie said he hoped to ascertain how labour regulation has evolved.

He named Thomas-Felix and Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus, Dr. Leighton Jackson, as the supervisors and collaborators for his project.

But yesterday, Thomas-Felix said, “I am aware that from what he is doing, he requires a supervisor and a collaborator, that I can tell you. And I am aware that Dr. Jackson is his supervisor and I can say as a fact that I am not his supervisor.”

Asked if she was instead a collaborator, she said, “No, no, no.”

She said she was “surprised that the information ,whatever that information was, was in the public domain one and then I read the contents and I was also surprised at that.”

Having read the newspapers, she said “I tried to get a proper understanding of what was going on.”

It was then she found out that the topic, as was reported “is not the topic and Dr Jackson is the person who is supervising and my understanding is that it is him and him alone.”

She admitted the CJ had expressed “an interest in going on a sabbatical,” to her last year but said there was no follow up conversation on the issue. She said while they speak regularly “on a myriad of topics,” they did not have the kind of relationship where she would ask about the sabbatical.

Thomas Felix said “I cannot say we had any talk about sabbatical over the past few months. There are so many things happening as you know out there, so I don’t think sabbatical would have been on the front burner at the time I don’t know.”

High Court Judge, Justice Carol Gobin, also yesterday scoffed at the research proposal of the CJ. She said while the CJ claimed it would have important “implications for the jurisprudence of Trinidad and Tobago as well as other Caribbean states,” at best such research may have implications only for “jurisprudence in the industrial court jurisdiction perhaps.”

Another senior High Court judge said he had difficulty in understanding how a labour-related project “more suited to the Industrial Court will benefit the judiciary.” He also raised questions about the President’s  approval of the sabbatical, asking, “Are we to assume, given the tenor of the CJ’s request, that the President has to approve sabbatical requests? “

The judge said in his view “this is not a power that is constitutionally enshrined.”


The 98th report of the Salaries Review Commission agreed in principle “to the proposal for the introduction of sabbatical leave for judges.”

The recommendation was that office holders be eligible for a maximum of six months sabbatical leave after a minimum of seven continuous years of service. Sabbatical leave as recommended is with full pay.

The SRC report detailed that sabbatical leave should be provided for the purpose of participating in educational programmes that are related to the administration of justice, such as formal education programmes and teaching at educational institutions, or study programmes to improve the judges’ contribution or to undertake any project that would contribute to improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the court.

Approval for the grant of any such leave, according to the SRC report, should be determined administratively by the Chief Justice, taking account of the exigencies of the court’s operations.

Additionally, the SRC said appropriate administrative arrangements should be developed by the judiciary to give effect to the facility.


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