PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) has signaled its intention to appeal a ruling by High Court Judge Nadia Kangaloo that it does not have the power to investigate allegations of misconduct against Chief Justice, Ivor Archie.
The judge in handing down her 19-page ruling on Tuesday, said that the investigation is illegal, unreasonable, irrational and contrary to the Legal Profession Act, (LPA) which established the LATT.
“The Court finds that in all of the circumstances of this case, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago has acted out with its authority under the LPA in commencing and continuing its enquiry and/investigation into the allegations against the Honorable Chief Justice,” she said.
“The Court, therefore, grants a declaration that the said decision is illegal and/or ultra vires and/or unreasonable and/or irrational and/or contrary to the provisions of the Legal Professions Act and is null and void and of no effect.”
The judge also ruled that the Law Association must pay costs to the Chief Justice in this matter.
But in an-email to members late Tuesday night, the LATT said that the Council met and decided to immediately lodge an appeal and an application for an urgent hearing.
The LATT said it had been advised to postpone its special general meeting, carded for next Thursday, in which a report on the investigation conducted by a sub-committee of Council and advice on it from Dr Francis Alexis, QC, of Grenada and Eamon Courtenay, QC, of Belize, were expected to be presented for consideration.
“However, the Council has not yet decided to cancel or postpone the meeting in the hope and expectation that the Court of Appeal will hear the appeal before that date,” the message said.
Last Friday, the judge heard more than seven hours of arguments from attorneys representing both sides as the embattled head of the judiciary moved to halt the investigations against him.
In November last year, the LATT called on Archie to publicly address allegations in the local media, particularly the Sunday and Daily Express newspapers, that he had discussed security arrangements for judges with a personal friend.
Media reports have linked Chief Justice Archie to discussing security arrangements for judges with a personal friend and late last year, the friend, Dillian Johnson, told police that he had information on individuals who want to kill him.
Johnson had survived a gun attack on him at his home in Gasparillo, in southern Trinidad.
The allegations also include that the Chief Justice used his office to request Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing for persons whom he knew and that he discussed the issue of security for judges with someone who was not a judge.
But in her ruling, the judge said there was no law which empowered the LATT to conduct a “shadow” investigation into allegations made against a judge. She agreed with Archie’s legal team that Section 137 of the Constitution was the only avenue for doing so.
Under Section 137 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution, the President appoints a tribunal after misconduct allegations against a Chief Justice are referred by the Prime Minister.
The tribunal, which includes a chairman and at least two other members, all with appellate judicial experience in Commonwealth jurisdictions, will investigate and then make recommendations to the President.
“In the instant case, this court finds as a matter of law that the removal of judges is enshrined, dictated and provided for solely under the Constitution for this very reason, to ensure procedural fairness to judges and the Chief Justice, who enjoy security of tenure thereunder,” Justice Kangaloo said.
She told the packed High Court that while the LATT and members of the public are free to refer allegations against the Chief Justice or judges, neither is entitled to launch an investigation first. She also stated that the power to recommend a tribunal rests with the Prime Minister.
She also referred to newspaper reports from last December, in which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he would not intervene in the debacle involving Archie.
“The Law Association is attempting to send this to the Prime Minister in order to change his mind, when he has made his position clear,” the judge said. – CMC