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Concern over latest JLSC appointment

Published: 
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Concerns are being raised in some quarters of the legal fraternity about the appointment of Appeal Court Judge Charmaine Pemberton to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), the body which among other things makes appointments to the Supreme Court and hears complaints against judicial officers.

Senior Counsel Israel Khan said the appointment is “perfectly legal” and in keeping with the Constitution which makes provision for the selection of a member of the Commission after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

“I take it for granted there was no objection from either the Prime Minister or the leader of the Opposition, so it seems the appointment was legally perfect,” he said.

This is the first time a sitting Judge has been appointed to the JLSC and the move has caused concern in the profession, with some saying they did not think it was prudent.

Senior Counsel Avory Sinanan said on literal interpretation of Section 110-(3a) of the Constitution, a sitting judge can be appointed, “so there is no legal or constitutional impropriety in the appointment of Madame Justice of Appeal Pemberton.”

But he said it might well be that the framers of the Constitution had something else in mind since the same section provides for the sitting judge or retired judge to be drawn “from some part of the Commonwealth.” It does not refer to “the jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago”, he said.

Sinanan said the appointment of a sitting judge heralded a break with tradition and might be regarded by some as “a recipe for conflict” because the CJ, as the head of the Judiciary, is in effect Justice Pemberton’s boss.

Pemberton sits alongside CJ Archie in the Court of Appeal and while there is well recognised “judicial ethos and culture” for dissent in the adjudication of appeals, it might not necessarily be so in the JLSC, he said.

Despite those concerns, Sinanan has congratulated Justice Pemberton on her appointment. However, he felt President Anthony Carmona should have taken the opportunity to fill all vacancies in the JLSC and bring the body up to its full complement.

For the past three months, the JLSC has not had its full complement following the resignations of retired Justices Roger Hamel Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer.