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Legal action by Archie unfortunate

Saturday, February 24, 2018
Former CJ de la Bastide:
Former Chief justice, Michael de La Bastide

Retired Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide yesterday expressed concern that legal action initiated by Chief Justice Ivor Archie against the Law Association of T&T (LATT) leaves little room for compromise.

“Any time the head of the Judiciary and the association representing the legal fraternity are at odds and opposing each other in court, that is an unfortunate situation,” he said.

However, he was unwilling to comment on “the rightness or the wrongness of the action” or who is to blame, saying that is now left up to the courts.

Former High Court Judge Herbert Volney meanwhile described the unfolding scenario as “very debilitating for all of us and it is very sad that it has gotten to this stage.”

He and other senior members of the legal fraternity are, however, of the view that the LATT tip-toed around the issue and should have demanded that Archie answer the allegations against him in the public domain a long time ago.

While the CJ has responded to claims that he sought assistance to get Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing for a number of people and had spoken to someone who was not a judge about security for judges, he has dodged all the other questions, Volney said.

He pointed out that Archie is a servant of the public, so if there no substance to the allegations against him he should “come out and be accountable to the people who pay his salary.”

“Right now the CJ is untouchable,” Volney said, adding that when the matter goes to court the CJ will also have a hand in deciding which judge hears the case.

He said although Government has assumed a hands-off stance, it is time for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to realise that even with the separation of powers there is also a special function within the Constitution for him to intervene.

There is a view in legal circles that Rowley has not acted on the allegations against the CJ because he is waiting for the changing of the guard in the Office of the President.

But Volney said President-elect Paula-Mae Weekes is “very independent, of impeccable character and integrity and knows what is happening.”

Volney expects Weekes to deal with the matter, as does Israel Khan SC.

Khan said the LATT is “well within its rights to protect the integrity of judges when they are unfairly attacked and has a duty to look into the matter.”

He said the LATT had gathered information in the public domain and sought the advice of two eminent senior counsels to determine whether there is enough evidence to trigger Section 137 of the Constitution.

“If the two eminent silk say there is enough then the association can move a motion calling on the Attorney General to advise the Cabinet to trigger Section 137,” Khan said.


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