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CJ’s office mum on vacation leave

Published: 
Saturday, March 17, 2018

The office of Chief Justice Ivor Archie remained silent yesterday on just how he was able to accumulate more than nine months vacation leave, which runs contrary to the regulations governing salaries and pensions for judges which specifically states vacation leave cannot be accumulated.

Archie’s office issued a press release this week indicating he had withdrawn his application for six months sabbatical leave and would instead be proceeding on 35 weeks unutilised vacation leave, part of which would be used for his intended sabbatical in Washington DC.

But members of the legal fraternity have questioned how the man who heads the judiciary could have accumulated so much leave, since he ought to know the law better than anyone else.

Archie, who took the oath in January 2008, is currently embroiled in a number of controversies and became the first sitting CJ to institute legal action against the Law Association, which represents the thousands of lawyers in the country. That matter, involving an investigation into allegations in the public domain against Archie, will be heard in the Court of Appeal on April 10.

Yesterday, Martin Daly SC said this appeal now takes on significant relevance. He said “if restraints are lifted,” at the end of the day the Law Association may recommend “strongly and publicly to the Prime Minister that he needs to invoke 137 of the Constitution, so in the scheme of things that appeal is a most important event.”

But there is currently a controversy about the accumulated leave.

Senior attorneys told the T&T Guardian that for Archie to have accumulated so much leave, it would have meant that in the ten years he has served as Chief Justice “he has been acting in breach of the regulations which govern such leave.”

Efforts to get responses from Archie’s office were unsuccessful. Emailed questions to Court Protocol and Information Manager Alicia Carter-Fisher seeking answers on whether the CJ had to work through the prescribed vacation periods and if so, whether she could provide details went unanswered.

Members of the judiciary and the legal profession told the T&T Guardian the CJ should clear the air on how he could have accumulated so much leave.

Daly said he was concerned about “the startling claim that he has a number of days inside or weeks inside that amount to eight or nine months and that is very startling because if you add up all the leave to which he is entitled, on the most generous construction you don’t arrive at nine months.”

What it means, he said, is that the CJ “must have in his calculation leave that he carried forward or accumulated from previous years and Regulation 6:02 says that you can’t accumulate leave.”

Avory Sinanan SC said he agreed Archie needed to clear the air on the issue given what the regulations prescribe.

Regulation 6:02, which deals with judges’ conditions of terms and service, details that in addition to Christmas and Easter vacation, judges of the Court of Appeal are entitled to six weeks vacation per annum and in the case of a Puisne Judge four to six weeks vacation per annum respectively in alternate years.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has written to President Anthony Carmona reminding him of the regulations. In his letter dated March 15, 2018, the PM said, “I trust that, as a Judge, the Honourable Chief Justice, and Your Excellency both in your current office and as a former member of the Higher Judiciary, have borne in mind the provisions of section 3 of the Judges Salaries and Pensions Act and section 6 of the Judges (Conditions of Service and Allowances) Regulations (No. 2) regarding respectively the definition of “Judge” and the accumulation of vacation entitlements.”

The T&T Guardian understands the President has sought legal advice on the issue in light of the PM’s letter. Efforts to find out whether the President had responded to the PM yesterday were also unsuccessful.

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