He’s not above the law

Attorneys for the Law Association of T&T (LATT) have told Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s attorneys he is not above the law and as with all public officials, is subject to public scrutiny. As such, contrary to the CJ’s position, the association, through its attorneys, says it is acting within its remit to “protect the interest of the legal profession in Trinidad and Tobago” by probing allegation against the CJ.

LATT attorneys met yesterday’s deadline set by the CJ’s attorneys to respond to a pre-action protocol letter which the CJ’s legal team, led by John Jeremie SC, sent on Wednesday. That protocol letter alleged the LATT, by its investigation, had “undermined, and in future will further undermine the confidence in, public opinion and support for the administration of justice.”

The CJ’s attorneys proposed to issue proceedings on or before February 26 and asked that the association “take no steps to further your enquiry or investigation until the court has pronounced upon the legal and constitutional propriety of your proposed actions.”

The CJ’s attorneys indicated they would be asking the court to determine whether the association is empowered under the Legal Profession Act (LPA) in general or section 5 of the act in particular to conduct, ascertain or establish the basis of allegations made against the CJ.

In its response the LATT said under section 5 of the LPA, it is required to “represent and protect the interests of the legal profession,” and where allegations have been made concerning the conduct of the CJ, which have the “potential to negatively impact confidence in the administration of Justice and the rule of law,” the LATT is “entitled” and has a “responsibility to examine those allegations.”

It said depending on the results of such an examination, it is entitled to take any steps which it may deem appropriate to “promote, maintain and support the administration of justice and the rule of law.”

LATT attorneys said the matter can go one of two ways. After examination by the association, it may be determined that the allegations have no merit and provide no basis for concern or, on the other end of the spectrum, it may refer a complaint to the Prime Minister for him to treat with as he deems fit.

Attorneys for LATT rejected the suggestion that section 137 of the Constitution establishes “an exclusive procedure for the examination of the conduct of the CJ,” which prohibits or disentitles the law association and other persons or organisations from examining or forming a view about the CJ.

“As with all public officials, your client’s conduct is subject to public scrutiny. The Chief Justice is no exception to this rule,”

LATT attorneys told the CJ’s attorneys.

LATT attorneys added that there was nothing in section 137 of the Constitution “that immunises” the CJ from such scrutiny “in the way that you contend.

LATT also rejected the suggestion from the CJ’s attorneys that the “fair-minded and informed observer” would conclude that there was a real possibility that LATT’s insistence on conducting the investigation is motivated by a pre-conceived disposition against the CJ, as is reflected in a motion of no confidence.

Attorneys for LATT said instead of focusing on launching legal proceedings to prevent the association from complying with its responsibility, the CJ should “instead consider embracing the opportunity that presents itself” for him to respond to the allegations made against him.

If, however, the CJ proceeds with the legal action, LATT’s attorneys are asking that the CJ’s attorneys draw to the attention of the court their response to his pre-action letter. LATT’s attorneys say they are prepared to “oppose any relief that may be sought” against their client.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)

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