Justice Gobin slams CJ's sabbatical

Date: 
Thursday, March 8, 2018 - 10:30

Outspoken High Court Judge Carol Gobin says Chief Justice Ivor Archie has brought the judiciary into such “disrepute” and to a place in its history that has left it and judges so “battered, ashamed and demoralised,” he should resign.

She also says as far as she can recall, there was no adoption of the draft internal policy to facilitate sabbatical leave and a such, if Archie is not entitled to sabbatical leave under the law, if he goes as planned it may “constitute an abandonment of his office.” (See page A5)

“I am heartbroken for this institution,” Gobin said, adding judges had grown “weary” of having to hold their “heads up and carry on in the midst of the controversies and the embarrassment that we and the institution have suffered” as a direct result of the “serious allegations of misconduct on the part of the Chief Justice.”

Although the allegations still remain unanswered, Gobin said while the CJ desired to “step back,” she was of the view he should “step down.” She said she welcomed the CJ’s departure, but the sabbatical which he had “surreptitiously claimed for himself,” allows him to “ride out still clinging to the office that he has all but irreparably damaged with a promise to return.”

She said the judiciary is “chaos and confusion” and “in a mire that has been of his making,” and his sabbatical allows him, at least for now, “to avoid having to account” for his actions.

Gobin called on all judges to take a position on the matter, saying their silence has only “enabled the continued disrespect shown to us, to the institution and the public.”

This is not the first time the CJ is facing calls for his resignation. He faced similar calls last year over his and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) part in the short-lived judicial tenure of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar last year. That controversy led to the Law Association moving a vote of no confidence in him.

In emailed correspondence to her fellow judges on the sabbatical issue, Gobin also recalled that she had specifically asked the CJ whether any applications for sabbatical leave had been made or granted and the arrangements where a CJ applied.

“I received no answer, not unusual,” she penned.

She said the CJ chose not to disclose that he had applied for such leave even when she raised the subject a few weeks ago. She said the documents relating to the CJ’s application to the President for sabbatical leave “raises serious questions.”

In his application to the President, the CJ said in 2014, judges of the Supreme Court of judicature approved “in principle” a draft internal policy on the approval of sabbatical leave for study, research and/or other activity that will benefit the administration of justice and enhance judges’ performance.

But Gobin said as far as she is aware, there was no adoption of the policy. She said this raised the question of whether the CJ felt this “approval of a draft in principle” was sufficient to allow him to invoke the general policy for his own benefit with no rules or guidelines in place to assure transparency.

While admitting some judges are deserving of time to rest and reflect, she said if the CJ is “not entitled to sabbatical leave under the law,” or by reason of the procedure he adopted in granting his own application, then judges should discuss whether his departure “if he should go as planned, might not constitute an abandonment of his office” and invited judges to “take a position on this … please.”

Senior Counsel Avery Sinanan also likened the CJ’s sabbatical to a captain jumping off his ship when it is in trouble.

“Given the climate of what is going on in the judiciary now, this is when the captain of the ship needs to remain on deck. It is almost like the captain is the first one to jump, which is against marine tradition.”

Sinanan said the judiciary was at its “lowest ebb” and as its head, rather than staying and trying to provide “some kind of inspired leadership and pull the judiciary out of the morass that it has found itself in, you take a sabbatical on the basis that you need to rest, reflect and relax and go and study and of course you getting full salary so the taxpayers paying for that.”

While it was unclear how many part heard matters Archie is adjudicating on, Sinanan said it now adds to the burden of the Court of Appeal Judges, because “those matters he is scheduled to sit on will have to be relocated to other judges. So it means more work for some of the other judges in the court.”

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

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