Lawyers representing a woman from Tobago, who is suing the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), over its recent report on the creation of three new electoral districts in Tobago, are challenging a purported decision to transfer the case to a new judge, who reversed the case management plan of the judge who was first assigned the case.
When June McKenzie, of Bacolet, Tobago, filed the lawsuit last month, it was initially assigned to High Court Judge Carol Gobin, who decided that she should determine whether McKenzie should be granted leave to pursue the judicial review case at the same time as the substantive issues raised, in a rolled-up hearing. During a hearing, late last month, the Office of the Attorney General signalled its intention to bring a preliminary application over the lawsuit.
As Justice Gobin and her judicial support staff were due to go on vacation, she set timelines for the filing of evidence and submissions and promised to give her judgement in the case on November 22.
After the application was filed, Justice Gobin wrote to the parties indicating that the application would be referred to the Judiciary’s Case Management Committee.
On Tuesday, Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams, who is on rotation as emergency judge, hosted a case management hearing in which she informed the parties that after reading their filings she decided to suspend Justice Gobin’s order for a rolled-up hearing and decide whether McKenzie should be granted leave to pursue the case first.
Justice Quinlan-Williams is scheduled to give her decision on the issue on Monday.
In correspondence sent to Gobin, Quinlan-Williams and the Registrar of the Supreme Court, yesterday, McKenzie’s lawyer Rhea Khan claimed that Justice Quinlan-Williams did not have the jurisdiction to overturn Justice Gobin’s case management directions.
“It appears that a misunderstanding by the Case Management Committee of what was suggested by Justice Gobin may have led to the proceedings coming before the Emergency Judge (Justice Quinlan-Williams) who respectfully also proceeded in error to overturn Justice Gobin’s directions,” Khan said, as she noted that the previous order could only be overturned on appeal.
Khan noted that the State’s application could not be deemed urgent as her client is not seeking to stop the Tobago House of Assembly elections scheduled for December 6.
Khan called for Justice Gobin’s directions to be restored and for a transcript of the hearing before Justice Quinlan-Williams before the hearing before Quinlan-Williams next week.
In McKenzie’s court filings, her lawyers are contending that when the EBC decided to split two existing districts into four new districts, it was done on a mathematical basis with the districts with the highest number of electors being selected. They also questioned the EBC’s consideration of community boundaries as they suggested that natural boundaries such as major highways and rivers should have been considered.Mckenzie is being represented by Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, while Douglas Mendes, SC, Ravi Nanga, Tiffany Kissoon, and Avaria Niles are appearing for the AG’s Office. Deborah Peake, SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon and Alana Bissessar are representing the EBC.