Outspoken High Court Judge Frank Seepersad has strongly criticised the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC)’s recruitment and promotions procedures.
Seepersad made the criticism in a letter sent to acting Director of Personnel Administration Debra Parkinson, which was written after he (Seepersad) received additional information pertaining to a recent promotion exercise to the Court of Appeal.
Seepersad had initially made requests under the Freedom of Information Act and threatened to sue before most of the information was eventually disclosed.
“The disclosure of the said information has avoided the institution of litigation and has enabled me to conduct an objective determination as to whether there existed sub or unconscious bias by any member of the panel or whether I was subjected to unfair treatment and/or victimisation,” Seepersad said.
Seepersad noted that information reinforced his view that he had been discriminated against.
“A fiercely independent and competent Judiciary is critical for the welfare of this Republic, yet it seems that the JLSC as currently comprised, has an agenda and its quest for the “right fit” is not premised on competence and/or actual ability but is driven by bias and insular concerns,” Seepersad said.
Seepersad stated that he had his suspicions over the process when he was interviewed by Appellate Judge Charmaine Pemberton, Nicole Beaubrun-Toby, Maureen Manchook and Ernest Koylass, SC.
While the interviewers were not identified by name in the disclosed documents, Seepersad said that their scores reflected the bias by two.
“The scores now obtained cements this view in my mind and demonstrates that interviewer one and two deliberately, unreasonably and irrationally low scored me, so as to ensure that the “law of averages” would disqualify me from elevation,” Seepersad said.
He noted that there was a disparity with their scores and the other interviewers’ for him but not with the other candidates.
Seepersad questioned their assessments of his experience, commitment to professional development, and his overall suitability.
“Objectively one would think that length of service would be important, however, Judges with equal and/or less service than me were appointed to the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Seepersad noted that he was sending the letter to the Law Association for their consideration and in the hope that it may spark a debate over the system of judicial appointments.
In 2018, a seven-member committee appointed by the Law Association to consider and host public consultations over the process.
In its report, the committee recommended that the JLSC should be replaced with a more independent and transparent body.
While the JLSC currently comprises of the Chief Justice , the head of the Public Service Commission (PSC), a retired Appellate Judge and
two persons with legal qualifications, the committee suggested that a new commission have seven members.
All the members except the CJ and the head of the PSC are currently selected by the President.
The seven members suggested are the CJ, a retired Court of Appeal Judge, a senior attorney nominated by the Law Association, an attorney
selected by the President, a human resource professional and two outstanding members of civil society, who would be selected by the President after consultations with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.