Out of familiar woodwork crawls another worm in unbelievable covering – silk.
This time however the worm crawls tentatively, apprehensively, sensing the impending legal fiasco involving an advertisement for applicants for appointment as Senior Counsel – one more reflection of the shams which befall a people whose constitution is no longer viable, and a country where the rule of law has been subverted.
The applications are to be sent to the Office of the Chancellor, but one eminent jurist of international renown has contended that there is no such legal position.
The reasoning in the first instance relies on Article 127(1) of the Constitution which provides that the Chancellor be appointed by the President, after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition. It is public knowledge however that there is no such agreement.
Following is the constructive advice that Article 127(2) allows a judge to be appointed to perform the functions of chief justice if he is unable, but there is a substantive chief justice who is not unable.
Article 127(2) also allows the temporary appointment of a judge until a chancellor is appointed, but that person cannot be the chief justice because the constitution requires the chief justice who is not unable to be in place to perform his functions. It would therefore be appropriate for a justice of appeal to be appointed to perform the functions where the office of chancellor is vacant until a substantive chancellor is appointed. The argument emphasizes that Article 127 would not allow the manipulation which has taken place since the constitution simply does not allow an acting chief justice, when there is a substantive chief justice in place and able to perform.
More provocative perhaps is the contention that the chancellor is not the head of the Guyana judiciary, but the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice which my advisor insists is Guyana’s highest court.
Consequently he considers the impending fiasco as disallowing the Caribbean Court of Justice which has functioned as Guyana’s highest court since 2005 from having a say as to the persons who are qualified to be appointed as senior counsel. Importantly he has pointed to the fact that the CCJ in many judgments has commented adversely upon the competence and character of some judges and lawyers. Notwithstanding there clearly appears a plan to degrade the appointment of senior counsel by recruiting from material which can hardly match silk.
Consequently the aforementioned perspective anticipates that the public, already plundered by excessive charges, and aggrieved by professional misconduct, will be required to endure more of the same. The public has so far not been informed of the composition of the panel that will evaluate the credentials of the candidates. Indeed there is strong presumption of a fait accompli that will transgress any semblance of transparency. If so the fallout across the legal system would be ominously negative.
The fiasco could only provide more opportunities for clients to be exploited by underqualified practitioners.
This informed observer concludes with the following very trenchant comment:
There will inevitably be a revision of the judgments and publication in due course of observations made by the court on the successful candidates who have attempted to appear in the country’s highest court. The proceedings are on record in all cases. There will probably be appointees whose names have never been included in law reports to indicate that they made distinguished contributions to the development of the law and are persons of respectability. Those are essential criteria for determining who are appointed senior counsel in a civilised system of law.
It is not unreasonable to expect therefore that instructive profiles will be published in the interest of satisfying all stakeholders of the merits of the respective selectees.
‘In the meantime’ muttered the silkworm, ‘better return to the woodwork.’
E B John