A lawyer can be elevated to senior counsel even if there is no substantive appointment to the office of chancellor

Dear Editor,

 

E B John’s letter entitled ‘Instructive profiles should be published on respective selectees for silk’ (SN, May 24) refers.

The cumulative effect of the writer’s analysis is that the office of chancellor is vacant and that any elevation of legal practitioners to senior counsel by the acting Chancellor will be void ab initio. Further, Mr John advanced that the President of the CCJ is effectively the head of Guyana’s judiciary.

It is an ineluctable truth that the continuous executive and opposition lawlessness in this country is reflected in the stubbornness of current and past presidents of the Republic to abide by the constitution. For instance, the non-appointment of a chancellor and chief justice are evidence of such recalcitrance. These appointments are necessary for a properly constituted Court of Appeal (article 124) and High Court (article 125) according to the Guyana Constitution. This is not a difficult task. Both the Chancellor (ag) and Chief Justice (ag) have demonstrated their ability to head our judiciary effectively. This has been confirmed time and again by rulings of the CCJ which lauded their sound judgements.

However, their non-appointment in no way affects the powers vested in the office they hold as the writer posited. Article 127 (2) of the constitution makes provision for the appointment of a judge to the office of chancellor or chief justice in the absence of a substantive holder. This is after meaningful consultations with the opposition leader. The appointee (ag) is then equipped with such powers and rights necessary for the performance of the duties of that office until a substantive appointment is made.

It follows that a temporary holder of the office of chancellor will be responsible for advertising the opportunity for senior counsel and determining the procedures for the elevation of legal practitioners to such standing. Mr John, therefore, was wrong in his interpretation of the competence of the Chancellor (ag) in the performance of such function. Thus, it is submitted that a practitioner can be elevated to senior counsel in the absence of a substantive holder of the office of chancellor.

Furthermore, it must be declared that the President of the CCJ is not the head of Guyana’s judiciary. Under articles 21 paragraph (1) and 25 paragraph (7) of the CCJ agreement, the role of the President is administrator of the court in its original and appellate jurisdictions respectively.

Further, there is a clear absence in the agreement of an intention by the drafters to confer such function as head of Guyana’s judiciary or the judiciary of any other party to the agreement on the CCJ President. By virtue of article 123 (4) of Guyana’s Constitution and later legislative enactment, the CCJ is recognised as the final court for purposes of appeal and not the administration of the judiciary as the writer posited. Therefore, the observation “that the Chancellor (ag) is not the head of the Guyana judiciary, but the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice…” remains fanciful.

Yours faithfully,
Kevin Morgan



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