Despite the threat of legal action, attorney Anil Nandlall yesterday maintained that Attorney-General (AG) , SC, did indirectly threaten a judge.
Nandlall and Williams are locked in a war of words following the former’s allegation that a threat was made and subsequent news reports on it.
Nandlall, a former AG, took to Facebook on Thursday, hours after a court hearing involving suspended Chairman of the Public Service Commission Carvil Duncan had ended, claiming that the judge hearing the case, Justice Franklin Holder, was threatened in open court.
Yesterday, he insisted that Justice Holder’s unceremonious rising from the bench without adjourning the court was evidence that something out of line was said.
The Supreme Court has issued no statement on the matter. All of the judges of the court attended a meeting on Friday morning for about half of an hour but the subject of the meeting is unknown.
Nandlall, during a press conference at Freedom House yesterday, called on Williams to apologise.
He was accompanied by Duncan and attorney Rajendra Jaigobin, who were present in court during the hearing. Nandlall said that they are among those who can corroborate his claim. Williams said on Friday that he has three witnesses – including two attorneys from his chambers who can verify that he never threatened anyone. Williams informed that his lawyers are drafting letters to send to Nandlall and the two newspapers, the Guyana Times and the Kaieteur News, while noting that he was out of patience with media houses continuously tarnishing his good name.
Nandlall said that while Williams claimed that the judge adjourned the matter, this was not so.
He explained that the procedure involved in the adjourning of a matter is that the judge would enquire from both parties to settle on a convenient date for a continuation. Once that is found, he said, this date is related to the judge, who would then check his diary to see if that date is convenient and he would also check to see whether witnesses are available for the proposed date. Once this is sorted out, Nandlall said, the case is adjourned. Nandlall explained that there is a marshal who states that the court will rise, at which point everyone rises followed by the judge, who then leaves the bench. He said this is the standard procedure when matters are adjourned. “That did not happen here and the question that you must ask yourself is why and the answer lies in something that caused the judge not to observe the ordinary conventional process. What was this something?” he asked.
He added that at the time all of this transpired, the witness, who was cross-examined by Williams, was still in the witness box. He insisted that the judge rose from the bench without an adjournment being announced as a result of the exchange between him and Williams. He insisted that it was because Williams said something “abnormal” that the judge walked off the bench.
Responding to Williams’ claim that he was disruptive throughout the entire hearing, Nandlall said that as an attorney he is entitled to object to the submissions being made by another lawyer or to the cross-examination being conducted.
He insisted that while a lawyer who cross-examines has some amount of latitude, the questions have to be proper and relevant. “If they are not ….then it is the duty of the lawyer on the other side to object…that is what I did and that is what I will continue to do,” he said.
Later, Jaigobin corroborated Nandlall’s account. He said the issue started with Williams asking the judge about the recording of an answer given by a witness. He said the judge responded that it was his court. Williams, he said, went on to say that he could do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He said there was a further exchange between the two and Williams made the statement which was taken as a threat to the life of the judge. He said the “shocked” judge rose from the bench and left the courtroom before an announcement of an adjournment or the next date was made, while the witness was left standing in the witness box. He said that when he enquired from the judge’s registrar, he was told that the judge had already taken off his robe and his jacket and that “there was no possibility of his Honour returning to court.”
According to Jaigobin, they are all confused as they are unsure when the next date is or how the matter is to continue. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo is the next witness scheduled to take the stand.
Williams told a press conference on Friday that when the judge indicated that he was going to adjourn the matter, he asked whether he could be permitted to ask Duncan’s confidential secretary one final question. He was permitted to do so. According to Williams, after noticing that the judge was about to leave the bench, he enquired whether the answer to the last question was recorded. “The judge to my surprise said, ‘Mr Williams you are not in charge of my court.’ And I said, ‘No sir’ …but the judge then said to me ‘Mr Williams I interpret what you are saying to mean that I deliberately did not record the answer that was given by the witness previously and I take great umbrage at that.’ And I said, ‘sir surely that is not on your record, because I never said anything to that effect or intended anything like that,’” he explained.
Williams recalled that he told the judge that his comments reminded him of a similar allegation made against him by a magistrate several years ago.
“He [the magistrate] cited me for contempt and the rest is history. And I said that since then I have always been very particular about what I say to the courts and to be precise so that nothing else like that could return and I said coincidentally that magistrate is dead now and I moved on,” he said.