Former T&T Chief Magistrate cites ‘grave injustice’, deceit in lawsuit over resignation as judge

(Trinidad Guardian) Whenever Marcia Ayers-Caesar is seen in public nowadays she is called names and disrespected. She is also shunned by family, friends and former colleagues. As a result of this, Ayers-Caesar now avoids going out in public and attending social events.

Ayers-Caesar made the statements in an affidavit filed in support of her lawsuit against President Anthony Carmona and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) chaired by Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

Marcia Ayers-Caesar

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said she did not want to take legal action against Carmona and the JLSC, but she needed to do so in order to “confront the deceit” which forced her resignation as a High Court judge and to “redress the grave injustice” she has suffered.

On Wednesday, Ayers-Caesar’s attorneys filed legal action in the High Court against the JLSC and the Attorney General representing Carmona.

Ayers-Caesar has sued the JLSC and the Attorney General as a result of what she claims was her forced resignation as a judge on April 27.

“I have and continue to suffer extraordinary distress, anxiety and embarrassment because of the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of the Chief Justice, JLSC and the President and my professional career is in shambles after serving 25 years as a magistrate and being elevated to become a High Court judge of the Supreme Court. I am forced to stay at home,” Ayers-Caesar claimed in her affidavit.

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said she is unable to practice law according to Section 54 (1) of Third Schedule of the Code of Ethics of the Legal Profession Act Chapter 90:03 which provides that “a person who previously held a substantive appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court shall not appear as an attorney-at-law in any of the courts in Trinidad and Tobago for a period of ten years commencing on the date of his retirement, resignation or other termination of such an appointment”.

“This means that my professional life in law has come to an end since I cannot practice as an attorney at law for at least ten years. Indeed, my entire professional life has been in the law and I have no other professional training which allows me to earn a living other than the law or the legal profession. I have lost all prospect of promotion as a judge,” Ayers-Caesar stated in her affidavit.

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said the actions of the JLSC and Carmona have caused “irreparable damage” to her professional reputation and have brought her into “public ridicule, odium and contempt”.

“I feel disrespected by members of the public,” Ayers-Caesar stated in her affidavit. “I have been called names whenever I am seen in the public such as in the supermarket etc and I am also shunned by family members, friends and colleagues as a result of which I avoid going out in the public and to social events. I feel disrespected by members of the public,” the affidavit stated.

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said the situation now is a far cry from the respect and admiration she used to be shown before.

“The damage to me has been incalculable largely because as a former chief magistrate and a recently appointed High Court judge I enjoyed the respect and admiration of not only my colleagues in the Magistracy and on the bench but also of attorneys-at-law including those who did not (whether regularly or at all) appear before me; I also felt that the public supported and respected me,” Ayers-Caesar’s affidavit stated.

“All of this has now gone and although the success of this claim would assist in redressing some of the injustice done to me, my reputation for integrity and public service will never be restored,” she stated in her affidavit. Ayers-Caesar is now seeking among other things “an order for the payment of damages to be assessed for misfeasance in public office and breach of her constitutional rights, including compensation for loss of office and the benefits that go with it if she is not reinstated as a judge as well as an additional award by way of general and vindicatory damages.

Marcia’s salary

As Chief Magistrate Ayers-Caesar received a monthly salary of $32,700 and other allowances inclusive of a $7,740 housing allowance and a $4,200 transportation allowance, the affidavit stated.

As a High Court judge Ayers-Caesar was entitled to a monthly tax free salary of $37,300 plus a personal chauffeur and other allowances inclusive of a $24,000 housing allowance and a $4,560 transportation allowance, the affidavit stated.

“In April and May 2017 I continued to receive a salary equivalent to what I received as Chief Magistrate.

“However, with effect from June 1 I have not received any salary, benefits or allowances save that on July 6 I noticed that the sum of $16,535.99 had been deposited in my account,” Ayers-Caesar stated in the affidavit.

“I made enquiries of the Accounts Department of the Judiciary and I was informed that this represents the difference between what I should have received as a High Court Judge in April and what I had actually received,” she stated in the affidavit.

Carmona warned me not to do anything stupid like commit suicide—

Marcia’s affidavit

When Ayers-Caesar handed her resignation letter as a High Court judge to Carmona, he warned her “not to do anything stupid like commit suicide”, she stated in her affidavit. He also reminded her that she had children to think of, the affidavit stated.

According to her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said Carmona told her a story of a St Lucian friend he had at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus that committed suicide.

Carmona has still never come to terms with his friend’s suicide, he told Ayers-Caesar, according to the affidavit.

Both Ayers-Caesar and Carmona were crying when she delivered her resignation letter, she claimed in the affidavit. Carmona hugged Ayers-Caesar, she stated.

The part-heard matters

Ayers-Caesar was sworn in as a High Court judge on April 12.

Before her ascension to the High Court she held the post of chief magistrate after some 25 years in the magistracy.

She is this country’s first female chief magistrate.

On April 10, two days before Ayers-Caesar was sworn in as a judge, Archie called her and asked if she had any part-heard matters.

Ayers-Caesar said on April 11, the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court’s Note Taking Unit provided her with a list of 28 matters, according to the affidavit.

On April 25, Ayers-Caesar was provided with a list of 52 part-heard matters, according to the affidavit.

Ayers-Caesar said these matters could have been dealt with without her having to resign.

According to paragraph 17 of Ayers-Caesar’s lawsuit:

“39 of the 52 part-heard matters were part-heard preliminary enquiries in which the hearings began before a Magistrate could have been completed by another Magistrate in accordance with the procedure for the Magistrate dealing with the preliminary enquiry to call the custodian of the record of the evidence, that is, the Clerk of the Peace to re tender the evidence taken and for any witnesses who gave evidence previously to have the transcript of evidence read to that witness and if so required, that witness could then be asked further questions in examination in chief or cross examination”.

The lawsuit stated this procedure had been used previously to complete preliminary enquiries started by a magistrate who either retired or resigned and were unable to complete those enquiries before their retirement or resignation.

“Another alternative way of dealing with such a problem is for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) pursuant to Section 23(8)(c) of the Indictable Offences (Preliminary Enquiries) Act Chap 12:01 to consider preferring an indictment without the completion of the preliminary enquiry if he determines that there was sufficient evidence to prefer the indictment,” the lawsuit stated.

Archie and the JLSC also had the option of de-rostering her as a judge just to rectify the matters, the lawsuit stated.

On April 27, however, according to the affidavit, Archie told Ayers-Caesar that she should resign as a judge and return to the Magistracy to deal with the matters or the JLSC would advise Carmona to revoke her appointment.

“I was distraught as this was the last thing I had expected the Chief Justice to tell me and I was horrified by what I was hearing since it was clear to me from what the Chief Justice said that a decision had already been made by the JLSC and that I had no choice but to resign as a High Court judge or have my appointment as a High Court judge revoked by the President,” Ayers-Caesar said in her affidavit.

Distraught and in tears

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said she was presented with a resignation letter by Archie’s administrative secretary Sherlanne Pierre.

Distraught, Ayers-Caesar said she felt she had no choice but to sign the resignation letter, according to the affidavit.

“While I was in Ms Pierre’s office, I called my husband Matthew Caesar. I was crying on the phone and my husband could not recognise my voice. He asked me to calm down and explain to him what was happening,” Ayers-Caesar said in her affidavit.

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar also said she messaged her priest, her friend who is a magistrate, and another friend in high public office whose name she did not disclose in the affidavit “so as not to breach confidence”.

“I did not have the benefit of any legal advice before I signed the resignation letter and I was not given the option to have any legal advice,” she said in the affidavit.

At 5.10 pm on April 27, Ayers-Caesar left the Hall of Justice to go to President’s House to tender her resignation, according to the affidavit.

Her husband was already there when she reached, she stated in the affidavit.

“I was in tears and very emotional. The President appeared to be concerned and his tone was a bit subdued. He told me that he was sorry about the way things had turned out,” Ayers-Caesar stated in her affidavit.

“I then told the Chief Justice that at no time did I ever deliberately or intentionally mislead him or the JLSC,” she stated in the affidavit.

In her affidavit Ayers-Caesar said after she handed Carmona her resignation letter she told her husband that she could not face her security detail and requested him to send them home.

On May 3 Ayers-Caesar and her husband Matthew attended a meeting with Archie, according to the affidavit .

“At that meeting my husband asked the Chief Justice if he genuinely believed that I had misled him or lied. The Chief Justice became annoyed and he then told his Administrative Secretary Ms Pierre to take us to the conference room,” the affidavit stated.

“We were accompanied by Ms Pierre to the conference room where she told us that the Chief Justice wanted tempers to be controlled and she told my husband that if he went back to the meeting that he should not say anything,” Ayers-Caesar stated in her affidavit.

On May 19, Ayers-Caesar wrote Carmona putting on record the circumstances surrounding her resignation, according to the affidavit.

On June 16, she issued pre-action protocol letters to the JLSC and the Attorney General calling upon them to advise Carmona to reinstate her as a High Court Judge, the affidavit stated.

On July 7, the Attorney General responded on behalf of the President and JD Sellier & Company responded to the pre action protocol letter on behalf of the JLSC denying Ayers-Caesar’s claims and challenging her allegation of what transpired, the affidavit stated,

Ayers-Caesar is being represented by Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence-Maharaj, Ronnie Bissessar and Vijaya Maharaj.

Affidavits by Raphael and Caesar were also filed to support the claim.

 

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