T&T CJ refuses to meet with judges on allegations against him

Ivor Archie

(Trinidad Guardian) Embattled Chief Justice Ivor Archie has refused a request to meet with his fellow judges to discuss recent misconduct allegations made against him.

In an email sent to High Court judge Carol Gobin last week, a copy of which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, Archie said he would not accede to the meeting requested by her almost two weeks ago, due to the strong possibility that details of the meeting would be leaked to the media. The correspondence was also shared with the other Appellate and High Court judges.

Archie said: “I would truly love to have more cordial meetings with judges at which we openly and frankly discuss issues of common interest, especially issues concerning the administration of justice and improvement of service delivery, but the knowledge that thinly veiled media is actually present in the room, runs the risk of making such meetings counter productive.”

He went on: “Such leaks place Carol and, by extension, all judicial officers at real risk of tarnish not only those one wishes to damage but oneself as well. It is like the proverbial metaphor of the attempt to throw fecal matter onto an oscillating cooling machine. It splatters everywhere and no one’s garments emerge as white as the driven snow.”

Archie challenged the person who leaked Gobin’s original request to identify his/herself and ensure that his entire response is published if they planned to continue to do so.

“I also ask that the person who has been leaking find the nerve and strength of his (or her) convictions to state his (or her) name to the entire Bench and to honestly express his (or her) purpose for doing this,” Archie said.

While he declined to meet, Archie stated that he is always open to hold discussions with judges.

“Of course as always, as you all know, my chambers’ door is always open, for discussions of legitimate concerns, to my colleagues who are truly interested in the welfare of the Judiciary and the country and have a positive contribution to make to our national welfare and to the PEOPLE of this country who we are here to serve without fear or favour, affection or ill will…not making it about our personal likes, dislikes, ambitions, affiliations, loyalties or agendas,” he said.

In a subsequent email response, which was also obtained, Gobin stated that she was disappointed and confused by Archie’s reasoning.

“The Chief Justice, apparently recoils at the very idea of placing the bench in some position resulting from perceived leaks to the media, but has so far not acknowledged the deleterious position for which he has placed us by leaving very grave allegations unanswered. For my part, I recoil at his having brought us to this,” Gobin said.

She also noted that since her request was made, fresh allegations have surfaced against Archie.

“What is astounding is that even in the light of the new allegations, the Chief Justice has continued to remain silent, oblivious it seems, to the effect of this scandalous state of affairs on the Judiciary?” she said.

Describing Archie’s stance as cliched, Gobin claimed that he attempted to shift the blame to her. Gobin also noted that she had pointed out several issues with the Judiciary to her colleagues in the past with varying responses.

“That anyone has thought them worthy of publication anywhere, has not breached any confidentiality. If publication has generated any serious discussion on them as matters of public interest, I have been encouraged, my efforts have not been in vain,” Gobin said.

She also renewed her call for Archie to address the allegations publicly.

“The mess, the stench of it is everywhere.It is his responsibility to begin to clean it up if he can. He will first have to recognise that he is accountable to the institution and the country,” Gobin said.

Contacted on Sunday under the condition of confidentiality, a High Court Judge said he was surprised that the correspondence was leaked but said he supported Gobin’s stance nonetheless.

“We cannot continue to mask complacency with misguided notions of confidentiality and conservatism. Our obligation to uphold the Constitution and apply the law, mandates us to preserve and defend the public interest.

In the discharge of this obligation we as Judges must ensure that our conduct both in and out of court, conforms with the highest standards of equity, honesty, morality and transparency,” he said.

Archie has been accused of attempting to persuade the judges to change their State provided security in favour of a private company in which his friend works, were made in a series of reports in Sunday Express newspaper, this month.

While the Council of the Law Association has called on Archie to respond to the allegation that he discussed the judges’ meeting with his friend afterwards, it stated that the other allegations were unsubstantiated.

In a press release, the association’s secretary, Elena Araujo said: “The article reports a meeting between the Chief Justice and his fellow Supreme Court judges at which he suggested the retention of a private security firm, but that he did not identify any particular firm.”

She added: “It also reports that he raised an issue concerning security arrangements with National Security personnel which was forwarded to the Special Branch and the acting Commissioner of Police, but that he did not suggest the retention of private security.”

Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing following the publication of the first batch of allegations, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said the Government was observing the situation but would and could not intervene.

Since then further allegations on the issue have been published.

The recent allegations against Archie comes months after the association’s membership passed a no confidence motion in him and the members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) over their handling of the fiasco caused by the short-lived judicial appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.

Ayers-Caesar resigned two weeks after she was appointed a judge, amid public furore over 53 cases that she left unfinished when she took up the post.

She has since sued Archie and the JLSC claiming that they were aware of the unfinished cases and pressured her to resign.

Archie has also been criticised in the past over his frequent overseas trips.

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