More trouble for T&T CJ as Law body starts own probe of allegations

Ivor Archie

(Trinidad Guardian) The Law Association has retained two senior counsel to look into the issue of whether Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley can be approached to initiate impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ivor Archie. The association has decided to take the bold move because it says the public ridicule being heaped on the entire Judiciary as a result of the allegations are now so dire something needs to be done.

In a letter issued to members on Monday, a copy of which the T&T Guardian received, attorneys were told LATT president Douglas Mendes SC, senior ordinary member Elton Prescott and master Christie-Anne Morris-Alleyne met with the CJ to discuss the association’s concern over the current situation on November 30.

During the meeting, the CJ was told the association had taken note of allegations made against him, including that he allegedly discussed the matter of personal security for judges with a named person and that he had recommended/referred two or more individuals to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for accelerated housing grants.

The trio reportedly told the CJ the gravity of the allegations and his failure to respond to them up to then had brought his office and the Judiciary into disrepute. The CJ was also told the association’s council had “resolved to investigate the allegations to determine whether they are true or not.” The CJ reportedly told the trio he would think about the representations made.

Two weeks after the meeting and with accusations against him mounting, the CJ issued a brief public response in which he denied the allegations, although admitting he has from time to time recommended persons for HDC housing. Shortly after issuing the statement, the CJ on Monday left the country on private business.

In the statement to members on Monday LATT secretary Elena Araujo said the committee set up to investigate the allegations will report to the council on or before December 29 and two senior counsel will be retained to advise on the question of whether there is sufficient basis to refer a question of misbehaviour by the CJ to the PM for his consideration under Section 137 of the Constitution.

Araujo noted that upon receiving the advice from the committee, the association will convene a meeting of the general membership to “consider such advice and obtain directions as to the way forward.”

Meanwhile, there were calls for Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, as titular head of the bar, to recommend to the PM that Section 137 of the Constitution be invoked to set up a tribunal to investigate the allegations against Archie. Contacted on the issue, however, Al-Rawi said, “There is nothing to cause the Executive to intervene in the matter.”

He added that there have been a series of allegations to which the Judiciary has responded.

Israel Khan SC meanwhile told the T&T Guardian he did not believe the committee set up by the LATT “has the wherewithal to make any findings of fact in relation to the misbehaviour of the Chief Justice.”

Khan said it was “therefore incumbent on the Attorney General, in keeping with the oath he has taken to adhere to the Constitution of this country, to cause the Prime Minister to trigger Section 137 of the Constitution for the removal of the Chief Justice.”

If the AG fails to do this, he said “it will be an abdication of his responsibility and his duty.”

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