Law Association to meet on T&T CJ issues

Chief Justice Ivor Archie

(Trinidad Guardian) The Law Association’s Council will caucus tomorrow regarding a preliminary report on alleged matters involving Chief Justice Ivor Archie, who’s expected back from overseas this weekend.

LATT members on Wednesday confirmed the meeting was set to T&T Guardian, saying it the preliminary salvo in their quest to investigate the issue following weeks of allegations against the embattled CJ.

The association recently appointed a five-member committee headed by LATT head Douglas Mendes SC to deal with the alleged matters. Other members are Elton Prescott SC, Lynette Seebaran-Suite, former acting High Court judge Rajiv Persad and Theresa Hadad.

LATT has also recruited two senior counsels to examine the matter to see whether there is sufficient basis to refer a question of alleged misbehaviour by the Chief Justice to Government for consideration of impeachment proceedings, under Section 137 of the Constitution.

Allegations surfacing against Archie in recent weeks include discussing judges’ security with a person and seeking to expedite Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing for persons. The CJ has admitted to seeking the interest of people in need of HDC housing but has denied discussing security for judges with anyone outside the Judiciary.

The Law Association instituted the probe because of the negative overall effect the matter is having on the entire Judiciary.

Mendes and other LATT council members met Archie on November 30 concerning the allegations, which were viewed as bringing the Judiciary into disrepute. At that meeting, Archie was informed of LATT’s move to probe the allegations and reportedly told the group he would consider what was discussed.

Archie later addressed the allegations in a press release, where he admitted he has “from time to time” recommended people for housing but denied discussing the issue security for judges. The CJ then left T&T on business. He’s scheduled to return this weekend, a spokesman indicated on Wednesday.

The LATT has said its investigatory team on the allegations would report to the council on or before Friday. If the association’s investigation is not completed by Friday – since the CJ hasn’t been in T&T during the probe – its time-frame for completion will be extended, the T&T Guardian was told yesterday.

Following the team’s report and the senior counsels’ advice, association members will discuss the report’s contents and decide on the way forward.

On Wednesday, however, Israel Khan SC wrote to Mendes and the committee set up to deal with the matter seeking clarification of whether the two SCs the association is using are from outside of T&T.

Khan said, “LATT’s membership is yet to know the identities of the two senior counsel. While I adhere to the protection of Chief Justice Archie’s right not to be discriminated against by reason of race, origin, colour, religious or sex (which includes sexuality) and that he has the fundamental rights to join a political party of his choice and the freedom of association, I’m gravely concerned whether CJ Archie and the two silks are members of the Masonic Lodge.

“It’s well known throughout the Western world that members of the Masonic Lodge have pledged their lives to protect one another and would breach all ethics and principles of law to assist each other in time of need.

“While I uphold Chief Justice Archie’s fundamental right to freedom of assembly, I as a senior silk in our jurisdiction will have a fundamental objection, if he is a member of the Masonic Lodge, and the two silks retained by LATT are members also.”

Khan called for answers to his concern “before the outside counsel hands in its legal opinion, which I understand is due on or before December 29.”

The issue concerning Archie has been further fuelled by criticism from former chief justices Sat Sharma and Clinton Bernard. Former CJ Michael de La Bastide has declined comment. Government has also declined to become embroiled in the controversy, saying the administration is watching events unfolding, has no basis for intervention and noting Archie had responded to the allegations.

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