T&T CJ leaves again on six-week vacation

(Trinidad Guardian) An email sent by his administrative secretary Shabiki Cazabon to Judges and Masters of the T&T Supreme Court on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, advised that Archie would be out of the jurisdiction from May 19 to June 30 to continue his vacation leave, which was cut short due to his mother’s death earlier this month.

The email stated that Appellate Judge Allan Mendonca will act as Chief Justice between May 19 and June 7 and from June 18 to June 29. Appellate Judge Alice Yorke-Soo Hon will act as Chief Justice from June 8 to June 17.

The correspondence comes less than three weeks after a similar email was circulated May 2, indicating that Archie’s vacation ended when he returned to T&T for his mother’s funeral that week.

Contacted by Guardian Media on Monday, Cheryl Lala, communications consultant to President Paula-Mae Weekes, confirmed that Archie’s apparent second leave period was simply a continuation of the first, which was approved by former president Anthony Carmona, earlier this year.

“I think it was just a continuation of the leave…When you add it up, the previous leave was broken a few times,” she said.

She went on: “She (Weekes) granted permission for him to be out of the jurisdiction and as far as the leave is concerned it was granted before by her predecessor.”

While Archie’s initial seven-week leave period would have been “broken up” by the Judiciary’s one-week Easter vacation and his early return, questions are still being raised over how these could result in him essentially going on six additional weeks’ vacation.

“It simply does not add up. The highest he should be entitled to is two more weeks if we consider the holidays last month and if he resumed duties as soon as he returned for his mother’s funeral,” one judge, who spoke to Guardian Media under the condition of anonymity, said.

The judge said that while Archie returned on May 2, his first official court appearance was a week later, when he presided over the admission of over 100 new attorneys.

He also questioned if Archie took more than the allotted six weeks before he left to pursue a fellowship at the Federal Judicial Centre in Washington, DC, at the end of March.

“Another six weeks? From where does this entitlement arise?” the judge asked.

He explained that beyond leave during the Judiciary’s Easter and Christmas breaks, judges are entitled to between four to six weeks’ vacation, which falls within the Judiciary’s annual summer vacation between August to mid-September. The Chief Justice and Appellate Judges are entitled to six weeks.

In the event that judges have to work through the August vacation period or have to leave the jurisdiction during the Law Term, they may apply for permission for such leave.

The issue of Archie’s leave first arose in March after it was revealed that Carmona approved a six-month sabbatical to allow Archie to participate in the fellowship.

While Archie stated that the sabbatical policy was decided by the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) and an internal Judiciary sub-committee, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and several of his colleagues questioned whether an official policy was ratified.

Archie then announced that he would be taking 35 weeks accrued vacation leave. However, he amended his position to seven-weeks after questions were raised over whether judges were entitled to the accumulation of their vacation leave.

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