PORT OF SPAIN –– The Law Association last night called on Chief Justice Ivor Archie to step down after passing historic no-confidence motions against the CJ and members of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) over its handling of the short-lived appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar.
The five motions expressing a loss of confidence in Archie and the JLSC and calling upon them to resign were passed by an average ratio of two to one during a special meeting of almost 500 members of the association at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday afternoon.
The meeting was reportedly the most well attended in recent history, as attorneys filled the seats in the Convocation Hall with some having to participate while standing in the corridors.
At the start of the meeting around 3 p.m., a preliminary motion was moved to decide whether members of the media should be allowed inside but it failed.
In a brief interview after the results were announced around 8 p.m., Senior Counsel Martin Daly, who was outspoken on the issue over the past few weeks, said the outcome was a victory for the pursuit of accountability for public officials.
Daly suggested that the failure of Archie and the JLSC to take responsibility for debacle caused by Ayers-Caesar’s appointment as a High Court judge and subsequent resignation may have swayed the members’ votes.
“If you have a blunder, you must accept responsibility. One of the things that was raised was the fact that there was no apology, or as I like to say a beg pardon. I believe that tolled against them and people felt that they had been disrespected,” Daly said.
He said while the vote had no binding effect on Archie and the JLSC, they should do the “honourable thing” and immediately resign.
“If people lose confidence in you, it does not mean that you have committed a constitutional wrong, but rather that you have conducted yourself in such a way that you’ve destroyed people’s confidence in you and you can not continue to preside,” Daly said.
Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen, who first raised the issue of Ayers-Caesar’s appointment even before it was officially announced in April, said he was pleased with the outcome.
“It is a sad day for the administration of justice, but we must celebrate the fact the Law Association has voted overwhelmingly for democracy, transparency and openness. It now falls on the CJ to take the next step,” Ramdeen said.
In a brief interview after announcing the results, president of the association Douglas Mendes, SC, explained that the vote was merely the legal fraternity expressing its opinion on the issue. He said the motions did not constitute impeachment proceedings against the CJ, which can only be initiated by the Prime Minister.
The members of the JLSC listed on the motions are Archie, retired judges Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer and chairman of the Public Service Commission Maureen Manchouck.
Attorney Ernest Koylass, who was recently appointed to the JLSC, was not listed in the motions as he was not a member at the time of Ayers-Caesar’s appointment and subsequent resignation.
Archie became the youngest Chief Justice in T&T after he was appointed in January 2008. His appointment came almost 10 years after he was appointed a High Court judge and four years after he was promoted to the Court of Appeal. He is also a qualified engineer.