PORT OF SPAIN — While the Privy Council in London is getting set to deliver a ruling on the matter of Trinidad and Tobago chief justice (CJ) Ivor Archie v The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT), a war of words erupted over the weekend after leaked emails between Archie and other Supreme Court justices showed the judges’ displeasure with Archie for issuing a press release without their consultation on the same matter.
In the leaked emails obtained by Caribbean News Now, Archie is read in a back and forth exchange of words with fellow justices, Frank Seepersad and Carolin Gobin.
In the first email, dated July 27, 2018, at 8:17a.m., Seepersad wrote: “I read with concern, a media release dated 23rd July 2018 issued by the judiciary in relation to the matter between the chief justice and the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. The matter was instituted by the Hon Chief Justice in his private capacity and not by or on behalf of the judiciary. We are all part of the higher judiciary and no collective decision was taken by us to correct any media report or to clarify any issue that is before the Board for its consideration.
“I am of the view that the use of public office to further a personal agenda is inappropriate and unacceptable. In the circumstances I wish to categorically distance myself from the said media release.”
Archie then responded to Seepersad on the same day at 9:23 a.m. with: “As administrative head of this institution I do not need to be advised by you or anyone else on whether any matter impacts the judiciary as a whole, nor is the mandate of any meeting required to issue a press release. I do not run the judiciary by committee although as chief justice it is my prerogative to consult with other judges as and when I deem necessary.”
Gobin then at 2:09 p.m., who also copied the other justices of the court in addition to members of the appeals court, responded and sided with Seepersad saying: “Any press release coming from the judiciary should be circulated to the judges. Up to the time of writing this one on a hearing between the CJ and the LATT has not been sent to us. If the CJ believed that a release was necessary because in some way it concerns a matter which ‘impacts the judiciary as a whole’ then the failure to send it to us is inexcusable.
“The statement of the CJ that ‘as administrative head of this institution’ he does not need to be advised by Frank or anyone else on whether any matter impacts on the judiciary as a whole brings me no comfort and the CJ needs to be reminded that what is impacting on the judiciary as a whole extends well beyond the legal issues that fall to be determined in this litigation.”
Archie is challenging a ruling by acting chief justice, Allan Mendonca, in late May 2018 on the matter of whether or not the LATT has the authority and purview to investigate Archie in his capacity as chief justice. Mendonca sided with the LATT in his ruling after an initial court of appeal ruling sided with Archie in that the LATT had no jurisdiction to investigate Archie at all, in addition to raising questions on whether or not such an investigation can be impartial and fair, considering the source.
Archie is currently on vacation after initially asking for a six month sabbatical leave in early May, which was denied, causing Archie instead to opt for a 35-week extended vacation.
Clouds of suspicion over Archie’s conduct as chief justice and if whether or not he was “compromised”, swirled as early as January 2011 when then minister for justice, Herbert Volney, who was a sitting member of parliament for the United National Congress and also a former subordinate to Archie on the court, questioned the integrity of Archie and also “cautioned” the public on Archie’s susceptibility to being compromised as well as a host of other matters Volney raised in parliament.
Among the controversies swirling around Archie is his alleged involvement in a public housing fraud scheme with two men, one of whom died in late May, Kern Romero, who was also convicted of fraud in the matter said to involve Archie. The second man, Dillian Johnson, has gone on record stating his involvement in an intimate relationship he claims to have had with Archie, which he feels was behind an attempt on his life in December 2017.
Johnson was sitting on his porch on December 19, 2017, when armed men pulled up to his house and fired numerous shots in his direction as he fled through an alley way away from his attackers. Johnson had recently just finished an interview with a Trinidadian journalist, detailing the issues surrounding the fraud scheme he was convicted of and also details of his personal relationship with Archie.
Johnson subsequently fled to London where he has reportedly sought asylum.
Archie has denied any claims of any wrongdoing or any involvement in any wrongdoing, sexually or professionally or criminally, and described the allegations against him as a cruel, political witch-hunt by his opponents.
The Privy Council met on Monday of last week on the matter of Archie v the LATT, and is expected to return on Monday with its decision.
(Caribbean News Now)