Promotion rumours of 3 judges leaked, JLSC posts ‘late’ vacancy ad

Ru­mours of the Ju­di­cial and Le­gal Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JLSC) seek­ing to el­e­vate three fe­male High Court Judges to the Court of Ap­peal have been met with dis­qui­et from some of their col­leagues.

In a let­ter sent to JLSC chair­man and Chief Jus­tice Ivor Archie on Wednes­day, which was ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia, out­spo­ken High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad ques­tioned whether it (JLSC) was mov­ing to fill three up­com­ing va­can­cies with­in the Court of Ap­peal.

Ap­pel­late Judge Pe­ter Ja­madar is ex­pect­ed to be ap­point­ed to the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ) in Ju­ly while his col­leagues Ra­jen­dra Nar­ine and Al­lan Men­don­ca are ex­pect­ed to re­tire lat­er this year.

In the one-page let­ter, Seep­er­sad ques­tioned whether ad­ver­tise­ments had been is­sued for the po­si­tions, as the mer­it list used for pro­mo­tions of Ap­pel­late Judges Pe­ter Ra­jku­mar and Char­maine Pem­ber­ton in 2017 had ex­pired af­ter a year.

“It is my un­der­stand­ing that in the ab­sence of a cur­rent and valid mer­it list, the process and method of ap­point­ment would re­quire in­ter alia the ef­fect­ing of ad­ver­tise­ments, the at­ten­dance at in­ter­views and the sit­ting of ex­am­i­na­tions in­clud­ing psy­cho­me­t­ric test­ing,” Seep­er­sad said.

Seep­er­sad al­so ques­tioned whether the process of se­lec­tion and ap­point­ments had been changed.

How­ev­er, while Seep­er­sad was still await­ing a re­sponse yes­ter­day the JLSC is­sued an ad­ver­tise­ment for the po­si­tions, which it is said it is seek­ing to fill by June this year. The ad­ver­tise­ment stat­ed that can­di­dates should be High Court judges with three years of ex­pe­ri­ence and told ap­pli­cants they should ap­ply no lat­er than March 29.

“Per­sons who have ap­plied pre­vi­ous­ly and who still wish to be con­sid­ered are ad­vised to re-ap­ply,” the ad­ver­tise­ment stat­ed.

De­spite the in­for­ma­tion con­tained in the ad­ver­tise­ment, ju­di­cial sources claimed a JLSC mem­ber re­cent­ly con­tact­ed at least one of the three ear­marked can­di­dates and in­formed her of her pend­ing pro­mo­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the sources, the se­nior judge re­port­ed­ly ex­pressed reser­va­tions over the de­ci­sion, as she point­ed out the mer­it list for ju­di­cial pro­mo­tions had ex­pired and she had not reap­plied for the po­si­tion.

As a sec­ondary is­sue, Seep­er­sad ques­tioned whether the JLSC was await­ing rec­ti­fi­ca­tion of its flawed com­po­si­tion be­fore de­cid­ing on the ap­point­ments.

The is­sue of the JLSC’s com­po­si­tion was raised by Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) ac­tivist De­vant Ma­haraj fol­low­ing the short-lived ap­point­ment of for­mer chief mag­is­trate Mar­cia Ay­ers-Cae­sar in 2017. Ay­ers-Cae­sar re­signed amid pub­lic furore over the 53 cas­es she left un­fin­ished up­on tak­ing up the ap­point­ment, cas­es which had to be restart­ed as a re­sult of her pro­mo­tion.

Ma­haraj filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing de­ci­sions by suc­ces­sive pres­i­dents to ap­point more than one sit­ting or re­tired judge to the JLSC. He lost his claim in the lo­cal High Court and Court of Ap­peal, but in Feb­ru­ary the Privy Coun­cil agreed with Ma­haraj’s claim that re­tired judges could not qual­i­fy for the posts of two ex-of­fi­cio JLSC mem­bers, who are re­quired to have le­gal train­ing and are not in ac­tive prac­tice.

At the time when the Court of Ap­peal dis­missed Ma­haraj’s claim, the JLSC mem­bers were Archie, Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion head Mau­reen Man­chouck and re­tired judges Roger Hamel-Smith, Humphrey Stollmey­er and at­tor­ney Ernest Koy­lass, SC.

While the case was pend­ing, Hamel-Smith and Stollmey­er re­signed cit­ing “per­son­al rea­sons” and un­fair pub­lic crit­i­cism of their work on the JLSC.

Ap­pel­late Judge Char­maine Pem­ber­ton and at­tor­ney David Patrick were sub­se­quent­ly ap­point­ed to re­place them and to prop­er­ly con­sti­tute the JLSC.

How­ev­er, af­ter the Privy Coun­cil weighed in on the is­sue, it was re­vealed Pem­ber­ton was ap­point­ed un­der the wrong sub­sec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

In a let­ter to Ma­haraj, late last month, Pres­i­dent Paula-Mae Weekes ad­mit­ted the er­ror was made un­der the tenure of her pre­de­ces­sor An­tho­ny Car­mona and promised to rec­ti­fy it at “the ear­li­est.”

Guardian Me­dia sent an email to Weekes’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­sor Cheryl Lala yes­ter­day af­ter­noon to con­firm if the er­ror had since been rec­ti­fied.

Lala did not re­spond up to late yes­ter­day.

The is­sue of the process used by the JLSC for se­lec­tion of judges was al­so con­sid­ered by a spe­cial com­mit­tee of the Law As­so­ci­a­tion.

The com­mit­tee pub­lished a re­port in June last year and rec­om­mend­ed that the JLSC be re­placed with a more in­de­pen­dent and trans­par­ent body. It al­so rec­om­mend­ed that the pro­posed body should pub­lish the el­i­gi­bil­i­ty cri­te­ria and the process of se­lec­tion, as there are no ex­ten­sive of­fi­cial pub­li­ca­tions on the is­sues cur­rent­ly.

Reporter: Derek Achong

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