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PORT OF SPAIN – A High Court judge Tuesday upheld an application by Chief Justice Ivor Archie that the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) does not have the power to investigate allegations of misconduct against him.
Justice Nadia Kangaloo said that no such power is vested under the Legal Professions Act (LPA), and as such, the LATT’s probe is considered null, void, and irrational in law.
The judge ruled that the LATT was attempting in its potential, to send the matter to the prime minister to change his mind, after he has made his position clear.
“The Court finds that in all of the circumstances of this case, the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago has acted out with its authority under the LPA in commencing and continuing its enquiry and/investigation into the allegations against the Honourable Chief Justice,” she said.
“The Court, therefore, grants a declaration that the said decision is illegal and/or ultra vires and/or unreasonable and/or irrational and/or contrary to the provisions of the Legal Professions Act and is null and void and of no effect.”
The judge also ruled that the Law Association must pay costs to the Chief Justice in this matter.
As a result of the ruling, the LATT has been barred from continuing with its investigation.
Under Section 137 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution, the President appoints a tribunal after misconduct allegations against a Chief Justice are referred by the Prime Minister.
Last Friday, the judge heard more than seven hours of arguments from attorneys representing both sides as the embattled head of the judiciary moved to halt the investigations against him.
In November last year, the LATT called on Archie to publicly address allegations in the local media, particularly the Sunday and Daily Express newspapers, that he had discussed security arrangements for judges with a personal friend.
Media reports have linked Chief Justice Archie to discussing security arrangements for judges with a personal friend and late last year, the friend, Dillian Johnson, told police that he had information on individuals who want to kill him.
Johnson had survived a gun attack on him at his home in Gasparillo, in southern Trinidad.
The allegations also include that the Chief Justice used his office to request Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing for persons whom he knew and that he discussed the issue of security for judges with someone who was not a judge.
Late last year, Chief Justice Archie, indicating then that he was not at “liberty to say much at this time, denied media reports regarding the security of judges in Trinidad and Tobago”.
Last week, the Chief Justice, who is due to leave here on March 11 on sabbatical until August 31, through his attorneys, filed an application of urgency, along with an application seeking leave for a judicial review.
Archie’s attorneys said that their client was also asking for the report of the LATT to be quashed and the association restrained from taking that report and the external advice to its membership.
According to the Chief Justice, the LATT was not empowered – constitutionally or statutorily to probe into his conduct.
In earlier arguments, Ian Benjamin – who is part of a team led by former Attorney General John Jeremie, SC, – argued that the association is only empowered to investigate lawyers and complained of a lack of fairness by the association in its treatment of Archie.
In response, Senior Counsel Christopher Hamel-Smith, who represented LATT, said the association is simply trying to ascertain the facts in the allegations, before considering taking it to the prime minister.
“It is not about using the Constitution to limit or stop the scrutiny of someone so high in the hierarchy by someone so low in the hierarchy.”
He further explained that at this stage all the association was embarking on was ascertaining the facts contained in the allegations against the Chief Justice before a complaint is submitted to the prime minister. (CMC)