Saturday, January 20, 2018

No business as usual, Mr CJ

AS if they were not standing stripped of honour and accused in the court of public opinion, the Chief Justice and the Judicial and Legal Service Commission on Friday appointed three new judges in a manner suggesting business as usual.

Without in any way disputing the elevation of the former magistrates, this newspaper is unable to accept any of the CJ's assurances regarding the selection process, the choice of appointees and the expectation of their transformational impact on the judicial system.

Indeed, and very regretfully, we find ourselves unable to accept assurances of any kind from CJ Archie and the JLSC.

The trauma which, together, they have inflicted on the judicial system cannot be glossed over. The stubborn refusal of the Chief Justice, in particular, and the JLSC, as a body, to accept responsibility for the self-inflicted disaster resulting from the bungled elevation and subsequent demotion of Marcia Ayers-Caesar to and from the Bench, has left both without the moral authority to execute the very important task of selecting and appointing judges whose tenure will shape the future.

As chairman of the JLSC which presided over that fiasco, Ivor Archie should have led JLSC members is doing the honourable thing by handing in his resignation. Instead, he chose to tough through overwhelming public condemnation only to inflict even more damage on his office and the institution through the now infamous revelation of his relationship with convicted fraudster Dillian Johnson.

Faced with calls by judges, the Law Association, the media, and the public to explain an apparent conflict of interest between his pitch to judges to outsource their security, and his communication about that confidential discussion to his friend Johnson, agent for a security firm, Mr Archie has resolutely refused to concede to any responsibility to be accountable. Instead he has shown a brazen imperviousness to public questioning and criticism which has laid bare the effective autocracy of the office of Chief Justice. If there is any good to be found in the situation it is the recognition of the need for urgent constitutional reform to make the Office of CJ accountable. This newspaper takes no delight in the trainwreck that Ivor Archie's tenure as Chief Justice has become. Elevated to the office at a relatively young age, he had his detractors but he also had the support of many who were thirsty for change, given the disastrous state of the administration of justice. While he has presided over the improvement of some physical facilities and processes, the overall state of the judicial system remains far from what is needed to deliver justice. Mal-administration, as evidenced by the Ayers-Caesar episode, would be bad enough.

That problem is, however, compounded by a massive loss of legitimacy all along the chain of justice, from the Police Service, the court system, the law profession and the prison service, with horrific consequences for individual citizens and the society as a whole.

In this environment of free-fall, accepting business as usual from the CJ and the JLSC would be to seal our fate of doom.