CJ must address delays in justice

 Chief Justice Ivor Archie must be feeling the rare discomfort of looming large as a target in the firing line of criticism of judges over the delays in issuing rulings. Long a sore question, judges’ deferrals of decisions have now come under an unusually harsh glare of public attention.

That lawyers for convicted murderers could actually be voicing threats towards the impeachment of the Chief Justice reflects a deepening dissatisfaction with the failure, even over years, to issue judgments. As his own and other judges’ performance in this regard is held up for scrutiny, Chief Justice Archie must know that T&T has taken seriously his noble assurance that “at the end of the day I am accountable to the people of T&T for the performance of the judiciary”. 

To the detriment, and increasing irritation, of those whom the judiciary calls “customers”, various inefficiencies in the administration of justice inevitably cause fingers of blame to be pointed, and answers to be demanded. In this respect, the Law Association itself issued “a clarion call to the judiciary to treat the issue of delay in the delivery of judgments as a priority”.

The Association has resolved “to support the judiciary in finding solutions”. But it has also recorded appreciation for the efforts directed at improving performance, suggesting that such efforts make for a wider “context” in which present dissatisfactions must be regarded.  

Moreover, it should be recognised that the judiciary is itself victimised by shortcomings not of its own making. They include inadequate human and other resources, including funding, and the need to depend on the executive and legislative branches to realise the changes needed to end the persisting frustration of judicial and public expectations. It is to this end that the much–promoted idea of a Judiciary and Justice Sector Inter-Ministerial Committee should be given active effect.

Still, a low, low point must have been signalled when convicted murderers threaten to sue the judiciary for failure to deliver years-overdue judgments. 

This clearly defines a moment for CJ Archie to give effect to the “accountability” he professes.  

By explaining what went wrong, who and what are to blame, and what corrective measures are to be taken, the Chief Justice will be seen to be giving responsible answers to disturbing questions that reach to the heart of the administration of justice. Nothing less is needed to maintain the public trust that should be preserved in the estate of government that he heads. 

Chief Justice Archie has been identified with thoughtful and far-reaching proposals for reducing delays at various levels of the court system. It is for him now to be seen to give comparable attention and action to apparent foot-dragging at highest levels of the judiciary.

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