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Archie wants backlog of cases cleared

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By Denyse Renne

Chief Justice Ivor Archie has said that the current backlog of cases plaguing the judicial system needs to be addressed.

Archie was speaking with members of the judicial bench yesterday evening at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain.

The closed-door meeting, sources say, was referred to by Archie as “an end of term meeting”.

Sources say Archie also raised the issues of judicial reform, strengthening the judiciary and even the possibility of a night court to help deal with the current backlog.

Archie spoke about the plans to construct four new judicial complexes, but due to constraints this has been pushed back.

During the meeting, sources said, several judges expressed concern over statements made by Justice Carol Gobin.

Last month, while addressing the  National Constitution Reform Commission, Gobin said there should be some form of penalty for tardy judges.

According to a newspaper report, she said the salaries of tardy judges ought to be withheld when judges failed to deliver rulings within six months of the conclusion of a case.

During her address, the judge is reported to have asked, “Has the time come when the Constitution should require specific disclosure on the number of judgments outstanding for a period in excess of nine months, 12 months, any specific period? Should accountability mandate disclosure and reporting to Parliament. Should the judiciary or the particular judge be required to give an explanation that is accessible to the public? Should provision be made for some form of penalty short of removal for non-performance?”

Sources say Gobin’s utterances did not sit well with several judges gathered at yesterday’s meeting and many questioned the public forum used for airing such views.

Gobin, sources say, maintained she did no wrong and defended the stance she took.

Last week, attorney Criston Williams sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Solicitor-General’s office, threatening to file a constitutional motion against Archie and the judiciary, citing delays in delivering judgment in his clients’ appeal, which he said breached his clients’ constitutional rights.

Williams’ clients—Lester Pitman and Gerald Wilson—have been awaiting judgments in their case for three and four years, respectively.

In a second letter to the Supreme Court Registrar last Thursday, Williams said he intended to send a complaint to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, asking her to exercise her discretion under Section 137 of the Constitution.

This section deals with impeachment proceedings against a CJ.

In an interview with the Express over the weekend, Williams said it was never his clients’ intention to embarrass Archie when letters were written on their behalf questioning delays in their appeal judgments.

Williams said if the intention was to embarrass “the Honourable Chief Justice or to have him impeached or investigated, then the letter dated November 26, 2013, would have been drafted differently and we would have rushed and filed an action or make a complaint”.

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