May 09, 2017 News
By Rehanna Ramsay
Justice Franklyn Holder has recused himself from the case for which embattled Public Service
Commission, (PSC) Chairman, Carvil Duncan, is challenging the establishment of a tribunal set up to address his removal from the constitutional offices.
Holder made the announcement during a scheduled hearing of the matter yesterday. The announcement comes weeks after a verbal outburst ensued between the Attorney General, (AG) and Minister of Legal affairs, Basil Williams, and Justice Holder.
During the hearing, the AG is said to have made egregious and disrespectful statements to the judge in court.
The incident which occurred during a hearing of the matter on March 23, last, attracted much public attention with the AG denying the allegations. The Judge on the other had written to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, outlining his disappointment in Williams owing to his conduct.
The Judge, therefore, demanded an apology from the AG. But Williams refused, asking that the judge recuse himself from the case instead.
The Attorney General was absent during the scheduled hearing at the Georgetown High Court yesterday. Junior attorneys Judy Stuart –Adonis and Colleen Liverpool represented the AG’s chambers while Attorneys- at -law Anil Nandlall and Rajendra Jaigobin appeared on behalf of Duncan.
Before he could have announced the decision, Justice Holder from the bench, divulged a lengthy explanation on the incident involving the AG.
According to Judge, the incident took place during the cross-examination of Diana Persaud, a witness for the applicant.
During the proceeding, the judge said that the AG made certain statements, which suggested that the court was selective in recording the evidence of the witness. Justice Holder clarified however that the view was a misconception of the Williams.
“Recognising Williams’s misconception of this part of the evidence, I then read aloud the record of the court in this regard and offered that he may ask the witness the question again if he so desired since the record was showing there was in effect no answer to the question.
“Mr Williams did not take up my offer.
“He instead proceeded to ask other questions of the witness, the answer to one of which the witness said ‘no’. On this answer being given Williams proceeded to make statements which were insolent and disrespectful in both tone and content,” Holder explained.
Justice Holder stated that Williams in a rather loud and bellicose manner later accused him of not recording the evidence even though he had explained otherwise.
The judge, in turn, took umbrage at the AG’s tone and what he was insinuating that the court was selective in recording the evidence.
Justice Holder said further that “Williams in a rather truculent manner responded by saying the last person who told me what I should not say was a Magistrate and he is now dead.”
“There were neither words spoken before or after by Mr Williams to explain or clarify this statement as reported in the press,” Holder added.
He continued that Williams went on to say that “all morning Nandlall disrespecting you and you have not done anything about it.”
“This is not a true statement reflective of proceedings at the time. Addressing the court by the use of pronoun “you,” the judge said, ought to count in any quarter as being disrespectful. “
This he said was followed by a most egregious statement of Williams to wit, “I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it. I have always been like that.”
After that statement, Justice Holder noted that he rose from the bench and went into his chambers. He further explained that the statement by AG Williams may be perceived as insolent behaviour and not necessarily as contempt of court.
However when considered collectively and within the time frame when they were made these statements, prima facie, constitute contemptuous behaviour on his part, the judge said.
“The Code of Conduct (fourth schedule of Legal Practitioners) Act prescribes that an Attorney- at-law treats the court with courtesy and respects while the representing clients resolutely honourably and within the limits of the law.”
When he rose the court that day, without citing Williams for contempt, the judge noted that the decision was consciously made for his insolent and disrespectful behaviour, “It was a decision I made not in error through oversight nor owing to awareness of the availability of the option to me.”
“I do not regret it as it accords in my respectful view with contemporary learning on the issue.”
“The decision was consciously made with a view to allowing me time for reflection more so taking into consideration Mr Williams status of Senior Counsel, Attorney General and Leader of the Bar.”
In cases of contempt of court, the Judge noted that there should be “careful consideration” on the party (s) actions and what course should be adopted by the court. He said that in such cases, the trial judge is complainant, judge jury and executioner.
“Indeed, it was hoped that it would have also allowed him time to reflect on his conduct and give him an opportunity to do what was fit and proper under the circumstances so as to avoid him bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.
“This, however, was not to be and so ironically and unfortunately not on this court account, Lady Justice’s proverbial half slip appears to be very much in evidence. I wish to say that the letter I wrote to the Chancellor was not a complaint but a report. “
Since the incident on March 23 Williams was granted a further opportunity to do what was fitting and proper as Senior Counsel and Leader of the Bar.
Instead, the judge noted that the AG “flipped the script and spun the matter in the manner now common in other jurisdictions, to the extent that it has now in my respectful opinion become politicised and irretrievably infected with the perception of bias.”
“Judges in keeping with the constitutional duties and functions and out of respect for the dignity and majesty of their offices do not consort with the press. Politicians for obvious reasons are so wont. The court is not a forum of politicking. This court, for the good of us all, and in its role as guardian of the constitution must remain objective and evidence-based,” Justice Holder asserted.
He added therefore that the decision to recuse himself “is not recent and is not informed by any skewed illogical and improper reasoning expressed by some, as reported in the press but is one deeply rooted in my recognition and appreciation of what is required in the circumstances and in the interest of the administration of Justice.”
As such, the matter has been referred to the Chief Justice to be forwarded to the Chancellor for reassignment.
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