Nov 02, 2021 News
– says judiciary doing best to deliver despite shortfalls
Kaieteur News – Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, has rejected recent criticisms levelled against members of the bench, stating that the judiciary has been doing its best to deliver justice despite a deficiency in the workforce.
Justice Cummings-Edwards was at the time addressing an open hearing of the appeal matter between the New Building Society (NBS) and Maurice Arjoon. The matter which has been before the Appeal Court since 2017 had faced some setbacks to trial. However, yesterday when posed with another request for an adjournment, the Court turned it down. This time the request for adjournment was made by attorney for the appellate (NBS), Pauline Chase, who is appearing on behalf of the Mortgage Financing body along with Senior Counsel, Ashton Chase.
While she denied the request for an adjournment, the Chancellor imposed $150,000 court cost on the lawyer for the late filing of her submissions and ordered the amount be paid before the next hearing of the case, which is set for December 16, 2021. In a response to subsequent queries from Chase, whether the court may be inclined to consider the adjournment, Justice Cummings-Edwards again declined the request.
“As you are aware, the Court has quite a lot of work to do and despite the comments out there, this court is very conscientious and is hard-working and takes its work seriously. We have been doing just that all the time,” the jurist stated emphatically.
As the matter proceeded, the Chancellor was prompted to follow up on her comments as another issue came up in which one of the appellate judges, Justice Dawn Gregory, felt that she needed to recuse herself from the NBS versus Arjoon matter.
Justice Gregory had dealt with a malicious prosecution matter in relation to the two parties as a High Court judge and as such felt that the matter brought about some conflict in regard to appearance in the new trial. To this end, the Chancellor noted that the Court often finds itself in a peculiar position.
She explained that in Guyana, “We have thousands of cases and just 13 judges who preside in the High Court and over all the cases in Essequibo, in Demerara and Berbice.”
The Chancellor explained that the High Court judges often have to leave their homes and spend three months out of town to preside over cases.
She continued that “In the Court of Appeal, there are only three judges, and we are not complaining; we are doing our work assiduously but there are times when we have to take one of those judges from the High Court because the constitution only allows for us to take one judge from the High Court.
“So, if a judge in the Court of Appeal cannot preside over a matter we have to disrupt the high court schedule and pull a judge whether he or she is sitting in Essequibo or pull him or her from Berbice or Georgetown to come and sit in the Court of Appeal.”
In this regard, Justice Cummings-Edwards noted that the judiciary is in a sad state of affairs. “…We are even in a sadder state given the fact that our judges are being pilloried even though we are doing our level best at ensuring justice given our small numbers throughout the length and breadth of Guyana, and even by persons who ought to know better who sit in their ivory towers and make their statements on social media and otherwise. It’s a sad state of affairs in Guyana,” the Chancellor added, seemingly in response to criticism over the court’s operations in dispensing justice.
Added to this, Justice Cummings-Edwards said that the Appeal Court has been writing decisions. She noted that the issue with writing and publishing decisions is due to the fact that the Court does not have adequate facilities to do so.
“In my view of the contentions with Justice Gregory,” the Chancellor noted that “the court will be adjourned to allow for some considerations.”
“There are two sets of legal issues to consider, we will have to work on them; we have taken an oath of office and we are true to that oath.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Bar Association, Robin Stoby, SC, who is representing Arjoon in the matter, explained that he found “the comments made against the judiciary most unfortunate.”
“I am appalled at some of the comments I’ve seen on social media,” Stoby said, adding that the difficulty arises when the judiciary in its dignity and graciousness would not be inclined to make any response.
Stoby noted, nonetheless that “there are times when we [lawyers] feel that perhaps we need to rush to the [Court’s] assistance and I would ask the President of the Bar Association to consider that.” Attorney Edward Luckhoo, SC, who is also representing Arjoon shared a similar view. “The judiciary finds itself in an unenvious position of not being able to respond,” he noted.
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