Armour to lawyers: Be careful

Armour says, “In the case of both the Chief Justice and the members of the JLSC, the constitution is very clear on the solemn process by which the incumbents in those constitutional offices can be lawfully removed. This removal procedure is prescribed in explicit terms in the case of both the members of the JLSC and the Chief Justice who is ex officio its Chairman.” Looking back on his experience to advise two constitutional tribunals which were set up to to remove a Trinidad and Tobago Chief Justice and also a judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Amour points out that the threshold of the case to be made out is stated clearly.

He says: “The incumbent may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

He continues, “In order for that to be accomplished a tribunal must be established, comprised of eminent persons including former Judicial Officers and, the evidence of culpability or not on the charge brought must be carefully investigated and sifted.

“The person under investigation must be given a fair opportunity to rebut and test that evidence after which the tribunal may recommend a certain course of action to the Head of State.” He adds: “Simply stated, without burdening this commentary with the reams of judicial authority on the subject from throughout the common law Commonwealth, the apparent errors of process committed by the JLSC in relation to Mrs.

Ayers-Caesar do not begin to approach this constitutional threshold.” Armour, a Senior Ordinary Member of the Law Association’s Council, notes that some members of that body have specially convened an extraordinary meeting to call on the Chief Justice and the members of the JLSC to resign. He describes this move as “nothing short of an impeachment procedure.” “In the exercise of their undoubted right to attend and vote,” he said, “I would expect that the Attorneys present will address and debate the law as the paramount consideration which informs the result they will commit to history.” Referring to the fallout from the issue of the appointment and resignation of Ayers Ceasar as a Judge as a “public spectacle” Armour says it has nevertheless produced an important exercise of national self-examination of the Judiciary which he describes as “our most pivotal democratic institution,” and he adds that we should be heartened by the level of intensity of the debate on this issue.

“Our sense of ownership and consent in respect of our indigenous institutions is crucial to our re-assurance, after 50 years of independence, that we are steady, even as we are beset by the inevitable growing pains of a still youthful nation state,” Armour says.

“Given this opportunity, the institution itself and all who are legitimately joined in the debate are required to rise to the challenge with maturity to ensure that, whilst there must be forthright debate and criticism where due, that constructive tone and quality of content form the bedrock of all such criticism, lest we awaken tomorrow to find that we have thrown out the baby, the bath water and the tub.” Armour adds there is every good reason why the nation must demand that this incident should provide us with a learning experience, adding how we deal with this will help us build as a nation.

“There are issues of transparency and openness and a commitment to holding the JLSC to strict standards of excellence from which no one must shirk, least of all the JLSC,” Armour says.

“The Law Association is to be commended for having moved quickly to establish a Committee to examine and to make recommendations. We should all embrace this initiative and contribute urgently in the national consultation.” “I consider it important nevertheless to make one simple point,” Armour continued.” As egregious as the errors may be that have been committed by the JLSC, there is no basis on which those errors approach even slightly the constitutional threshold for removal from office of a Chief Justice and/ or of members of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.” The legal fraternity is expected to meet tomorrow at a special general meeting to vote on a motion of no confidence in the CJ and the JLSC over the Ayers-Caesar’s appointment.


"Armour to lawyers: Be careful"

More in this section