Trinidad chief justice takes blame for court backlog

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Embattled chief justice, Ivor Archie, has acknowledged responsibility for an ongoing failure of the Trinidad and Tobago judiciary to dispense justice in a timely manner.

Chief Justice Ivor Archie
Chief Justice Ivor Archie

In a lengthy statement on Friday, Archie promised to speed up the delivery of judgments by setting benchmarks for judges and masters to meet next year.

The statement came in the wake of media reports of a pre-action protocol letter sent by attorney at law Criston Williams to the Solicitor-General’s office threatening to file a constitutional motion against Archie and the judiciary over astonishing three- and four-year delays in the handing down of appeal judgments.

The delays allegedly breached his clients’ constitutional rights, Williams said.

Archie has also come under fire in relation to his overseas travel and delays in dealing with civil litigation initiated by the People’s Partnership coalition government against former public officials accused of mismanagement and fraud.

In a second letter, to the Supreme Court Registrar, 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, which deals with impeachment proceedings against a chief justice.

Two convicted men — Lester Pitman and Gerald Wilson — have been awaiting appeal judgments in their cases for three and four years, respectively.

According to court documents, judgment in Pitman’s case was reserved on March 4, 2010, by a three-judge Appeal Court panel comprising Archie and Justices Paula-Mae Weekes and Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.

Judgment was reserved in Wilson’s appeal on November 10, 2009, but to date the judgments have not been handed down, despite the men being incarcerated on Death Row.

Following the widespread publicity, judgments will be delivered in four outstanding appeal court cases on Wednesday, including the cases of Lester Pitman and Gerard Wilson.

However, Friday’s statement tried to minimise any part the recent publicity may have played in the handing down of the judgments in question after the lengthy delays.

“It needs hardly be mentioned that work would obviously have been ongoing on these matters before the recent furor in the media,” the statement said.

At a meeting of the country’s Supreme Court judges in Port-of-Spain last Monday, Archie reportedly alleged that there was an orchestrated conspiracy to remove him from office.

This was denied in the statement.

“No such assertion against the state was made in the meeting of Judges and Masters on December 9, 2013, contrary to reports appearing in the media,” it read.

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