‘JLSC flawed for almost a decade’ - EntornoInteligente

Entornointeligente.com / The trinidad Guardian / The Judiciary has again come under scrutiny, this time as an attorney who was given a letter of appointment to serve as a judge in 2009 but was never sworn in by the President has made an application against the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Law Association of T&T (Latt).

The attorney received her letter of appointment to serve in the High Court in August 2009 but Sunday Guardian understands that even though she was expected to sit as a judge from September that year, had a court list prepared and a swearing-in ceremony scheduled at President’s House, it never materialised. No reason has ever been given.

She never took the oath of office and never assumed the duties of a judge. To date, there is no evidence that her appointment has been revoked.

As a direct consequence of those events, she experienced difficulty paying her annual fees to the Latt as required under the Legal Profession Act and has been unable to obtain a practising certificate for several years.

The woman filed an application in the High Court in early June under Section 25 of the Legal Profession Act for the practising certificate. Her matter will be heard on Wednesday at 10:15 am before Justice James Aboud.

Sunday Guardian obtained a copy of the June 14 supplemental affidavit in which the attorney makes reference to the principal affidavit dated June 7 where she stated she exhibited her letter of appointment and that it was “always my understanding that my appointment was a for a period of six months only”.

She further stated that she ceased practice to assume office from mid-September 2009 and at the end of October 2009, some six weeks later, she resumed full-time practice which continued from 2009 to 2011 and to the current time. She said she held a valid practising certificate from 2009 to 2011.

A legal source told the Sunday Guardian that once an attorney does not hold a practising certificate for a period of one year , an application has to be filed before the High Court and a judge has to issue an order for the practising certificate, provided that the judge is satisfied that all fees due to the Law Association have been paid and a reasonable explanation has been proffered for the failure to pay the fees within the requisite time.

However, the source said if on Wednesday the judge is not satisfied and doesn’t issue the practising certificate, “then just like Mrs Marcia Ayers-Caesar, the attorney will be in limbo since she would not be a judge nor able to practice law”.

The Sunday Guardian understands that no formal notification was ever issued to her to indicate that her appointment had been revoked. Court protocol and information manager at the Judiciary, Alicia Carter-Fisher did not respond to questions sent via email. Chief Justice Ivor Archie, as head of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC, did not respond to a text message sent last evening. Latt president Douglas Mendes did not respond to calls to his mobile.

In April this year, three judicial officers were elevated to the High Court—former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, magistrate Avason Quinlan and attorney Kevin Ramcharan.

To qualify for appointment as a High Court judge, a candidate should have at least ten years’ standing as an attorney.

JLSC flawed for almost a decade

Several legal luminaries told the Sunday Guardian that a closer look at the situation showed how flawed the JLSC selection process has been for close to a decade.

One legal source said, “In addition to this attorney’s situation, the JLSC had also tried to elevate magistrate Lucena Cardenas-Ragoonanan as a temporary judge but the Law Association voiced concerns over her alleged friendship with the Manning’s and her appearances at various PNM events. She was not appointed.”

A leading member of the inner bar said a question that has to be raised is what steps the JLSC implemented to bolster its selection process since 2009 and why in the face of Mrs Marcia Ayers-Caesar there was no staying of her appointment after Gerald Ramdeen raised concerns.

“One would have, in those circumstances, expected that the prudent course of action would have been to defer the swearing in just as happened with the attorney and magistrate Ragoonanan, while a thorough review as to the state of her part heard matters were investigated.”

Another legal source said citizens deserve a truly robust and independent selection process by virtue of which only the most competent persons were elevated.

Contacted yesterday, the attorney questioned where the newspaper got the document (affidavit) and why it was being reported. She said it was a private matter.

When asked whether she had been practising without a certificate from 2009 to 2011, she asked, “May I ask who provided you with these documents?”

Told that we were not at liberty to say, she said, “Well yes, precisely. This is a private matter and has nothing to do…if this is going to embark on something to do with the Chief Justice, this has nothing to do with that. This is between me and the court.

Told that she was appointed and never sworn in, she said, “Which means that there is nothing to report.”

Asked why she never raised any questions for almost a decade, she said, “That was a very long time ago and this really just has to do…well, listen. I am going to have to discuss this…”

She said the matter being heard on Wednesday “has nothing to do with any of that (appointment).

“It has to do with the fact that I was appointed a judge in 2009. When I went after the whole thing was over…well to pay for my practising certificate as a lawyer, I was refused because they could not produce the evidence that my appointment had been revoked and it is possible that it has never been revoked, so I’d never been able to get a practising certificate at that time so my application to the court is for the court to respond so it doesn’t really have anything to do with anyone.”

‘JLSC flawed for almost a decade’

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