Court rules: Judges entitled to sabbatical leave

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 07:45

Supreme Court Judges are en­ti­tled to ap­ply for sab­bat­i­cal leave as part of the terms and con­di­tions of their jobs.

How­ev­er, they can on­ly ac­cess such a ben­e­fit af­ter the Ju­di­cia­ry has es­tab­lished the ad­min­is­tra­tive arrange­ments to fa­cil­i­tate it.

High Court Judge James Aboud made the state­ments as he de­liv­ered judge­ment, in an in­ter­pre­ta­tion law­suit filed by the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al to help re­solve the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, on Wednes­day.

While Aboud was care­ful to note that he was not called up­on to con­sid­er when for­mer pres­i­dent An­tho­ny Car­mona grant­ed per­mis­sion for em­bat­tled Chief Jus­tice Ivor Archie to take a six-month sab­bat­i­cal in March, last year, the de­ci­sion tech­ni­cal­ly means that such leave was not per­mit­ted as the ad­min­is­tra­tive arrange­ments are yet to be fi­nalised.

“It seems pru­dent to me, and in keep­ing with my un­der­stand­ing of the law, that ad­min­is­tra­tive arrange­ments should be de­vel­oped be­fore any ap­pli­ca­tions for sab­bat­i­cal leave are made, con­sid­ered or grant­ed to any mem­ber of the high­er Ju­di­cia­ry,” he said.

In the 44-page judge­ment, Aboud un­der­took an in-depth analy­sis of the 98th re­port of the Salaries Re­view Com­mis­sion (SRC), pub­lished No­vem­ber 13, 2013.

In the law­suit, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the AG’s Of­fice claimed that while the op­tion was pro­posed in the SRC re­port, it did not be­come of­fi­cial pol­i­cy as it was not passed by Par­lia­ment or set in reg­u­la­tions by the Pres­i­dent.

Aboud dis­agreed as he point­ed out that rec­om­men­da­tions on in­creased salaries and em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits for ju­di­cial of­fi­cers, made by the SRC over the past 20 years, were im­ple­ment­ed de­spite a lack of in­put from Par­lia­ment and the Pres­i­dent.

Aboud said that the tabling of the re­ports in Par­lia­ment is mere­ly an act of no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In his judge­ment, Aboud not­ed that while the SRC re­port rec­om­mend­ed that the Chief Jus­tice ap­prove sab­bat­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions, it was silent on who should ap­prove his. Aboud said the es­tab­lish­ment of Ju­di­cia­ry’s in­ter­nal arrange­ments would as­sist in re­solv­ing that is­sue.

The AG’s Of­fice was rep­re­sent­ed by Rol­ston Nel­son, SC, Zel­i­ca Haynes-Soo Hon, Ria Mo­hammed-David­son and Vin­cent Jar­dine. Dou­glas Mendes, SC, Dar­rell Al­la­har and Vahi­ni Jainar­ine rep­re­sent­ed the Law As­so­ci­a­tion. Rus­sell Mar­tineau, SC, Ami­rah Ra­haman and Alana Bisses­sar rep­re­sent­ed the judges.

- by Derek Achong