Injunction granted - High Court stops President from appointing two new judges today

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 01:15

High Court judge Frank Seepersad has granted an injunction stopping President Anthony Carmona from appointing two new judges today on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC).

The injunction followed a late sitting of the court that ran into this morning.

Attorneys representing a former government minister Devant Maharaj sought the last-minute injunction to stop the swearing-in of two new judges.

Mere hours after President Anthony Carmona’s office announced the ceremony for 11.30 am today, attorneys representing Maharaj wrote to him suggesting he defer the appointments as they may be affected by his lawsuit challenging the JLSC’s composition.

The two candidates, who were not named in the release, are Jacqueline Wilson and Kathy-Ann Waterman-Latchu.

Wilson is the former solicitor general of the Cayman Islands, while Waterman-Latchu is a former deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and last served as a judge in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

After receiving no response by a deadline given, Maharaj’s lawyers filed the application and sought an emergency hearing. The application was initially randomly assigned to Justice Margaret Mohammed but she refused, instead suggesting it be heard by Justice Frank Seepersad, who was assigned to Maharaj’s substantive case.

A hearing was convened around 8 pm at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain to facilitate Seepersad, who had to preside via video conferencing as he was in Tobago for an unrelated case yesterday.

He ruled: "The court is resolute in its view that as a superior court of record and as the ultimate guardian of Constitutional compliance, and in the unique and exceptional circumstances that now exist, it must intervene as the Rule of Law uncompromisingly mandates that the exercise of public power under the Constitution must be engaged in a way that is lawful and must operate in a circumstance where there strict compliance with the Constitution and any other relevant law.

"Accordingly, the court hereby issues an order that the JLSC forthwith advise His Excellency the President to refrain from handing over to the two successful candidates any instrument of appointment to the office of Judge and to put on hold the administering of the oath provided for under s.107 of the Constitution until the returnable date of this Notice of Application which said date shall be Friday 9th June, 2017 at 10 am in SF05 at the High Court of Justice, San Fernando.

"On the said date, the court shall consider, based on the evidence before it, and in particular, the evidence of the affected third parties, whether or not the order made herein ought to continue."

In his lawsuit, Maharaj claimed the JLSC was performing its duties without its full complement of five members. Ramlogan noted that shortly after the lawsuit was filed last month the JLSC admitted it was operating without its full complement, leading to the appointment of Ernest Koylass, SC, on May 17.

The other members of the JLSC are Chief Justice Ivor Archie, retired Judges Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer and head of the Public Service Commission (PSC) Maureen Manchouck.

Maharaj also challenged Stollmeyer’s position, as the Constitution states the JLSC members should be the Chief Justice, head of the PSC, a sitting or retired judge and two “persons with legal qualification...not in active practice as such”. His lawyers claimed a retired judge does not fall in the last category.