Vasheist Kokaram

High Court Judge Vasheist Kokaram is expected to rule on the Law Association’s challenge over Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s decision to refuse to impeach Chief Justice Ivor Archie in two weeks’ time.

Kokaram initially set February 19 as the tentative date of his judgement during case management, last year, and decided to keep it even after hearing lengthy submissions at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday afternoon.

Presenting submissions on behalf of the association, Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Dr Lloyd Barnett suggested that in July, last year, Rowley fell short of his duty under Section 137 of the Constitution when he made the decision based on the advice of British Queen’s Counsel Howard Stevens, who concluded that the association’s report lacked sufficient evidence to warrant impeachment proceedings against Archie.

“The Prime Minister had a specific duty to conduct a fair and impartial investigation,” Barnett said, as he suggested that Rowley should have investigated the allegations further before dismissing them.

Barnett dismissed complaints about the process adopted by the association as he noted that it was approved by both the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council when they dismissed Archie’s separate legal challenge over it.

Barnett also complained that Rowley had claimed that the investigation was a political conspiracy.

In response, attorneys for Rowley, the Office of the Attorney General, and Archie, all questioned the strength of the numerous allegations against Archie, which arose in a series of newspaper reports in late 2017, as they claimed that they have been whittled down to him (Archie) making recommendations for persons to be considered for Housing Development Corporation (HDC) houses.

“It was unsatisfactory and unsavoury but didn’t warrant a referral,” British Queen’s Counsel Mark Strachan, who led Rowley’s legal team, said as he claimed that his client had to consider whether the allegation constituted an error of judgement or serious misconduct.

“The allegations have been reduced to a point of nothingness,” Archie’s lawyer Ian Benjamin, SC, said, as he claimed that the treatment meted out to his client also affected all Supreme Court Judges.

Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein, who led the team for the AG’s Office, said that Rowley could not be expected to do further investigations as the association had already conducted a detailed report and was unable to find concrete evidence of misconduct.

Responding to complaints about Rowley’s accusations of political interference in the association, Reginald Armour, SC, who also represented Rowley, claimed that his client had always been transparent in his handling of the issue.

“It was the political season,” Armour said, as he noted that Rowley’s comments were made on a platform while campaigning for last year’s local government elections.

In his submissions, Senior Counsel John Jeremie, who led Archie’s legal team alongside Benjamin, noted that the last time the section of the Constitution was invoked was 13 years ago with the failed impeachment of former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma.

Jeremie, who served as attorney general at the time, noted that former prime minister Patrick Manning had sought his advice on whether to trigger impeachment in that case.

“The lesson he (Rowley) would have learned is to exercise great care in matters involving the Judiciary,” Jeremie said, as he noted that Rowley was careful to obtain his legal advice from a foreign legal luminary, who could not be accused of bias.

In the event that the association is successful in its claim, Kokaram may order Rowley to reconsider his decision but not direct him on the appropriate choice.