Former Belize attorney general Eamon Harrison Courtenay and president of the Grenada Bar Association Francis Alexis are the two senior counsels who will advise the Law Association on a report of alleged misconduct by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, Sunday Newsday has learned.
The association retained the two senior counsels to consider if there are grounds to refer a question of misconduct by Archie to the Prime Minister for his consideration under section 137 of the Constitution.
Courtenay is also a former president of the Belize Bar Association while Alexis, who has been active in Grenadian politics since 1983, is also a former attorney general. The senior counsels are to give their opinions on an interim report on the misconduct allegations which a five-member committee appointed by the association handed in to its council on Friday. The committee’s report is to be sent to Courtenay and Alexis.
In an e-mail sent to members earlier this month, the association’s secretary Elena Araujo said after the advice was received, the council would convene a meeting of the general membership to consider it and obtain directions on what steps to take.
The report and the retainer for advice were commissioned by the association after it’s president Douglas Mendes SC and senior member Elton Prescott SC met with Archie to express their concerns of the growing condemnation of his actions in office and to inform him of an intent to probe the allegations which included him seeking to expedite state housing for certain individuals to discussing judges’ security. Archie has denied the allegations although admitting he has from time to time recommended people for housing.
According to the notice, Mendes and Prescott met with Archie on November 30 when he was told of the association’s role to protect the Judiciary from unfounded allegations and hold it accountable for its actions.
Court Administrator Master Christie-Anne Morris-Alleyne was also present at the meeting.
Archie was informed of the allegations which concerned the association. These were that he discussed the matter of personal security for judges with someone outside of the Judiciary and that he recommended people to the Housing Development Corporation for accelerated housing grants.
The Chief Justice was also told by Mendes and Prescott that the allegations against him were considered by the association and civil society to be serious and that his silence up to that point had “most likely” led the public to conclude that there was some truth to them.
He was also told that there have been calls for his resignation since he has failed to respond to the allegations and that the gravity of the allegations and his failure to respond have brought the office of Chief Justice into disrepute and by extension the entire Judiciary.
“At the conclusion of the meeting, the Chief Justice said that he would think about the representations made to him,” Araujo told members.
Archie has been out of the country on personal business, although there are reports he returned this week which Sunday Newsday could not confirm.
Mendes previously indicated that Archie would be given an opportunity to respond to the findings before a final report is done.
“For security and confidentiality reasons, it will be put in the hands of the secretary for viewing by council members only,” he told Sunday Newsday.
The association’s council holds its regular meeting on January 9. Mendes said it would not be possible to indicate the contents of the interim report at this time.
On Friday, he dismissed claims from Israel Khan SC that there was a plan to not investigate the claims against Archie and let him off the hook.
“The committee is proceeding deliberately, carefully and fairly, as the circumstances and the importance of the task requires,” he had said.
Archie and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission have also been criticised for the circumstances surrounding the appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a High Court judge and her subsequent resignation from that post.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has said the threshold to trigger an investigation of the allegations against Archie, as outlined in Section 137 of the Constitution has not been reached. The Prime Minister has publicly said this matter resides in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary and Government is maintaining the “Great Wall of China” between the Executive and the Judiciary.