Chief Justice Archie mourns Michael de la Bastide

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice and former Chief Justice Michael de la Bastide. –

CHIEF Justice (CJ) Ivor Archie mourned former CJ, the late Michael de la Bastide, as his mentor, and hailed his contribution to Trinidad and Tobago’s system of justice.

De la Bastide was also the first president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ.)

Archie’s remarks were included in the Judiciary’s statement of tribute to de la Bastide, who died on March 30.

“He was a strong man and a great visionary, who wielded power with grace, kindness and compassion,” Archie said.

“He lit the torch of judicial reform and I am honoured and humbled to walk in his footsteps.”

The judiciary expressed its deep sadness and sense of loss. It said de la Bastide had been an avid sportsman and bridge player, teacher and jurist.

De la Bastide was “a giant in the law and a true statesman” who dedicated his life to developing law and jurisprudence in TT, the Caribbean and beyond, the judiciary said.

He delivered many scholarly papers and lectures and published his memoirs, titled Within the Law, whose profits he donated to the charity founded by his wife Simone, The Children’s Ark.

De la Bastide was born on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, the last of eight children. At St Mary’s College he won an open scholarship and in 1956 went to Oxford, England where earned a first-class degree in jurisprudence and a first-class bachelor of civil law degree. He was a member of Gray’s Inn, and was called to the Bar in 1961.

He returned to TT as a Crown Counsel in the Office of the Attorney General and in 1963 entered private practice with Anthony Jacelon, SC.

“He was a member of both the Wooding and Hyatali Constitution Commissions and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1975.”

He was an independent senator in TT’s first republican Parliament.

The judiciary said de la Bastide’s tenure as CJ was emblematic.

“He was a staunch defender of the judiciary.

“He encouraged excellence and innovation, and advanced the principle that the courts as a full entity and not lawyers must determine the course of litigation.”

De la Bastide encouraged continued judicial education, later leading to the Judicial Education Institute, with board, staff and budget.

“Two years after retiring as CJ, he was appointed a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, (later) and became the first president of the CCJ.”

The statement said he was grieved that Caribbean states were reluctant to let go of the “apron strings of a colonial system”, as he had long advocated discontinuing appeals to the Privy Council.

The judiciary offered its deepest condolences to de la Bastide’s wife, Simone; his children, Michele, Juliet, Simon, Chantal and Christian; his grandchildren; and other family members and friends.

The Industrial Court in a statement sent its condolences on de la Bastide’s passing, as a former practitioner at that court when it was first established at the Red House in the 1960s.

The statement related him recounting his experiences at the court’s 50th anniversary in 2014.

“I benefited from practising in the Industrial Court. It brought one up against points of view and attitudes that were not encountered in the normal course of court practice.

“There were people with different philosophies, with more liberal ideas, and people presenting cases and views with great skill and persuasiveness.”

The Industrial Court recalled him as “a brilliant mind and highly esteemed figure in the legal community.”

“Justice de la Bastide contributed significantly to the industrial relations jurisprudence of TT.”

The Industrial Court has often been guided by de la Bastide’s ruling in a landmark case (Claude Albert versus Alstons) on the issue of “worker” under the Industrial Relations Act (section 2(3)(e)).

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the Honourable Mr Justice Michael de la Bastide QC, TC during this difficult time. May his soul rest in peace.”

The Equal Opportunity Tribunal, in a statement, joined the legal fraternity in mourning the passing of de la Bastide.

“He served with distinction as the Chief Justice of TT and as the inaugural president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

“Mr Justice de la Bastide’s illustrious service on the bench and contribution to the jurisprudence of the Caribbean region have played a pivotal role in shaping the development of the region’s legal framework. His visionary leadership laid the foundation for a more integrated judicial system, fostering greater regional co-operation and solidarity.

Offering its sincere condolences, the tribunal said, “May his legacy continue to inspire generations of jurists and advocates to strive for a more just and fair society.”

The Office of the President of the Republic issued a message of condolences from President Christine Kangaloo.

“Justice de la Bastide received this nation’s highest award, the Trinity Cross in 1996 in the sphere of law.

“On behalf of the country and on her own behalf, Her Excellency offers her heartfelt condolences to his family, colleagues and friends. May he rest in peace.”

Also extending condolences was president of the Criminal Bar Association Israel Khan, SC.

“He was the last of the great advocates in the history of our country, a brilliant lawyer and jurist whose contributions to the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth are unmatched.

“The West Indian Law Reports overflow with his erudite judgments and what was striking about him was that throughout his public life, he was never condescending to anyone, especially lawyers and judges.

“He was truly a humble man and the entire legal profession knows him as a gentleman and a scholar.

“Metaphorically speaking he was ‘The Last of the Mohicans.'”

Khan suggested Abercromby Street in Port of Spain should be renamed Michael de la Bastide Street in his honour.

“On behalf of the Criminal Bar Association, I extend condolences to his immediate family.”