In this file photo, former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar takes the oath as a judge while CJ Archie looks on in April 2017 at President’s House. –
Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj says TT should be proud of the judgment in the Marcia Ayers-Caesar v The JLSC case as it shows no one is above the law.
At a press conference at Kapok Hotel on Saturday, Maharaj said, “If the court is the guardian of the rights of the people, no one is above the law. The law is supreme. So even if it’s a chief justice or a prime minister or a president and that person violates the law, you have to be very strong and right about it in your judgment.
“So the whole Constitution, the whole legal system of our country so that people can get access to justice, is based on the principle that no one is above the law and the judiciary is independent. And you cannot touch a judge or remove a judge unless you decide to use the procedure for removing a judge.”
Maharaj was referring to the October 12 ruling of Court of Appeal Justices of Appeal Allan Mendonca, Nolan Bereaux, and Alice Yorke Soo Hon.
The matter concerned High Court judge Marcia Ayers-Caesar who said she was pressured by the JLSC (Judicial and Legal Service Commission), which is chaired by Chief Justice (CJ) Ivor Archie, to resign, and was told to sign a pre-prepared resignation letter or her appointment would be revoked by the President.
There has been no decision yet on whether the JLSC intends to appeal the matter to this country’s highest court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Maharaj was the lead attorney for Ayers-Caesar.
Laying out the circumstances of the case, Maharaj said Ayers-Caesar was appointed a judge on April 12, 2017, but resigned 15 days later when it was noted that she had 53 unfinished cases in the magistrates court.
He said she was appointed a High Court judge even though she had informed the JLSC she had, what she then believed was 28 unfinished cases. After her appointment, the JLSC felt it was deliberately misled and questioned her case management abilities.
He said on April 27, 2017, between 2 pm and 5 pm, Ayers-Caesar had a meeting with the CJ that resulted in her signing a resignation letter and press release announcing her resignation that were prepared before the meeting at the office of the CJ.
She was also told she had an appointment for the President to receive her resignation at 5.30 pm that afternoon.
Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, speaks about the recent ruling in favour of High Court judge Marcia Ayers-Caesar, during a press conference at Kapok Hotel, Port of Spain on Saturday. – Angelo Marcelle
The Court of Appeal Justices ruled the situation amounted to “illegal conduct by the commission because it was intended to threaten, coerce and pressure” Ayers-Caesar into resigning from office.
The Constitution says a judge could only be removed because of an inability to perform functions of the office or for misbehaviour.
Also, Section 137 of the Constitution said a judge must be investigated by a special tribunal appointed by the President and, if the tribunal determined the judge should be removed, the matter should be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which would then make that decision.
The Court of Appeal justices declared that Ayers-Caesar continued to hold the office of puisne judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of TT “because her purported letter of resignation was procured by the illegal conduct of the commission.”
They also ordered the resignation letter be expunged from the records of the President and that Ayers-Caesar should be compensated for the breach of her rights.
Maharaj noted the JLSC had 21 days from the day of the October 12 judgement to indicate whether it would appeal the decision.
“I think if there is an appeal that would be very good for TT and the Caribbean. I think this is the kind of appeal that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would want to hear.”
He described Ayers-Caesar as a very strong willed, very religious woman who believed in decency and expressed confidence that she would again be victorious if the JLSC appealed the decision.
When asked if the matter would eventually warrant starting the section 137 process against the CJ and those of the JSLC, Maharaj declined to comment as he said he may represent Ayers-Caesar if it went to the Privy Council.