JLSC wants to go to Privy Council over Ayers-Caesar ruling

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FLASHBACK: Former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar when she took the oath as a judge in 2017. Looking on is Chief Justice Ivor Archie. FILE PHOTO –

THE Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) – led by Chief Justice Ivor Archie – is expected to be given permission to challenge the recent Appeal Court ruling that former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar was forced into resigning as a judge.

A notice from the Judiciary’s court, protocol and information unit advised that a panel of judges were expected to “enter an order in chambers without a hearing by consent.”

Friday’s virtual hearing of the JLSC’s application to go to the Privy Council was vacated as a result, the Judiciary advised.

The JLSC is expected to ask the Privy Council for an expedited hearing.

On November 17, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Vasheist Kokaram and Malcolm Holdip granted the JLSC conditional leave.

On October 12, 2023, a three-judge panel of Justices of Appeal Allan Mendonca, Nolan Bereaux and Alice Yorke-Soo Hon ruled that Ayers-Caesar was coerced and forced out of office in April 2017. They held the JLSC acted illegally and declared she continued to hold the office of a puisne judge “because her purported letter of resignation was procured by the illegal conduct of the commission.”

They also ordered the letter to be expunged from the records of the President and that Ayers-Caesar should be compensated for the breach of her rights.

At the time of the ruling, judges granted a stay of 21 days of their orders to give the JLSC time to decide on its next steps. Hours before the stay would have expired, the JLSC filed its notice of appeal.

In April 2017, Ayers-Caesar was appointed a judge, but resigned 15 days later after an outcry over some 53 cases she had outstanding in the magistrates court.

In her lawsuit, she said she did not decide to resign on April 27, 2017, but was pressured to do so by being made to sign an already-prepared resignation letter and told if she did not, the President would revoke her appointment.

In an interview days after the ruling, Ayers-Caesar’s lead attorney, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, said his client would welcome a final appeal and would not object to permission.

“I have known the lady for a long time. She is a very strong-willed woman. She is very religious and believes in decency,” Maharaj said.

“I think if the commission wants to appeal, she is very confident that she would again be vindicated,” he added.

In granting conditional leave, the court further stayed the orders of the October 12 judgment and suspended the effect of its declarations pending the hearing and determination of the matter at the Privy Council “without prejudice to any claim that the respondent (Ayers-Caesar) may have for compensation during that period of suspension.”

Also appearing for her are Ronnie Bissessar, SC, and Vijaya Maharaj.

The JLSC is represented by Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, Deborah Peake and Ian Benjamin, along with Ian Roach and Marcelle Ferdinand.

The Attorney General was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Ravi Nanga, Ravi Heffes-Doon and Savitri Maharaj.