Judges blanked from Parliament opening because of no space

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE LUCKY FEW: Five appellate judges including these four in their courtroom garb, were invited to the ceremonial opening of the new parliamentary session in the Red House on Monday. However, no high court judge was invited. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB –

IN A break from tradition, High Court judges were not invited to the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Monday. A judge told Newsday only judges of the Court of Appeal were invited.

“Apparently, none of the High Court judges were invited to the Parliament opening. That is a break in years of ceremony and tradition.

“Plus, no explanation was given to us or even an indication that they are sorry but we cannot be accommodated or anything. Just utter disregard,” the judge said.

When contacted, an official of the Parliament’s corporate communications department said the omission was “due to reasons of space.”

Five appellate judges were invited and attended the ceremonial opening: acting Chief Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Justices Gregory Smith, Maria Wilson, Ronnie Boodoosingh and Malcolm Holdip. Also present were acting Registrar Raymond Roberts and court executive administrator Christie-Anne Morris-Alleyne

Meanwhile, judges in the civil division began moving into their new chambers at Tower D of the Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, on Monday.

They also held their first virtual trials from the Waterfront location. Civil appellate court judges are also expected to move to Tower D.

In May 2020, former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi said the Judiciary will occupy at least 13 floors in Tower D, which will allow the Judiciary’s administration offices, in multiple buildings in rented spaces, to be consolidated in one place, saving almost $6 million a year.

The move was expected in 2020, but was pushed back because of the pandemic. Udecott is in charge of outfitting the new location, with the input of the Judiciary.

The relocation now provides the Hall of Justice with 40 courtrooms, 24 hearing rooms, five mediation rooms, and some 69 criminal courtrooms. Courtrooms have been outfitted with video screens to broadcast live streams linking prisoners and witnesses in various virtual access customer centres.

Jury trials, which were suspended in March 2020, resumed in March this year.

In June, two jury trials were held in Port of Spain and San Fernando, with the latter using the newly established O’Meara Judicial Centre.

Since then, another similar centre was established in Princes Town to facilitate more jury trials from the San Fernando Supreme Court, while others are listed for hearing at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, and the Supreme Court in Tobago.

In his opening address for the 2019/ 2020 law term in September 2019, Chief Justice Ivor Archie announced the impending move of the civil courts to Tower D. He said the Judiciary was thrilled to move to Tower D as it had outgrown the Hall of Justice and many of its support units were scattered all over Port of Spain in rented accommodation.

The Parliament, which previously occupied that location, returned to the Red House in January 2020.