97 judges' protest a mischievous, regrettable appendage to Ja's history

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Judges are called “My Lords”, they are not my god. Only God is infallible. Judges err and are not beyond reproach. There is a difference between the rule of law and the rule of judges in a democracy.

The 'Declaration on separtion of powers, judicial independence and judicial accountability' purportedly emanating from “a group of 97 judges of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Parish Courts of Jamaica...”printed on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 is a most embarrassing and unfortunate publication, to say the least, made worst being (as I suspect it to be) a paid advertisement from our judges to the Jamaican public.

Let's admit it. We are a polarised political country since the 1930s following the Frome, Westmoreland, riots which engaged the physical and intellectual prowess of Norman Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante, the founders and fathers of Jamaican Independence through their political vehicles, the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, respectively.

We all know that it is the prime minister's undeniable call to exercise his privileged constitutional responsibility of appointment of Justice Bryan Skyes to the office of chief justice.

These judges have regrettably politicised themselves as activist (concurring with the parliamentary Opposition against the democratically elected Government) by calling into question the manner in which Prime Minister Andrew Holness exercised his privileged constitutional duty.

Their action to publish such an absolutely unnecessary declaration is to influence the court of public opinion. They, however, fail to realise that their action to publish the conclusion of their private meeting is based on their misguided view that they are representing the views of the people of Jamaica. They seem not to appreciate the fact that it is against the people's own democratically elected Government, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

This unprecedented action breached all known judges protocol; is unconstitutional, illegal, invalid, and otherwise unauthenticated. We now know from the Cabinet's reply, through Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, that the judges could have requested a meeting with the governor general — something they had successfully done before. This is known in law as “alternative remedy” available to them.

The judges' mischievous anti-Government publication would be far more sincere and courageous if it were supported/validated or otherwise authenticated with at least one signature from someone who was a part of the cohort of 97. It will now be known as “The 2018 February 12th King Street, Declaration of 97 Judges, Kingston, Jamaica” and will be a regrettable appendage to our legal/judicial history.

The only comforting aspect of the aforementioned anti-Governmental publication is its preambular paragraph 3, which reads:

“We wish to make it clear that we do not speak on behalf of the acting chief justice, and are acting independently of him and without his concurrence indicating our disquiet.”

It indicates (thank God) that their boss, Justice Skyes (my Christian Baptist brother), had nothing to do with it.

This public protest of the unnamed 97 judges is revolutionarily negative and must be very embarrassing to Justice Skyes as it undermines his authority to manage them. This could have the effect of prejudicing, compromising and jeopardising the prime minister's confidence in his appointment. This unauthorised action of these judges now puts Chief Justice Skyes to the test as to whether he can or will be able to rein in this revolutionary group of 97.

If asked, my advice to Justice Skyes would be to remain calm and respectful to the lawful constitutional authority of the democratically elected Government headed by Prime Minister Holness who, acting on behalf of the people of Jamaica, saw him fit to be appointed surrendipitiously to act as chief justice of Jamaica. The prime minister, then, would have no reason whatsoever not to have continued confidence in him. Of crucial importance would be the fact that the public would not regret the prime minister's intended confirmation (in short order) of Justice Skyes in that position to the high office of chief justice of Jamaica.

When that is done, Chief Justice Skyes might wish to apologise on behalf of his 97 revolutionary judges (staff members) to the prime minister and to the Jamaican people for their error in judgement in subscribing to that unnecessary aforementioned full-page, anti-Governmental advertisement.

Don Foote

Attorney-at-law

Former executive member

Jamaica Labour Party

donfoote@cwjamaica.com

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