Rowley to pay $12,000 for missing court date
By Jada Loutoo Tuesday, January 15 2013
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OPPOSITION LEADER Dr Keith Rowley has until tomorrow to file his defence in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, for statements the People’s National Movement leader allegedly made at a public forum, in 2011, relating to the hiring of attorneys in private practice for State briefs.
Having failed to meet the court stipulated time-line for the filing of his response to Ramlogan’s claim, Rowley was given the additional time to do so but was also ordered to pay $12,000 in legal costs by Justice Andre Des Vignes, who is presiding over the lawsuit.
If the Opposition Leader fails to file by tomorrow, judgment in favour of Ramlogan will be given in default.
Ramlogan’s claim asks for damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages, for slander allegedly contained in statements Rowley made at a public forum at the Port-of-Spain City Hall, on November 1, 2011.
According to Ramlogan, the Opposition Leader uttered certain defamatory words against him and sought to disparage him in his personal capacity and the Office of the Attorney General by alleging that he exploited his position and corruptly manipulated the expenditure of $200 million to unjustifiably pay a clique of lawyers for State briefs.
He is also alleging that Rowley’s comments meant that he (Ramlogan) handpicked the lawyers because of his personal relationships with them and ignored the criteria of competence, merit and ability.
Ramlogan said he was also accused of hiring lawyers from his former law firm to handle cases for the State, so as to receive a reward or pecuniary benefit from them.
In the statement of case, Ramlogan said it was also alleged by Rowley that he hired lawyers at inflated rates and engaged in the pursuit of unwarranted investigations into persons so as to justify the hiring of attorneys in private practice. In denying the allegations made against him, Ramlogan said he has never briefed any lawyer from his former firm, and has “scrupulously refrained” from doing so in an effort to avoid allegations of bias and favouritism so as to protect his integrity.
He said Rowley could have sought the information on the contracting of private lawyers to do work for the State by asking a question in Parliament or making an application under the Freedom of Information Act to verify his information before he made the comments at the PNM public meeting.
Appearing for Rowley was Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson while Gerald Ramdeen and Rachael Jaganauth appear for the Attorney General.