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Former CJ: Impeachment, should be a last resort

By JADA LOUTOO Tuesday, December 10 2013

THE CHIEF STATE Solicitor’s Department has written to attorney Criston Williams, who is representing two convicted killers, threatening to file a constitutional claim against the State for the failure by the Chief Justice to deliver a ruling in their appeal.

In a letter dated yesterday, the Chief State Solicitor indicated that two attorneys have been appointed to the matter.

Additional time was also sought by the Department to respond to the pre-action protocol letter sent by Williams on November 26 last.

Lester Pitman, convicted killer followed up this letter with another addressed to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, threatening legal action if Archie did not give an explanation for the delay in delivering judgment in his case.

Gerard Wilson, another convicted killer who is waiting four years for a ruling in his appeal like Pitman, also seeks similar reliefs against the State since he has had the same complaint of delay. Both men said they intend to petition the Prime Minister to invoke impeachment proceedings against Archie by exercising her powers under Section 137 of the Constitution.

Section 137 (3) outlines the procedure for setting up a tribunal to investigate the removal of the Chief Justice, once the Prime Minister advises the President to do so.

Former Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma last week said impeachment proceedings to remove a Chief Justice from office should not be taken lightly, and must only be initiated after a formidable case has been made out.

Sharma, who withstood two attempts to have him removed from office while he was Chief Justice, said on Friday in the case of his successor Ivor Archie he was not aware if there were other complaints similar in nature to what had been made by two convicted prisoners against him. He advised that impeachment proceedings should be started only if all the facts were in possession.

Yesterday, judges of the Supreme Court met with CJ Archie to discuss, among other things, the complaints of delays by judges in handing out judgments. On Friday, again reiterating that impeaching a Chief Justice was not the same as firing a civil servant, Sharma said it was a rigorous exercise that had to be carried out.

He said in Archie’s situation, if proceedings are initiated, it should be proportionate. “The question is: is it proportionate in this case? You have to look at the gravity of the allegation and whether it warrants initiating the impeachment process” impeachment, he stressed, must always be a last resort. He also said the mere fact that the process is initiated by the prime minister, puts a shadow on the policy of independence of the Judiciary.

He said this latest attack on the judiciary shows that the body was not immune from scrutiny. “If people are suffering, it will undermine the confidence in the judiciary.”

He said perhaps judges should start taking on fewer cases, and place more emphasis on delivering judgments.

“Judges must understand that they have to do their jobs,” he said. Sharma has suggested that judges sanction themselves but reiterated that impeachment, or removal from office should be the very last resort.

He also said threats of possible impeachment or removal from office should not be used to intimidate Chief Justice or the judges of the Supreme Court.

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