Acting Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen
On a mission to restore respect for the magistracy By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
September 30, 2001

SHE may be petite in stature, standing as she is at just over four feet, but when she steps unto the bench, she immediately commands the attention and respect of everyone in the Courtroom.

A trailblazer in her own right, Acting Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen, formerly of the Linden mining town, holds the distinction of being the second female magistrate to be elevated to the position she now holds. She ascended to the post following the resignation of former Chief Magistrate, Paul Fung-A-Fat.

Taking a short break from her daily routine to retrace her career, the Acting Chief Magistrate expressed a desire to seek to have the magistracy command the respect it deserves from the citizens of this country. And she plans to lead the way in this endeavour.

“Coming through the stream as a Magistrate, I have a fair knowledge of most of inefficiencies in the judicial system and people have lost faith in the system. But all is not lost, and while I am aware of the problem, I will try my utmost to restore some amount of confidence,” she told the Chronicle recently.

According to the Chief Magistrate (Ag.) her climb up the judicial ladder was not without its “ups and downs”. She recalled that there were times when she even wrote letters of resignation out of frustration.

But she is grateful to God for granting her the strength, and with the help of husband, Michael, daughter Denise, mother Rita and other relatives and friends, she persevered, and, having reached thus far, has pledged to be “fair” in whatever she does.

She has, however, issued a reminder that persons like herself, charged with administering justice, are also human and as such, can make mistakes which “may not necessarily be intended to hurt or injure any person deliberately”.

Ms. Holder-Allen, who began her magisterial career in 1991 as an Acting Magistrate, has not regretted making the decision to join the Bench.

“I believe that I can play a part in restoring order and respect for the law in this society,” she posited, while urging that every citizen seek to obey the laws of the land so that the society can become fairly safe again for everyone.

Also, she is of the view that the administration of justice can benefit enormously from a good crop of mainly experienced persons on board.

The Acting Chief Magistrate, who was born at the Mackenzie Hospital, Linden to parents Michael Holder (deceased) and Rita Holder, attended St Aidan’s Anglican School and the Mackenzie High School, and has a penchant for dancing, painting, cooking, reading and baking.

She is now happily married to Michael John Allen, former General Superintendent of the Information Systems Division of the Guyana Mining Enterprise (GUYMINE), now Linden Mining Enterprise (LINMINE) and who is now attached to the Guyana Elections Commission. (GECOM).

Ms. Holder-Allen recalls landing her first job, that of an Acting Teacher at the Amelia’s Ward Community High School, where she remained for about two and a half years.

“I had my mind set to pursue studies in law, so when the authorities asked that I undergo training to be a qualified teacher, I resigned because I knew I had other plans,” she added.

The Research and Development Department of the Guyana Mining Enterprise (GUYMINE) was her new place of employment for a few months, and in September, 1979, she was admitted to the University of Guyana to read for Part I of the Law Degree.

The following year, Ms Holder-Allen went on to read for Part II and III of the Law Degree at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.

On graduating from the University of the West Indies, Ms Holder-Allen said she went on to live and work in Antigua and Barbuda and remained there until July, 1984.

She returned home to rejoin GUYMINE as an Industrial Relations Officer and stayed there until September, 1986 when she was accepted at the Hugh Wooding Law School to read for the Legal Education Certificate.

Having successfully completed her studies at the Law School, Ms. Holder-Allen was admitted to the Guyana Bar to practise law in October, 1988.

“My petition for admission to practise was presented by Mr. Edward Luckhoo (now Senior Counsel) in Association with Mr. Robert Ramcharran. The presiding Judge was Justice Loris Ganpatsingh,” she recalled.

She remembered her first legal stint with law firm of Luckhoo and Luckhoo. Her tasks were mainly civil litigation. She later joined the law firm of Britton, Hamilton and Adams and switched to criminal matter.

She admitted being more comfortable with the practise of criminal law, adding she enjoyed a good period of private practice as a lawyer.

It was at that time some of her close friends urged her to consider a short stint on the Bench as a Magistrate.

“I was not inclined, but after some amount of coaxing, I yielded, and on February 1, 1991, began working as an Acting Magistrate,” she said.

From then on, there was no turning back. She was subsequently confirmed as Magistrate, appointed later to Senior Magistrate, Acting Principal Magistrate, Principal Magistrate and the most recent position, Acting Chief Magistrate.

She also pointed out that her stint included presiding at Court Nine, Georgetown Magisterial District; Court Seven as the Traffic Magistrate and in the East Demerara Magisterial District on the Bench at Courts at Vigilance, Cove and John and Mahaicony.

In September, 1997, she presided at Court Eight hearing Rent Restriction Matters with additional duties in Court Five dealing strictly with criminal matters.

Her present duties in Court Two, as the Acting Chief Magistrate, allow her to hear a variety of matters.

Since assuming the post, she has had to fill the void in Linden and Essequibo, since there is a shortage of magistrates.

Asked to share one of her memorable moments in the judiciary, the Acting Chief Magistrate could hardly contain herself as she recounted her experience on a `boom-boom bus’ (bus that plays music very loudly) one evening.

“As the Traffic Magistrate, I had become disgusted [with] hearing complaints about the `boom-boom buses’. Obviously, the drivers and conductors were always in denial, so I teamed up with three court reporters one evening and went on the bus,” she said.

“I was dressed in jeans and shirt, a cap pulled down in my face and there I successfully boarded a South bus undetected. The ride was just as the complaints I was hearing and at one time I wondered if it was the right thing I was doing for my health, but thank God I rallied.

“The driver did not know who I was until he reached the end of his destination and realised that the four persons were not disembarking.

“He (the driver) was so shocked he could not even restart his bus. You could have seen that he was literally afraid … ” she added.

But according to the magistrate, she was satisfied that commuters riding mini- buses do experience problems.

Alluding to some of the problems she has had to face in her climb up the judicial ladder, Ms. Holder-Allen said she has had to make many sacrifices.

“I had always intended to return to my private practice, but had to reconsider my position because of the acute shortage of magistrates. I also had to fight many battles to make sure that justice prevailed in terms of my promotional prospects and opportunities,” she said.

“I have also witnessed junior magistrates being elevated to higher positions and others enjoying rapid promotions within the system ahead of me. But God is my refuge and strength,” she added.

She said too she was somewhat relieved when she first received the call informing her that she is to act as the Chief Magistrate.

“It was as if I was finally coming into my own, that the dark cloud that had surrounded my promotional opportunities were finally dissipating,” she added.

The Chief Magistrate is also of the opinion that under the leadership of Chancellor Desiree Bernard, the judicial system will come into its own, as according to her, the Chancellor “has a very fair approach to situations and genuinely cares about the system. She is a stickler for perfection and with her at the helm, only good can prevail.”

She describes her immediate superior, Chief Justice Carl Singh, as a man of “a special type of class” and who has the energy to get things done.