Some mechanism would have to be found that would allow for the establishment ofthe Judicial Service Commis-sion (JSC) if the PNCR continues its policy of non- cooperation with the government.
This was the view of Attorney General Doodnauth Singh when Stabroek News asked for his comments on Chancellor Desiree Bernard’s opinion that the system of judicial administration was in imminent danger of collapse.
But President of the Bar Association Nigel Hughes, believes that the issue goes beyond the non-functioning of the JSC and points to President Jagdeo refusing to appoint persons recommended by the JSC. He says that one such case was the non-appointment of James Bovell-Drakes. This matter is now in court.
The Attorney General said that the recent amendments to the constitution required the President to meaningfully consult with the PNCR and the Parliament on the persons to be appointed to the JSC. In its absence, the Attorney General said that not only could no appointments to the magistracy or judiciary be made but no disciplinary action could be taken against members of either body.
Commenting on the backlog of cases, the Attorney General observed that the situation was not as bad as it seemed, and referred to Trinidad and Tobago, where there was a full complement of judges but cases took up to five years to be heard.
While not denying the fact that there was a need for more judges, the Attorney General said lawyers could make representations - and usually did - to the Chief Justice for their cases to be brought up.
Chief Justice Carl Singh confirmed that representations were usually made to him, and that the focus was really on the older cases where bail had been refused or was not available, as the person affected would have been incarcerated for a longer period. With regard to the civil cases, he said that the criteria for granting early hearings were extreme urgency and grave and weighty matters at the core of the case.
Commenting on two outstanding cases, the Chief Justice said that the motion challenging the appointment of four judges to the Court of Appeal had to begin de novo (anew) as the judge to which it had been assigned had resigned. In the case of convicted murderer Abdool Yassin, who had challenged his death sentence, that prisoner had since died.
Commenting on the backlog, Hughes said that after discussions with the Chief Justice, it had been agreed that members of the Bar Association would volunteer to work with the Registrar of the High Court Registry to weed out the cases that had been abandoned, and to provide some training for the staff of the probate registry.
He said that the training of the staff had commenced and that the weeding out of the abandoned cases would begin shortly.
On the question of the adjournments, Hughes’ comment was that while he agreed that lawyers should prosecute their cases diligently, at the end of the day it was up to the judges to deny requests for adjournments if they had no merit or were frivolous.
Chancellor Bernard also believes that judges are too polite and kind to the lawyers and she has been urging them to deny the requests that are without merit or are frivolous.