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Court invokes orders against persistent litigants - St Ann couple files 28 claims against rulings

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 8:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
The Supreme Court at King Street, Kingston.

The Court of Appeal has refused a motion by two St Ann residents who sought permission to appeal to the Privy Council for guidance on the code of conduct of Jamaican judges against whom they filed multiple challenges.

The matter relates to a lawsuit filed by Bartholomew Brown and Bridgette Brown against the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) more than nine years ago.

According to court documents, the Browns filed at least 28 unmeritorious and repetitive applications in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal challenging the ruling of several judges.

As a consequence, the Court of Appeal issued orders in March, prohibiting the Browns from making any further applications without first obtaining permission from that court or a judge in the Supreme Court. They could, however, participate in the trial of the claim against JNBS filed in 2007.

The Court also ruled that if the Browns wish to apply for permission to make any further applications arising out of the 2007 claim in that court, such permission must be made in writing and will be dealt with on paper.

The Browns subsequently filed the notice of motion to appeal.

 

1993 loan

 

According to the March judgment, written by Justice Hilary Phillips, the Browns averred that in 1993 they obtained a loan of $800,000 from JNBS to complete construction of their house at Runaway Bay, St Ann.

They alleged that their monthly payments were not credited to their account in a timely manner, which placed the loan in arrears, caused the account to accrue late charges, and exposed their home to foreclosure.

While they were able to rescue their house from foreclosure, the Browns alleged that their efforts to do so have resulted in severe loss. In June 2007, they sued JNBS for breach of contract and negligence.

JNBS is defending the lawsuit. However, the claim is still pending due to several aborted trials.

In the March 18 appellate judgment, Justice Phillips noted that the Browns have filed multiple appeals and applications challenging multiple decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on the basis that they have been deprived of their constitutional right to a fair hearing, having charged that most of the judges who heard their matters were biased and corrupt.

"I may shortly be similarly accused, because I am minded to refuse their applications and to grant orders to protect the court?s process from further abuse by the applicants," she said.

In applications then before the Court of Appeal, the Browns sought the intervention of the Attorney General in their case and a review of several previous decisions made in the Supreme Court.

However, director of litigation in the Attorney General's Department, Carlene Larmond, said there was no novel question being decided by the courts that was of general public importance going to the jurisdiction of the lower courts, and as a consequence declined the Browns' invitation to intervene.

JNBS filed preliminary objections to the Browns' applications on the basis of res judicata - a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties - and relitigation as an abuse of the process of the court.

Justice Phillips said that based on the review she conducted, "it is evident that the applicants had constantly repeated the same applications, and in the process are abusing judges and staff of this court and of the court below, by deeming them to be corrupt, unfair and biased. This is done even where decisions are made in their favour and is worsened when decisions are awarded against them".

She noted that "our jurisdiction has no legislation covering civil restraint orders, and so I will adopt the guidance given under the common law."

In refusing the Browns' that applications, Justice Phillips said that court has no power to review its own decisions, and that JNBS' preliminary objections ought to be upheld "since the applicants have habitually and persistently filed at least 15 frivolous, unmeritorious, repetitive and vexatious applications in the Supreme Court and at least 13 such applications in this court".

She said they have even filed unmeritorious applications at the Privy Council.

"Their persistent relitigation is undoubtedly a flagrant abuse of the process of all courts, and so, in my view, this court ought to institute the orders to protect itself and the process of the court from further abuse."

Justice Phillips said she hoped the orders would prevent the Browns from constantly filing hopeless applications and expedite the trial of the substantive claim that has been in abeyance since 2007.

She said that if any legal document within the scope of the order is served on, or given to JNBS or its legal representatives without permission having been first obtained, this will constitute a breach of the order and contempt of court and that person shall not be required to appear and respond, and the purported application/proceedings shall stand dismissed and struck out without having been heard.

One of the applications filed by the Browns in November 2015 was not addressed in the March 18 ruling. Justice Phillips said the notice of motion was not placed among the documents judges of the Court of Appeal were invited to peruse in the matter.

Three days later, on March 21, 2016, the applicants, "taking full advantage of that oversight", filed an amended notice of motion, with an amended affidavit in support, seeking leave to appeal the decisions on grounds that judges failed to hear them, failed to disclose their interests in the matter, were biased, and failed to recuse themselves after a complaint was made.

They also stated that leave to appeal to Her Majesty in Council should be granted because guidance was required, in the instant case, on the conduct of judges and Justices of the Peace.

However, Justice Phillips, with whom Justices Almarie Sinclair-Haynes and Paulette Williams agreed, ruled that the conditions for granting leave to appeal under the relevant sections of the Constitution have not been satisfied, and so refused the application.

The Browns, who represented themselves in court, were not reached for comment.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com