Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Letter of the Day | Judges a law unto themselves?

Published:Monday | February 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM


The act of 97 judges meeting last Monday at the Supreme Court to discuss Bryan Sykes' acting chief justice appointment, as well as the contentious issue of the separation of powers, which effectively brought court proceedings across the island to a screeching halt, was unprecedented and resulted in grave inconvenience to many.

While we understand the significance of these judges coming together to make their voices heard on these critical issues in safeguarding judicial independence, and while we can argue that actions that appear extreme under normal circumstances are appropriate during adversity, their planned action was inappropriate and tantamount to misconduct.

In a context where there are, inter alia, mountains of cases in the courts which take several years, sometimes more than a decade, before they are tried, together with the shameful inadequacies and inefficiencies in the justice system, judges do not have the luxury of arbitrarily interrupting judicial proceedings at the expense of litigants, witnesses, the accused and attorneys.

There were appropriate alternatives at their disposal, such as to seek audience with the governor general to register their concerns.

To whom are judges accountable administratively and for misconduct?

In the event of bias or some form of conclusion that leads to a miscarriage of justice, we know that the Court of Appeal and/or the Privy Council would be the avenue for review and recourse.

What is lost on us is who (or what body) is responsible for effectively disciplining judges who misconduct themselves and violate the Judicial Code of Conduct.


Not above the law


Certainly, judges are not above the law. They are guided by rules and regulations which, if violated, should see them suffering penalties just like any other professionals.

Judges should not be so independent that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and they should not feel as if they are only answerable to themselves. That, in and of itself, would be dangerous, and it requires immediate attention from the authorities (whoever that is).

There should be a public education campaign to address this issue concerning the accountability of judges.