Former CCJ employee says Ja should be cautious with court
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Leighton Jackson, the dismissed acting registrar of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), is warning Jamaica against rushing into joining the court in its appellate jurisdiction, as he believes the way in which the institution is being managed is a threat to judicial independence.
Arguing that there are instances of mismanagement, misconduct and arbitrariness in the way the affairs of the court are being dealt with, Jackson said: "It created for me a difficulty in feeling comfortable with the Caribbean Court of Justice, which is governed in that way."
The CCJ is facing an internal legal battle as a result of a series of consecutive dismissals, resignations and suspensions of senior managers. The court is also facing backlash over its decision to discipline an employee - a driver - for refusing to sell complimentary VIP Trinidad Carnival tickets on the instructions of a judge. The judge has been given an additional allowance to privately hire another driver.
The CCJ is funded by a US$100-million trust fund to which Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica contribute 29.7 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively.
"Based on the incidence of mismanagement, arbitrariness and judicial misconduct, I think the current structure of the court is incomplete and insufficient for me to be satisfied that it is the sort of institution that I would recommend our country going into," Jackson said.
"The whole matter of accountability and participation in crafting the structure and the vulnerability of the court to arbitrary decisions and decision making in its administrative systems which eventually will flow over into the decisions aspect is not something that I am comfortable with," he added.
Jamaica is seeking to have the CCJ replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the country's final court of appeal, but Alexander Williams, the opposition spokesman on justice, also feels recent developments in Trinidad are one more reason for the Government not to rush into the court.
Williams said that, owing to the disquiet that the restructuring at the CCJ has caused, including legal actions, the situation, while "not being an indictment on just how good the decisions are from the Caribbean Court of Justice, it does call into question the possibility of the longevity of the court itself and how it is administered".
Added Williams: "This broad issue as to how the court is being restructured needs to be handled with delicacy and care because you don't want the court to suffer from any fallout in that area."
Meanwhile, Jackson, a senior lecturer at the Norman Manley Law School, has accused the CCJ of creating a parallel administration with the Regional Judicial Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) and judges' committees taking over administrative functions from administrators. He also said the CCJ has been in violation of staff regulations and has been involved in practices which are inconsistent with good industrial practices.
"It impacts on judicial independence, the balance of power, and the regulatory accountability at the Caribbean Court of Justice," Jackson told The Gleaner. He said while he was still in support of the position that Jamaica ought to have its own court, the CCJ, "as it is now, it is very vulnerable to arbitrariness".
Attempts by The Gleaner to secure a comment from CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron yesterday proved unsuccessful, as a response from the president was not forthcoming at press time.
However, Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Lloyd Barnett was quoted in the Trinidad Express newspaper as saying the CCJ was currently undergoing a restructuring.
He said staff were consulted about the restructuring and that the exercise started only after several operational reviews and reports were done.
"The CCJ has been in operation for 10 years. Staff was employed about 2004. Any organisation properly administered will review its efficiency and economy of operations. The commission sought to examine how things operated, that reporting requirements were precise and that there was economy in the operations. Having done that, we decided on a more logical alignment of responsibility than what obtained before," Barnett said.
Meanwhile, Jackson is contemplating legal action against the CCJ after he was escorted by security off the CCJ's Port-of-Spain compound on May 6 because of what Byron deemed as actions "in breach of fairness to the president and human resources manager" and "fidelity to the court".