THE Law Association will meet on Tuesday to formulate a response to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s decision not to pursue impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ivor Archie, while citing legal advice he has received on the matter.
The controversy has rocked the judiciary and legal fraternity as the PM’s announcement on Thursday caught many by surprise and the outcome of the meeting is likely to lead to a constitutional crisis unlike any in the history of the nation.
The possibility was also raised of a potential standstill in the courts by attorneys and judges, in protest of the prime minister’s refusal to send the matter to the president.
The controversy stems from allegations highlighted in media reports that CJ Archie allegedly tried to persuade judges to change the provider of state-provided security in favor of a private company where a friend worked.
The top judicial officer was also accused of trying to fast-track Housing Development Corporation (HDC) applications for various people. He has denied involvement in matters of the security of judges but admitted to supporting applications to the HDC.
But CJ Archie has maintained that he did not “engage in any lobbying for any person” for state houses.
A cloak of silence followed the PM’s shock announcement, but one prominent attorney, Israel Khan, was willing to go on record as he called on Dr Rowley to state clearly the origin of his advice and urged urgent action to appointed a tribunal into the CJ’s conduct in office.
In looking forward Khan, a noted Port-of-Spain criminal law attorney, said the PM’s decision will be subject to judicial review and is hoping that this road will be taken by the Law Association on Tuesday.
Khan said he was not surprised by the position the PM took. “He had, a week ago, telegraphed to the population that there was a group of people harboring a sinister plot to get rid of the Chief Justice because these people believe that the Judiciary is available for their use and purpose,” Khan is quoted as saying in the Newsday.
Dr Rowley, in a television interview almost three months ago on the CNC3 Morning Brew television talk show, said the persistent calls for the Government to get involved in the Judiciary were being made by people with their own agenda.
“I am aware of what is happening and on invitation, I take careful note of the conspiracies. One of these days, I’m going to tell the people what their agenda is, who is involved, what they are doing and the danger they are posing,” he said.
Attorney Khan said the allegations surrounding the CJ’s conduct were considered serious and that a group of six Appeal Court judges reportedly visited the president over the Carnival period to voice their concerns.
He said the Law Association is calling for the allegations to be investigated to ascertain if they are credible to invoke Section 137 of the Constitution which outlines the process for the removal of a sitting chief justice.
Newsday reports that In December, the association voted in favor of referring the allegations against CJ Archie to the PM for further action. In its letter to Dr Rowley, the lawyers’ body indicated no finding of misbehavior against the CJ was found, but that there was sufficient evidence to support a referral to the president under Section 137.