AG defends President’s authority to appoint Senior Counsel

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Roysdale Forde, Stanley Moore, Jamela Ali, Mursalene Bacchus

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, has defended the appointments of four Senior Counsel made in 2019 by former President David Granger.

The appointments of these four Senior Counsel are being challenged by Attorney-at-Law Timothy Jonas in the High Court. Jonas who wants the appointments to be declared null and void.

Among other things, Jonas is seeking an Order of Certiorari to be directed to the Attorney General to quash the decision by the former President to appoint Attorneys-at-Law Roysdale Forde, Mursalene Bacchus, Jameli Ali and Stanley Moore to the dignity of Senior Counsel.

Jonas argues that the then President acted outside his authority, and as such, the conferral was illegal and void. He further argues that there is no statutory or other power conferred on the President to make any decision to appoint the attorneys-at-law to the dignity of Senior Counsel.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

In an Affidavit in Defence, Nandlall said he denies each allegation made by Jonas. The Attorney General noted that while some of Jonas’ contentions bear some veracity, he does not believe that they embrace compendiously and comprehensively all the virtues, qualifications, advantages, privileges and status which the conferral of the dignity of silk accords.

According to Nandlall, he does not admit Jonas’ contention that the dignity of Senior Counsel or its equivalent counterpart (Queen’s Counsel) is one which is recognized throughout the Commonwealth as being conferred on practising attorneys-at-law who have sufficiently earned the respect of the Court by dint of the quality of their practice and personal integrity to warrant the honour, and the conferral of the status of Senior Counsel embraces compendiously and comprehensively all the virtues, qualifications, advantages, privileges and status which the conferral of the dignity of silk accords.

Further, the Attorney General does not admit Jonas’ argument that the dignity of Senior Counsel is, by virtue of its widespread recognition, fundamentally important to the legal practitioner, and that within the legal fraternity, courtesies are extended to Senior Counsel by the judiciary in Court, including during court proceedings, and by the Bar at large, because neither of them embrace compendiously and comprehensively all the virtues, qualifications, advantages, privileges and status which the conferral of the dignity of silk accords.

Timothy Jonas

Jonas argues, too, that beyond the legal fraternity, in the public domain, the dignity implies to the public the certification by the judiciary of the professional acumen and personal integrity of the practitioner, so that a significant market advantage is enjoyed by Senior Counsel in the conduct of his/her practice by the public perception of the judicially-acknowledged professional standard of his/her legal service.

Nandlall does not admit that this embraces compendiously and comprehensively all the virtues, qualifications, advantages, privileges and status which the conferral of the dignity of silk accords.

Further, Jonas submits that there is no statutory or other power conferred on the President of Guyana, whether as President or otherwise, to make such a decision or to appoint attorneys-at-law to the dignity of Senior Counsel; and, as such, the decision by the former President is entirely void and of no effect.

David Granger, former President

Jonas argues that “insofar as the President, a member of the Executive, purports to make a decision within the province of the inherent discretion of the High Court, “his [Granger’s] trespass into the realm of the Judiciary violates Article 122 of the Constitution of Guyana, and is illegal and void.” But Nandlall argues that these are all opinions of law held by Jonas, with which he is not in agreement.

These proceedings come more than a year after Jonas had his Senior Counsel appointment rescinded after he announced his affiliation with A New and United Guyana (ANUG) – a new political party formed to contest the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections. Jonas’ application comes up for oral arguments on October 28, 2020 before High Court Justice Nareshwar Harnanan.