Justice Franklyn Holder’s letter of complaint to the Chancellor (ag) against Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams, SC, which in now in media, validates the contentions raised by Williams’ predecessor Anil Nandall over his conduct and alleged death threat issued to Justice Holder in the recent hearing of legal proceedings filed by Carvil Duncan against the State.
Nandall who is Duncan’s attorney in the matter had said that Williams during the closing of cross-examinations of Duncan and his Confidential Secretary, became frustrated that he was not receiving favourable answers and “accused the Judge of not accurately recording the evidence.”
According to Nandlall, the “Judge rightfully took umbrage to the accusation. An angry Williams in a loud tone of voice repeated the accusations. The Judge, again admonished him about the accusation and about his tone of voice, Williams then blurted out loudly, ‘the last Magistrate who did that to me was later found dead…I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it.”
Williams has since said among other things that his statements were taken out of context and blamed Nandlall for what happened in court.
“ Nandlall was the one who caused the problem…we can’t allow Nandlall to create this problem and leave it unresolved. The Judge and I will resolve this issue,” Williams insisted.
In fact, the Attorney General defended his actions and his statements. “Everything I dealt with in that short time was to disabuse the learned Judge’s mind that his interpretation was not (so),” he stated.
Williams believed that the Judge fell prey to “transferred frustration” as a result of Nandlall’s “barracking” of nearly three hours.
Moreover, Williams also insisted that his comment was not a threat even though the defence lawyer at the time, Nandlall described it as one.
Justice holder in his letter of complaint however, laid blame squarely at the feet of Williams whose behaviour he said was “insulting, disrespectful and calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court in the face of the Court.”
The High Court Judge said he “took umbrage to his [Williams’] tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect that the court was being selective in recording the evidence”.
The Judge said Williams responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say was a Magistrate and he was now dead.
According to Justice Holder “Mr. William’s behavior was highly contemptuous and deserving of him being cited for contempt in the face of the Court. Instead of doing so at that moment, I chose to leave the Bench.”
He continued “however, it does not mean that Mr. Williams’ behavior should go unattended. He is not only a Senior Counsel, he is also the Attorney General and leader of the Bar. His behaviour begs the question, whether he is respectful and aware of the functions and duties that attend these offices.”
Justice Holder in his complaint to the Chancellor said that he is not “prepared to sit to hear Mr Williams as an Attorney-at-Law in any matter whatsoever, unless he makes a genuine and meaningful apology to my satisfaction, in open Court, both to me and to the Members of the Bar, since they too were scandalized by his despicable conduct.”
However the Attorney General when asked by media operatives if he would issue an apology expressed unwillingness saying and was quoted as saying “What? I don’t know about apology.”
Yesterday, President David Granger, speaking publicly for the first time on the issue, said that he asked Williams for an explanation on the matter and he (Williams) has since delivered same to him.
“The Attorney General has responded. I have asked for an explanation of the matters which were reported to me and when I have that opportunity, I will respond to him and the Chancellor of the Judiciary,” he stated.
President Granger indicated to reporters that he was confident the matter would be resolved, after hearing from all the parties involved.
“You know in law, there is a principle of hear the other side so you mustn’t jump to conclusions; so I want to hear both sides. We heard one side in the media and I’ve asked the Attorney General for his side,” the Head of State noted.
Justice Holder had formally complained to the Chancellor of the Judiciary that he abruptly walked out of the courtroom last Thursday as a result of statements made by the Attorney General.
Newly-appointed acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards told reporters on Tuesday that she was in receipt of information on the matter and the issue was currently “being addressed”.
The incident occurred during the trial of Carvil Duncan, who had moved to the court to block the work of a presidential tribunal that was set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission in light of his criminal charges, one of which has since been dismissed at the Magistrate’s Court.
See a transcript of Justice Holder’s full letter of complaint below:
24th of March, 2017
The Honourable Chancellor (ag.)
Madam Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, CCH
The High Court of the Supreme Court,
Dear Madam Chancellor,
RE: REPORT ON CONTEMPTUOUS BEHAVIOUR OF MR BASIL WILLIAMS, SC.
I would like to report an incident which occurred on the 23rd day of March, 2017, in the matter of the Application by Carvil Duncan, during the cross-examination of a witness by Mr Basil Williams, SC.
The Attorneys-at-Law in court at the time, including Mr Williams, were Ms Sam and Ms Stuart who were with him, and Mr Nandlall and Mr Jaigobin who appeared for the applicant.
During the cross-examination of the witness, Mr Williams had asked a question, the answer to which I initially recorded as “yes”. However, because of what the witness said immediately after and Mr Williams’ desire to cross-examine her on a document which she had prepared and for which he was making application to have admitted into evidence, I crossed out the answer “yes”.
Further into his cross-examination Mr Williams made certain statements which suggested that it was his belief, that the witness had said “yes”, and that this was the record of the Court. On recognising Mr Williams’ misconception of this part of the evidence, I then read aloud the record of the court in this regard. I further offered that he may ask the witness the question again if he so desired, since the record showed that there was no answer to the question. Mr Williams did not do so.
However, he proceeded to ask other questions of the witness, the answer to one of which, the witness said “no”. Upon the witness saying this, Mr. Williams, in a rather loud and bellicose tone said that I, the judge, must record “no” (in my Minute Book). I then said to him that a record is being made that the witness did say “no”. Apparently, not being satisfied with my assurance, Mr Williams followed up with words to the effect, that previously the witness had said yes and the court chose not to make a record of this. I then told Mr Williams that I took umbrage to his tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect, that the Court was being selective in recording the evidence.
Mr Williams, in a truculent manner, while standing in the well of the court, responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say, was a Magistrate and he is now dead. He further said that “all morning Mr Nandlall disrespecting you, and you have not done anything about it.” This was, however, not a true statement of what had occurred. This was followed by a most egregious statement by Mr Williams, that “I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it, I have always been like that.”
Immediately after hearing these words, I rose from the Bench and went into my Chambers. I did not adjourn the matter, nor did I give any instructions to the parties.
I recognise Mr Williams’ behaviour as I have related to be insulting, disrespectful, and calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court in the face of the Court.
Mr Williams’ behaviour was highly contemptuous and deserving of him being cited for contempt in the face of the Court. Instead of doing so at that moment, I chose to leave the Bench.
However, it does not mean that Mr Williams’ behaviour should go unattended. He is not only a Senior Counsel, he is also the Attorney General and leader of the Bar. His behaviour begs the question, whether he is respectful and aware of the functions and duties that attend these offices.
I am not prepared to sit to hear Mr Williams as an Attorney-at-Law in any matter whatsoever, unless he makes a genuine and meaningful apology to my satisfaction, in open Court, both to me and to the Members of the Bar, since they too were scandalized by his despicable conduct.