EYEWITNESS: “By the way”…

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…statements in law

Because of the dire consequences of running afoul of the law – being roasted in Camp St jail?! –  the rules governing the application of the law to alleged lawbreakers cannot be capricious. In the legal system we’ve inherited from England – called “the Common Law” – that’s why folks have to attend law school for five years before they can even begin PRACTISING the law!!

One of the principles Judges have to follow when they consider the facts of the case in front of them is called “STARE DECISIS” – “to stand by that which is decided”. This simply means that our Judges look at cases with similar facts and consider what legal principles were used to decide them. In other words, our Judges follow legal PRECEDENTS.

Because in a sense these judicial interpretations BECOME the law, there’s a rule within the stare decisis principle insisting that Judges must only decide on the issues that were presented to them. When they do, these legal principles applied are called the ratio decidendi – “the reason for the decision” and these have to be followed by lower courts on similar cases. They are said to be BINDING. OK, so far?

Sometimes Judges, for whatever reason, comment on issues not directly presented to them by the plaintiff – and these comments are called “obiter dicta” – “by the way”. Not surprisingly, they’re not binding on other courts! Now, you Dear Readers must be wondering as to why your humble Eyewitness is subjecting you to this legal lecture so early in the day! Well, it has to do with the long and eagerly awaited decision of Justice George on the GECOM Chairman case, which just came down.

 Point of the matter is that the plaintiff Gaskin had asked the Court specifically to interpret the stipulations of Art 162 (2) – which President Granger had taken the liberty to interpret in his own idiosyncratic manner to mean that only the names of those qualified to be Judges be submitted. The Court totally rejected Prezzie’s interpretation. Justice George hasn’t issued her written decision as yet, so we don’t know precisely what legal precedents (ratio decidendi) she followed. But as far as this Eyewitness is concerned, after the PPP and PNC, who’d crafted Art 162, had applied it at least five times – contra to Prezzie’s interpretation – it was a case of sine qua non – “the thing speaks for itself”!!

Unfortunately, Justice George went on a “detour and frolic” and considered issues NOT placed before her by invoking Art 162 (3) –  what happens if the Opposition Leader doesn’t present an “acceptable” list.

This is clearly OBITER dicta!!

 …business opportunities

Who says our local business class isn’t quick to sense and seize business opportunities? The smoke hadn’t even cleared at Camp St when one enterprising hollow-block maker announced his blocks were so strong, he could “convert our prison to fortresses” with them! And, of course, make our country “safer”!!

 The fella claims his HOLLOW blocks, which he modestly – if contradictorily – named “Rock SOLID”, are “smash proof”, “heat resistant” and “fire retardant”! Wow!! Your Eyewitness can just imagine the next step. The shrewd businessman can take a page (a commercial?) from that luggage manufacturer that had a 600 lb gorilla jump all over one of their suitcases to prove how strong they were! Here, he can invite some of those inmates who just torched 12 Camp St, to put his “Rock Solid blocks” to the test!!

Better yet, taking a cue from the recent Ministry of Housing exhibition, maybe he can build a model Prison “Fortress” at Lusignan?

That’ll kill two birds with one “rock-solid” block!!

 …where’re the grades?

UG’s registration process has started – even though grades for half the faculties, including Law – aren’t out. The underpaid staff is stretched and stressed out.

But never mind. $10 million is better spent on the VC’s coronation!!

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