Justice Holder recuses self from case with AG Williams

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         (L) Attorney General Basil Williams                   (R) Justice Franklyn Holder

In a move that didn’t come as a surprise, High Court Judge, Justice Franklyn Holder has recused himself from presiding over the now infamous Carvill Duncan case, following no definitive outcome on the alleged threats levied against him in open court by incumbent Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams, SC.

Justice Holder was quoted in sections of the media saying on Monday morning, the date outlined for the hearing of the case, that “I find that it will be prudent, judicious and in the interest of the administration of justice that I recuse myself from the case.”

This announcement by the Justice comes at the heels of Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo requesting that he [Holder] disqualify himself from the Carvil Duncan case in light of the brewing tension with Williams over the accusation of misconduct [on Williams’ part] at the last hearing back in March.

However, former AG, Anil Nandlall described the move as a plot to undermine the tenets of democracy.

Nandlall, in a social media post on Sunday afternoon, pondered if he was now living in a “surreal world”, and even categorized the Prime Minister’s letter to the Judge as a “scheme” formulated with the AG’s assistance to ensure that Williams does not apologize to the judge.

“This letter is nothing short of a most comical and clumsy conspiracy hatched between the AG and the Prime Minister to avoid the AG apologising to Justice Franklyn Holder. As a lawyer, he (the PM) should have never lent himself to such a sleazy and senseless scheme. Imagine, the PM is asking the judge to recuse himself from the case essentially because the judge did not cite and jail the AG for contempt… Only intellectual giants like Williams and Nagamootoo can conceive such a “sophisticated” plot,” Nandlall said is his strongly worded online post.

“These are two of the most senior functionaries of this Administration engaging in juvenile antics about a crucial state institution like the Judiciary…they now want to choose their own judge to hear their own case; [this is] a classic exhibition of authoritarianism. [It strikes] at the heart of the doctrine of separation of powers. Imagine if every litigant, on his own volition, decides to abuse the judge hearing his case and then claim the judge is biased…the Judiciary may not be able to sanction anyone for disrespecting its officers and processes in the future without being accused of hypocrisy and bias,” the former Attorney General pointed out.

Justice Holder had complained to acting Chancellor, Yonette Cummings-Edwards, that during the March 23rd hearing of that case, he abruptly walked out of the courtroom as a result of statements made by the Attorney General.

He quoted the AG as saying, “I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it, I have always been like that… The last magistrate who (told me what to do) was later found dead.”

Justice Holder said in his complaint that he felt disrespected by the Attorney General’s behaviour, and he has called for an apology to be given him in open court before proceeding further with the case.

However, the State’s chief legal advisor is holding out that he is not to be blamed for causing the High Court judge to walk out of the courtroom. He has also insisted that his comment was not a threat, even though Duncan’s defence lawyer, Anil Nandlall, has described it as such.

Duncan had moved to the court to block the work of a presidential tribunal set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in light of criminal charges proffered against him, one of which has since been dismissed at the Magistrate’s Court.

 

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