Pressure is mounting on Chief Justice Ivor Archie to speak out on allegations being made against him.A High Court judge has written to him saying he cannot stand by and remain silent about “the most significant threat to our institution in a very long time.”
“All is not well on Knox Street,” Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh said in an email dated December 15 to Archie, Justice Carol Gobin and judges of the Appeal Court and High Court.
A copy of the email has been obtained by Guardian Media. In it, Boodoosingh wrote that the Judiciary’s role in a democracy is bigger than any judge individually and collectively. When grave allegations are made, he said “we cannot just sit back and feel they will go away; that it could be business as usual.”
He said like most judges, he had tried staying steadfast to his judicial oath to attend court, decide cases, contribute to the judiciary and “carry on with business as usual.” However, he warned that ten years from now “when the consequences of what we do now are still being felt, I will not stand accused of having been part of the Judiciary and remained silent on the most significant threat to our institution in a very long time.”
The serious allegations levelled against Archie include that he spoke to judges about changing their state security to private security and sought the intervention of the HDC to secure housing for a number of people. Archie has denied the former allegation but has admitted to seeking to get housing for individuals he deemed to be in need of such.
Boodoosingh referred to guidelines for judicial conduct which state that judges must not ask favours of others and must be “beholden to no one, only to our consciences and our judicial oath.” He said while they may have views on politics, social and moral issues, they have to be circumspect in who they express those views to and in what setting.
“There are permissible areas for public engagement,” he said.
He added that judges must be careful about the friends they keep, even in the legal fraternity and reserved in “what we do, where we go and who we go with.”
“Judges must uphold the law. We have to avoid circumstances that may open us to even unfounded accusations,” he said.
He said while everyone is human with human needs and failings and will err, when that conduct has the potential to “undermine the functions we perform, shake judicial independence and the separation of powers, reduce public confidence in the Judiciary, open us up to blackmail or worse, we have to say something.”
Boodoosingh said had there been a meeting of judges, he would have had an opportunity to express his views. Noting that the Judiciary “will benefit from light being shone on what we do,” he said if he is labelled as being part of a clique, he will “take it in stride, because I know my conscience is clear and I sleep well at night.” (Trinidad Guardian)