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Carmona yet to deal with CJ sabbatical

Published: 
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

President Anthony Carmona is yet to address the concerns raised by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley over what authority he used in granting a six-month sabbatical leave for Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

The President returned from vacation on Sunday evening. However, the T&T Guardian was told by the President’s office that while Carmona had a number of engagements yesterday, none were related to the CJ sabbatical matter.

The T&T Guardian also got no response to questions emailed to communications manager Theron Boodan as to when the President would respond to the PM’s request or whether the President was seeking legal advice on the matter.

Last week, acting President Christine Kangaloo asked Archie to defer his departure for the sabbatical pending Carmona’s return, after the sabbatical issue causes a fire storm within the judiciary.

The CJ was due to leave the country on Sunday for the United States, where he was to proceed on leave until the end of August.

But hours after President’s House issued the notice indicating Archie had agreed to the request, Archie’s office sent out a media release through Court Protocol and Information Manager Alicia Carter Fisher justifying the leave.

The release quoted from the Hansard Report dated February 21, 2014, relating to the debate in parliament on the Salaries Review Commission’s 98th Report. The release noted that Dr. Roodal Moonilal indicated that “the Cabinet did agree to accept the recommendations of the Salaries Review Commission contained in the 98th Report dated November 2013.”

The SRC, in its 98th report, agreed in principle to the proposal for the introduction of sabbatical leave for judges. But it proposed that sabbatical leave required the administrative arrangements to be developed by the judiciary.

The CJ’s office explained that in May 2014 the CJ appointed an internal committee comprising Justices Paula-Mae Weekes as chair, Maureen Pemberton, Hayden St Clair-Douglas and Ricky Rahim to consider development of an appropriate administrative arrangement to give effect to the facility for sabbatical leave.

According to the CJ’s press release, “the report of the committee was submitted to the Chief Justice and to a meeting of judges and in July 2014 was agreed to in principle and thus comprises the administrative arrangement of the judiciary.”

But emailed correspondence among judges in the period July 21, 2014 indicates there was never any agreement on the document, and an email dated July 18 to the Chief Justice indicated that the committee “never actually met,” since attempts to meet were “thwarted by the unavailability of one or the other judges.”

But in his letter to the President dated November 8, 2017, the CJ noted that the judges of the supreme court had approved in principle a draft internal policy on the approval of sabbatical leave to facilitate study, teaching, research or other activity that will benefit the administration of justice and enhance judges performance of their duties.

In the letter, the CJ also recommended that the next most senior judge, Alan Mendonca, be permitted to perform duties in his absence.

It was only when the request relating to Mendoca’s appointment went to the PM from the President’s Office that Rowley found out about the sabbatical and he wrote to Carmona asking about the authority used to grant such the leave since, as far as he (PM) knew, no such policy existed.

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