Judges deny application  for another adjournment of Leigertwood-Octave tribunal
From the Courts
March 28, 2013
Judges deny application for another adjournment of Leigertwood-Octave tribunal

An application for another adjournment of the Directions Hearing of the tribunal investigating whether Justice Ianthea Leigertwood-Octave ought to be removed as a judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has been refused.{{more}}

In a ruling dated March 11, the justices of the tribunal, Humphrey Stollmeyer, Karl Harrison and Norma Wade-Miller said they were not convinced of the need for the adjournment, nor of the merits of the application.

On February 27, the tribunal had adjourned the date for the Directions Hearing to April 3, as a result of an application by Nicole Sylvester, Counsel for Justice Leigertwood-Octave.

The members of the tribunal said that on March 7, they received a written application, for a further adjournment of the Directions Hearing, from Sylvester.

The reason given for requesting the further adjournment was that Sylvester was “…unable to attend, due to medical reasons”. The ruling says that in the letter, Sylvester goes on to say that after the sitting of the tribunal on February 27, she had “… learnt that [she] will have to undergo some medicals with [her son]”. She also sets out that her client “… is in the process of retaining other possible Counsel, who would also not be available at date slated for the hearing”.

Sylvester requested an adjournment to after April 11.

According to the ruling from the tribunal, Sylvester had, on February 28, told counsel to the tribunal Reginald Armour S.C, that she had applied for an adjournment on the ground that she had already arranged to accompany her son to a swimming competition, as part of his training for the 2014 Olympic Games in Brazil.

However, Sylvester submitted a letter on March 8, retracting the letter of March 7. In addition to correcting the date fixed for the adjourned hearing, Sylvester, in the March 8 letter, added reasons for requesting the further adjournment.

“More particularly, I will be unavailable from 2nd April to the 8th April, 2013, so as to facilitate follow-ups subsequent to the medical procedures,” Sylvester said in the letter.

The ruling said that when Sylvester had first spoken with counsel for the tribunal on February 26, she had indicated that she would need an adjournment of about three weeks. She also said then, that she wished to make certain “requests” of the tribunal, but declined to indicate what they were.

At the sitting of the tribunal on February 27, the justices had directed that the “requests” be lodged by e-mail with the Tribunal Secretariat by March 25, 2013, together with a detailed note of the reasons for the requests.

The ruling also states that Sylvester has not given any indication of who the alternative Counsel is, nor what date or dates may give rise to difficulty for that other Counsel.

“The matter before the Tribunal is not to be regarded as ordinary run-of-the-mill litigation or inquiry. It is a matter of the utmost seriousness and concern to Justice Leigertwood-Octave, the Judiciary of the Eastern Caribbean, and the administration of justice throughout the multiple jurisdictions of the Eastern Caribbean. It is a matter of both great interest and concern to the public in these jurisdictions, and is also a matter of such importance that it requires both priority and expedition in its hearing and disposal,” the ruling said.

The tribunal said the hearing on April 3 is “for the purpose of the Tribunal giving Directions for the hearing of the evidence, and any preliminary applications that might properly be made”.

They, however, said that having given full consideration to the application and the reasons underlying it being made, “We do not require that there be a hearing, nor that there be input from Mr Armour”.

The justices therefore ruled that, given the nature of the hearing, the need for expedition, Justice Leigterwood-Octave’s acceptance of that need and acceptance that alternative Counsel may need to be retained if Sylvester is not available; “the varying, if not contradictory reasons given for the further adjournment; and now the unspecified and unsupported medical testing to be done; we are not inclined to grant the adjournment”.

The tribunal was appointed by Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Janice M. Pereira on December 7, 2012.

The instruments of appointment say the members of the tribunal will investigate whether Justice Leigertwood-Octave ought to be removed from office for “repeated long and persistent failure” in the period from conclusion of trials between 2006 and 7th December 2012 to deliver written reasons/judgements in matters over which she presided “within a reasonable time or at all”.

According to the instruments, written judgements have been outstanding or delayed for periods in excess of one year, to as much as seven years.

Leigertwood-Octave is a Vincentian, who was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2006.