Respondents bring new lead counsel in petitions case
July 14, 2017

Respondents bring new lead counsel in petitions case

When hearing of the two petitions relating to the December 2015 general elections begins in September, the respondents’ legal team will have a new lead counsel.

Last Wednesday at the High Court in Kingstown, senior counsel Douglas Mendez of Trinidad and Tobago was called to the local Bar to enable him to represent supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay; successful Unity Labour Party (ULP) candidates Montgomery Daniel and Sir Louis Straker; returning officers Vil Davis and Winston Gaymes; and presiding officers Veronica John and Kathleen Jeffers.

Mendez replaces senior counsel Anthony Astaphan of Dominica, who was previously lead counsel. Mendez told the court that Astaphan is not in good health and is seeking medical attention.

Two other lawyers, Trinidadian Michael Quamina and Kendrickson Kentish of Antigua and Barbuda, were also called to the local Bar on Wednesday. They join the case as lawyers for the respondents, as Grahame Bollers, who also represented the respondents, is out of state.

The new lead attorney requested a seven-day adjournment, stating that he is new to the case and has not had enough time to take instructions from his clients. He also asked for time so that the respondents could file an affidavit in response to the petitioners’ request to inspect the election documents.

Lead counsel for the petitions Queen’s Counsel Stanley ‘Stalky’ John made no objection to the seven-day adjournment, but noted that the petitions have been before the court for more than 18 months.

The petitioners in the matter are candidates for the New Democratic Party (NDP) Lauron Baptiste and Benjamin Exeter.

Justice Esco Henry, who presides over the matter, ordered that Sylvia Findlay Scrubb, the supervisor of elections and her successors be restrained from destroying any of the election documents, including ballots and ballot papers used or cast during the December 9, 2015 general elections until the trial is completed and or until further orders are made by the court.

She also adjourned the case to the new law term, on a date to be fixed by the Registrar of the High Court.

The current law term terminates at the end of July, while the new one will being in mid-September.

Henry also gave a six-point order outlining actions that the parties must take. They are as follows:

1.Respondents ought to file or serve on or by July 19, 2017 a) an affidavit in response if any to the notice of motion filed by the petitioner Benjamin Exeter b) Skeleton arguments and lists of authorities with a complete text of all legal authorities they intend to rely on.

2. The petitioners ought to file and serve submissions and list of authorities in response if any on or before July 27, 2017.

3. Parties are to transmit to the court office on or before July 31, 2017 electronic copies in Microsoft Word format of all pleadings, including affidavits and documentary evidence, skeleton arguments, and list of authorities with the text of such legal authorities.

4. Should any party file any notices of applications or motions during the adjournment

a) That party is required to file and serve skeleton arguments and list of authorities with a full text of legal authorities within seven days of service of such application or motion.

b) Opposing parties are required to file and serve: i) Affidavits in response if any within 10 days of service of such application or motion. ii) Skeleton arguments and lists of authorities with a full text of legal authorities within 21 days of service of an application or motion.

5) Adjournment to date to be fixed by the registrar in the new law year, in consultation within the parties.

6) Registrar is to serve notice of hearing on all parties at least 14 days in advance.

7) Petitioner Benjamin Exeter must carry out his order, which must be filed on or before July 21, 2016.

The NDP brought two petitions challenging the results in Central Leeward and North Windward in the December 2015 general elections, after the ULP won the elections by taking eight of the 15 parliamentary seats.