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Dominica attorney reiterates call for resignation of CCJ president, citing conflict of interest
Published on April 28, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Cabral Douglas

By Caribbean News Now contributor

ROSEAU, Dominica -- In response to a press statement on Wednesday by the OECS Bar Association condemning Dominican attorney at law, Cabral Douglas, for what it described as his “strident, contemptuous, inflammatory, and even defamatory, public criticisms” of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and its president, Sir Dennis Byron, Douglas has in turn accused the Bar Association of failing to cite one legal authority in support of its position and called for Byron’s resignation.

According to the OECS Bar Association, Douglas’s criticisms fell “far short of the objectivity, responsibility, balance and level of respect becoming of an officer of the court”.

“The CCJ represents the highest court for the Commonwealth of Dominica and we call on the Dominican Bar to look into this matter with a view to taking appropriate action,” the Bar Association said.

In response, Douglas said that, as the body representing lawyers in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the OECS Bar Association knows or ought to know and understand the legal requirement for establishing bias/political interference sufficient to overturn a court’s decision, the central issue of his complaint to Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC).

He pointed out that the CCJ itself, presided over by Byron, set out its own guidelines in a recent appeals case in which the court emphasised that judges must never be in a position for their impartiality to be questioned, and stated: "What matters is not so much the reality of bias or prejudice on the part of the judge but its appearance."

According to a media statement issued by the CCJ on April 13, 2017, denying allegations of corruption in relation to a case in which Douglas was the plaintiff – Cabral Douglas v The Commonwealth of Dominica – the court confirmed the following:

a) Byron did in fact attend a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meeting, in the presence of the defendant’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.

b) Byron sits as both president of the CCJ and president of the RJLSC.

“The mere fact that Byron sits as the president of both bodies represents a conflict of interest, and a clear violation of the rules of natural justice, which dictate that a party cannot be judge and jury in his own cause. It is on this basis that we call for the immediate resignation of Sir Dennis Byron, pending the outcome of the investigation by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC), and the publication of its findings,” Douglas said.

He pointed out that, according to the CCJ’s release “Such a meeting is institutional feature of relationship between the court and CARICOM”, and asked, “So with this being the case and the court having up to six months to deliver its judgement, why would the court choose to convene on a day when it knows that two of the five justices presiding over the matter are not available?”

“Where was the president of the court, Sir Dennis Byron?” Douglas asked.

“Indeed it was admitted by the CCJ themselves in their statement dated April 13,
2017 that the reason why Sir Dennis Byron was not available to attend his own court to deliver his decision is because he was busy meeting with the defendant prime minister, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit in Guyana, and was boldface enough to announce that his court had reached a decision in favour of the defendant from this very meeting causing him to be absent from his court!

“If this does not present the appearance of bias/political interference then I do not know what does,” he continued.

Douglas also pointed out that this is the same court, which has campaigned throughout the region to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal on the basis that it is credible, competent and free from political interference.

“Can anyone even imagine the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council finding itself involved in such shenanigans?” he asked.

If Sir Dennis Byron is asking Caribbean countries to delink from a century old credible institution of justice like the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice, on the premise that the CCJ is a credible court, then I think it would be reasonable to expect the OECS Bar Association to support my call for him to start conducting the affairs of the court at a minimal standard that has been adopted by all other credible courts throughout the world,” Douglas said.

He again called for Byron’s immediate resignation of as the president of the RJLSC “to pave the way for the Commission to conduct its investigation in a manner consistent with the rule of law, due process and the rules on natural justice”.
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