Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Coat of Surreal: Not Ready

On Friday, February 27. 2009, the Court of Appeal announced it's decision in the Dabdoub v. Vaz appeals devoid of a written reasoned judgement.

Politically, the notion of the people deciding who shall represent them in Parliament, is incontestable. The mobilization of the political party's electoral machinery has untold beneficial effects for constitutents as it is at election time that politicians are forced to "pay" special attention to the needs of the people.

Legally, there are a number of serious concerns:
  • We have a Constitution and have accepted the notion of the Rule of Law;
  • The courts are the enforcers of the Constitution and the Rule of Law;
  • The courts' decisions must reflect this unique mandate and be open to public scrutiny;
Obviously, the Court of Appeal was not ready to hand down a written reasoned judgement. The unavoidable question is:

What factors determined this announcement at this time?

For a matter dealing with the Constitution of Jamaica (the supreme law of the land) and the Composition of Parliament -which could have devastating implications for the government -to have taken so long (approximately 18 months) is totally unacceptable.

For the judges of the Court of Appeal (the final arbiter in such election petition matters) to announce a decision which has implications for other pending cases without written reasoning is inexcusable.

We humbly submit that this is not a complex matter necessitating countless hours of cerebral exertion. Both sides presented copious arguments and researched the gamut of case authorities. Moreover, the Chief Justice had handed down a written, reasoned judgement - a judgement which the Court of Appeal upheld.

To come now and just announce the dismissal of the appeals and the upholding of the Chief Justice's ruling is:
  • woefully insufficient;
  • unworthy of a learned tribunal;
  • further accelerates the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary;
  • adds substance to the case for the retention of the Privy Council.
To promise delivery of the reasons in writing within two weeks adds further insult to the contemptuous in jury. Why not wait two weeks before making any announcement and deliver the much-awaited reasoning? What difference would 14 more days make to a process that to date has exceeded 510? Did political considerations influence the timing of this announcement?

Small societies are especially vulnerable to rumours, allegations wild speculations and suss. Court decisions that have far reaching political consequences are always open to charges of political interference, undue influence, discussions of the percieved political loyalties of the judges concerned and a formidable grist for the mill of conspiracy theorists. Regrettably the Court of Appeal on this occasion seemed oblivious to this reality. It did itself an injustice.

With due respect.


Anonymous said...

One is inclined to conclude that, the outcome was predetermined by a telephone conversation prior to the Court hearings. It smells

Anonymous said...

One is likely to conclude that the outcome was predetermined in a telephone conversation,prior to the court hearings. It smells