Law Association, PM trial date to be set next Monday

A trial date for the Law Association's lawsuit over the decision of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to refuse to impeach Chief Justice Ivor Archie is expected to be set next Monday. 

Lawyers representing the association, Rowley, Archie and the Office of the Attorney General were expected to present submissions on whether the association should be granted leave to pursue its judicial review claim, during a hearing before Justice Vasheist Kokaram, this morning. 

However, when the case was called at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Kokaram invited the attorneys to hold private discussions over how the case should be litigated. 

When they eventually returned to the open courtroom after almost an hour later, Kokaram informed lawyers and members of the public that the parties had agreed to have a rolled-up hearing in the case. 

With a rolled-up hearing, Kokaram will have to consider whether the association should be granted leave and the substantive issues in the case as opposed to determining both issues separately. 

Kokaram adjourned the case to next Monday, when the attorneys are expected to decide timelines for filing their evidence and submission and set a date for the trial of the case. 

The association is challenging Rowley's move to base his decision mainly on legal advice obtained from British Queen's Counsel Howard Stevens, which the association claimed was methodologically and analytically flawed. 

It also alleged that Rowley went beyond his constitutional remit by following Stevens advice, which sought to analyse whether the association had unearthed sufficient evidence against Archie in its preliminary investigation. 

"The Prime Minister relied on what he perceived to be uncertainties or inadequacies in the evidence, so as to reject the appropriateness of making a reference. In so doing, however, he usurped the fact-finding role of the tribunal," the legal documents said.

The association also criticised Rowley for failing to conduct his own basic fact-finding exercise as allegedly required under the Constitution.

"Instead, the Prime Minister wrongly approached his role as being one of reviewing the committee's report to determine whether the committee established a prima facie case for a reference under section 137 and took on no responsibility of his own to make even a minimum of enquiries," the legal documents said. 

The association also took umbrage to Rowley's recent statements that the lawsuit was politically motivated and fueled by a group of United National Congress (UNC) supporters within the association. 

It noted that Rowley's bias claims were in direct contradiction to an assessment of the allegations which was conducted by the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council when they dismissed Archie's legal challenge over the association's probe. 

"Given his subjective views on the nature and purpose of the Applicant's Committee report as set out above, the Prime Minister was not capable of properly and fairly determining the question before him in the exercise of a constitutional function in the public interest. 

"Rather, he was more concerned to shut down what he considered to be the improper action of the Applicant acting at the alleged behest of the UNC and thereby acted for an improper purpose or motive and/or his decision is vitiated by apparent bias," the legal documents said. 

- Derek Achong

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