I felt I had said enough on the question of judicial criticism in my recent letter, which you published in your newspaper on 3rd January 2022. I, however, feel compelled to add an addendum to my letter, so as to respond to Kaieteur News’ designated “International lawyer” Melinda Janki’s letter published in another newspaper on 4th January 2022.
International lawyer Janki, in her letter, stresses the point that Mr Dharamlall is not a member of the public. He is certainly not a judge. Pointing to the robes that Mr Dharamlall wears as an MP, a member of the executive and a servant of the public, this international legal luminary concludes that “Mr. Dharamlall has a responsibility to uphold respect for the rule of law, including respect for the judiciary.” But such a disposition is expected of every citizen of Guyana, and no exceptional responsibility is placed on the shoulders of Mr Dharamlall, who I would contend is perfectly entitled to criticise the judges, save for some exceptional comments, which he has commendably withdrawn.
I take the opportunity to point Ms. Janki to an outstanding example of public criticism of the judiciary by a leading member of the executive of the United States of America, none other than the President of the United States himself. In or around January 2010, in an address to the US House of Representatives, and to an audience which included the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, President Obama criticised the judges of that court for their decision to reverse 100 years of legal reform, which decision he contended opened the floodgates to corporate influence on the affairs of the United States Government and on the politics of the State. His remarks were met with loud applause by congressmen and women, while the Supreme Court judges present squirmed and grimaced.
Ms. Janki, the internationalist she is held out to be, must be aware of the description by former Prime Minister Stuart of Barbados, of the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice as “politicians in robes.”
The other matter I wish to consider as advanced by international lawyer Janki is her contention that criticism of the judiciary must be legitimate. A core feature of legitimate criticism is relevance. Criticism ought not to be wild or whimsical. Mr Dharamlall contextualised his criticism of the majority ruling of the majority ruling of the Court of Appeal. In that regard, he was both relevant and consequently legitimate.
Ms. Janki is behind in time with respect to judicial criticism. Though wary of repetition, I repeat, for her benefit, the words of Lord Carswell (who must have been well known to Lord Bingham) that “Judges have to be hardy enough to shrug off criticism, even if it is intemperate or abusive, which has happened, even if it is unfair and ill informed….”
Ms. Janki has thrown quotations and references in her letter seemingly without consideration for their relevance. Her reference to an extract from the Latimer House principles on careful reading does nothing to advance the thrust of her letter. The quote from Lord Bingham is contextually meaningless.
As an aside, without knowing the “domus” of Ms. Janki as an International lawyer, I wonder whether in the jurisdiction where ever she resides, she would be able to say whether Mr. Roysdale Forde and Mr. Joseph Harmon, lawyers from the APNU/PNC, given their advocacy of the invalidity of Parliamentary proceedings because of the absence of a Mace or for the use of a replica of the Mace, would in that jurisdiction be eligible to be considered international lawyers.