High Court drama
– President demands explanation from AG
By Vahnu Manikchand
One week after High Court Judge, Justice Franklin Holder stormed out of the courtroom following an exchange with Attorney General Basil Williams, President David Granger has revealed that the AG has been asked to formally give a detailed explanation of the incident.
Speaking publicly for the first time on the issue, the Head of State told media operatives at State House on Thursday that Williams has since submitted his explanation.
“The Attorney General has responded. I have asked for an explanation of the matters which were reported to me and when I have that opportunity, I will respond to him and the Chancellor of the Judiciary,” he stated.
Nevertheless, President Granger indicated to reporters that he was confident the matter would be resolved, after hearing from all the parties involved.
“You know in law, there is a principle of hear the other side so you mustn’t jump to conclusions; so I want to hear both sides. We heard one side in the media and I’ve asked the Attorney General for his side,” the Head of State noted.
Newly-appointed acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards told reporters on Tuesday that she was in receipt of information on the matter and the issue was currently “being addressed”.
Justice Holder has formally complained to the Chancellor of the Judiciary that he abruptly walked out of the courtroom last Thursday as a result of statements made by the Attorney General.
The AG was quoted as saying, “I could say what I want to say and however I want to say it, I have always been like that”, and “…The last Magistrate who did that to me was later found dead”.
According to Justice Holder in his complaint filed on Friday last, he felt disrespected by the Attorney General’s behaviour.
The High Court Judge said he “took umbrage to his (Williams’) tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect that the court was being selective in recording the evidence”. The Judge said Williams responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say was a magistrate and he was now dead.
“He further said all morning Mr Nandlall disrespecting you and you have not done anything about it,” Holder wrote, adding that this was not a true statement of what had occurred.
“This was followed by a most egregious statement by Mr Williams which is: ‘I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it; I have always been like that’,” the Judge complained.
At this point, Justice Holder said he left the bench without adjourning the matter. “Immediately after hearing these words, I rose from the bench and went into my chambers. I did not adjourn the matter, nor did I give any instructions to the parties,” Justice Holder outlined in the letter, while expressing that the Attorney General should apologise to him in an open court.
However, the State’s chief legal adviser has expressed an unwillingness to do so when asked at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters, “What? I don’t know about apology.”
Despite the Judge saying that the Attorney General was the reason for him walking off the bench, Williams is holding out that he is not to be blamed for what happened. “(Anil) Nandlall was the one who caused the problem…we can’t allow Nandlall to create this problem and leave it unresolved. The Judge and I will resolve this issue,” Williams insisted.
In fact, the Attorney General even defended his actions and his statements. “Everything I dealt with in that short time was to disabuse the learned Judge’s mind that his interpretation was not (so),” he stated.
Williams believed that the Judge fell prey to “transferred frustration” as a result of Nandlall’s “barracking” of nearly three hours.
“Perhaps his detaining the learned Judge again as he was preparing to leave the bench, seeking clarity on whether the witness’s answer of ‘no’ was recorded, induced certain misapprehensions in the Judge’s mind in all the circumstances and the Attorney General became the victim of transferred frustration,” the AG said at a press conference following the incident.
Moreover, Williams also insisted that his comment was not a threat even though the defence lawyer at the time, Anil Nandlall described it as one.
The incident occurred during the trial of Carvil Duncan, who had moved to the court to block the work of a presidential tribunal that was set up to determine whether he should be removed from his post as Chairman of the Public Service Commission in light of his criminal charges, one of which has since been dismissed at the Magistrate’s Court.