Williams could have been jailed – Ramkarran

…rubbishes AG’s “transferred frustration” claims

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran has stated that Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams could have been fined or jailed for his recent outbursts before High Court Judge, Justice Franklin Holder.

Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran
Justice Franklin Holder
Attorney General Basil Williams

Following an exchange between the Attorney General and the High Court Judge on March 23, Justice Holder stormed out of the courtroom without adjourning the matter before him. The AG was quoted as having said, “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.”
However, according to Ramkarran, there are certain rules about how lawyers ought to behave in court. He cited the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Act 2010, Rule VII (3), which states that “an Attorney-at-Law shall treat the court with courtesy and respect…”, and Rule VII (5), which states that “Attorney-at-Laws shall not engage in angry verbal exchanges in Court even if made sotto voce.” Additionally, the Senior Counsel referred to Section 34 (2), which outlines that “n Attorney-at-Law who breaches the code of conduct counts as an act of professional misconduct”.
To this end, Ramkarran said in this week’s “Conversation Tree” column that “the Judge could, there and then, have cited Mr Williams for contempt in the face of the Court… (And) if Mr Williams pleads or is found guilty, he could have been fined or worse, imprisoned.”

According to Ramkarran, while the Attorney General, a highly visible public figure holding one of the most important positions in Government, can avoid the sanction of the Judge by not appearing before him again, this is not an option for a person holding his offices and especially since the matter has reached the Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) and the President.
“Since a private apology is now out of the question, because the Judge’s letter demanding an apology in open court is in the public domain, Mr Williams could now be forced to consider a public apology. Failing this, the Chancellor (ag) can convene the Full Court and set in motion the process to hear a complaint of misconduct against Mr Williams. The Full Court can impose a penalty as severe as disbarment,” the Senior Counsel noted.
He went on to point out that the President has no business in how the courts treat with the matter or in mediating an outcome, although, representing the Government, which is the Attorney General’s client, the President may suggest a course of conduct to Williams. Even if the matter is concluded to the satisfaction of the Judge, the President may have additional political concerns, Ramkarran asserted.
“A long time ago, Mr Williams and I exchanged sharp and angry words before a judge in open court. We were both wrong, because we both participated. The next time I saw Mr Williams in the Supreme Court corridor, he approached me with outstretched hand. He can bring this matter to an end,” Ramkarran noted.
Furthermore, the Senior Counsel outlined in his column that the Attorney General has accused Attorney-at-law Anil Nandlall, who was the defence lawyer in court during the incident and who publicly revealed the matter, of “iniquity” and suggested that the Judge’s reaction against him was one of “transferred frustration”.
“The Judge, who seemed unaware of this highly innovative concept, denied Mr Williams’s allegation against Mr Nandlall,” the former Speaker stated, dismissing the AG’s “transferred frustration” claim.
Despite the Judge saying that the Attorney General was the cause for him to walk off the Bench, Williams is holding out that he is not to be blamed for what happened. In fact, the Attorney General even defended his actions and his statements. He believed that the Judge fell prey to “transferred frustration” as a result of Nandlall’s “barracking” of nearly three hours.
Moreover, Williams also insisted that his comment was not a threat and refused to apologise to the Judge saying to reporters at a subsequent press conference that “I don’t know about apology” and that “…the Judge and I will resolve the issue.”
However, in a formal complaint to the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, the day after the incident, Justice Holder said that he felt disrespected by the Attorney General, whose behaviour he called despicable and contemptuous, while calling for an apology in open court.
“I am not prepared to sit and hear Mr Williams as an attorney-at-law in any matter whatsoever, unless he makes a genuine and meaningful apology to my satisfaction, in open court, both to me and to members of the Bar since they too were scandalised by his despicable conduct,” the High Court Judge outlined in his complaint, which has since been made public.
Acting Chancellor Cummings-Edwards had told reporters earlier last week that she was in receipt of information about the matter and it was being “addressed”. In addition, President David Granger subsequently told reporters that he had asked AG Williams to submit a detailed explanation of what transpired, which was done. However, the Head of State said at the time, he was yet to review the document.