High Court Judge, Franklyn Holder on Monday, citing perceptions of bias, recused himself from a now “politicized” case in which Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams has been accused of disrespectful conduct.
“I find that it will be prudent, judicious and in the interest of the administration of justice that I recuse myself from the case,” Justice Holder said. Williams did not attend court during the announcement.
The matter has been referred to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards for re-assignment.
In a prepared statement read to legal representatives of the State and Carville Duncan, the High Court Judge said his decision to withdraw from the case was not made in recent days. “The decision to recuse myself is not recent and os not informed by any skewed, illogical and improper reasoning expressed by some reported in the press but is one deeply rooted in my recognition and appreciation of what is required in the circumstances and in the interest of the administration of justice,” he added.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo-who is a respondent in the case about Duncan’s removal from the Public, Police and Judicial Service Commissions because of fraud charges in the Magistrates’ Court- at the weekend petitioned Attorney General Williams to ask that Justice Holder recuse himself for fear of an unfair trial.
Justice Holder noted Williams lost another opportunity to apologise and instead he has since politicised the issue. “Instead, wearing another hat, he was moved during the ensuing weeks to systematically flip the script and to spin this matter in a manner now common in other jurisdictions, to the extent that it has now in my respectful opinion become politicised and irretrievably infected with the perception of bias,” the judge said.
Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, who is representing Duncan, had initially highlighted Williams’ utterances in court.
Justice Holder remarked that judges in keeping with their constitutional duties and functions and out of respect for the dignity and majesty of their office do not consort with the press. “Politicians for obvious reasons are so wont. The Court is not a forum for politicking. This Court, for the good of us all, and in its role as guardian of the constitution must remain objective and evidence-based,” he added.
The High Court Judge said he did not err by rising from the bench on March 23, 2017 without giving further directions or citing Williams for contempt for his “disrespectful” behaviour. “When I rise from the bench on the 23rd March, 2017 without citing Mr. Williams for contempt of court for his insolent and disrespectful behaviour was a decision I made not in error, through oversight nor owing to my unawareness of the availability of that option to me. I do not now regret it as it accords in my respectful view with contemporary learning on the issue,” he said.
Justice Holder explained that he “consciously” did so to allow him time to reflect, more so taking into consideration Mr. Williams’ status of Senior Counsel, Attorney General and leader of the Bar as well as give him (the Attorney General) an opportunity to apologise. “Indeed, it was hoped that it would have allowed him time to reflect on his conduct and give him an opportunity to do what was fit and proper in the circumstances so as to avoid him bringing the administration of justice int disrepute,” added Holder.
He said the Attorney General’s statements in the long-run over a period of time might be considered contemptuous. ” These statements of Mr. Williams that I have recounted taken individually may be perceived as insolent behaviour and not necessarily contempt of Court. However, when considered collectively and withing the time frame that they were made these statements prima facie constitute contemptuous behaviour on his part,” he added.
The High Court judge is angered by the Attorney General’s “rather loud and bellicose manner” and insinuation that the Court was being selective in recording the evidence by a witness. The judge denied the Attorney General’s claim that “all morning Nandlall disrespecting you and you have not done anything about it.” “This was not a true statement reflective of the proceedings at the time.”
Holder also objected to Williams’ “most egregious statement” that “I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it, I have always been like that.”
In his petition to the Attorney General for Justice Holder to recuse himself, the Prime Minister had cited that the judge had the power to handle the alleged incident between himself and the State’s Attorney General amicably in Court instead of retiring to his Chambers without the formal rising of the Court, the petition to Madame Chancellor requiring the State’s Attorney General to compulsorily apologise in open court before the Court’s continuation of the State’s matter and forwarding by the Honourable Chancellor of the petition aforesaid to the President who is a party to the Suit.