Attorney General reluctant to apologise to High Court Judge

Last Updated on Monday, 3 April 2017, 7:39 by Denis Chabrol

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

Attorney General, Basil Williams is very reluctant to apologise to Justice Franklin Holder, according to well-placed sources.

But former House Speaker, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran says the Court can still take action against the government’s principal legal adviser.

Sources close to the Attorney General say he believes if Justice Holder thought he was contemptuous , then he should have cited him for such a breach instead of walking off the bench without adjourning the case.

Williams, according to the sources, contend that his utterances in the High Court before Justice Holder could not amount to contempt because he (Williams) was praising himself.

Concerns have been also raised about the fact that Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards forwarded the complaint to President David Granger without giving Senior Counsel Williams an opportunity to be heard on the matter.

However, writing in his weekly column, Conversation Tree, Ramkarran suggested that the Attorney General could be cited for breach of the the Legal Practitioners Act that states that an Attorney-at-Law shall treat the court with courtesy and respect, shall not participate in angry verbal exchanges in Court even if made sotto voce (soft or low tones) and that an Attorney-at-Law who breaches the code of conduct counts as an act of professional misconduct.

Theoretically, Ramkarran said the Attorney General could avoid sanctions by not appearing before the Judge again and so the best route for him is to make public apology. Ramkarran cautioned that Williams  could be possibly disbarred if the matter is taken to the Full Court. “Mr Williams, 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, but this is not an option for a person holding his offices and especially since the matter has reached the Chancellor (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,” said Ramkarran.

He said President David Granger has no role to play in how the  Court deals with the issue, and even if the matter is resolved to the satisfaction, the  President could address other political concerns that he might have.

While former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall had expressed grave concern  about a section of Williams remarks in court that the last judge who had told him what to say was now dead, the Judge appeared more concerned about another section of his utterance. “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.”

Lawyers for the Attorney General have since written the Kaieteur News newspaper, requesting an apology and donation of an unmentioned sum of money to a charity for reporting that he had threatened Justice Holder. Williams’ lawyers told Kaieteur News that if they do not give into the demands, legal action will be filed against the publication for libel.

Williams is also the Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest party in the governing coalition.