Chancellor observes AG Williams has not responded to Justice Holder’s letter; next court date fixed

Last Updated on Friday, 5 May 2017, 0:22 by Denis Chabrol

Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards on Thursday noted that Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams has not responded to Justice Franklin Holder’s concerns about his conduct in court.

“A copy of Justice Holder’s letter was sent to Mr. Williams SC for his information and guidance and any response. To date Mr Williams SC has not responded directly to that letter,” said the Chancellor.

However, Minister of State Joseph Harmon has confirmed that the Attorney General (AG) has submitted his explanation to the President in relation to alleged threats to Justice Franklin Holder in the High Court.

“I know for a fact that the Attorney General has written his Excellency,” Minister Harmon said at today’s post -Cabinet press briefing. He was responding to questions from the media.

“Those are correspondence directed to the President and in due course he will act as necessary,” Minister Harmon explained.

The President had called on the AG and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, Senior Counsel (SC), to explain the events of March 23, 2017 following accusations in the media from the former AG, Anil Nandlall, against Williams.

The Minister had added he is prepared to work with Justice Holder to resolve the issue. Justice Holder has since written to the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary explaining the incident.

President Granger had told the local media he had written the Chancellor of the Judiciary and gotten Justice Holder’s version of the event, and declined to draw conclusion on the matter until he heard from the AG.

The Chancellor of the Judiciary said the case has been fixed for May 8, 2017 at 9:30 am before Justice Holder, and notices have been sent to the parties.

The Chancellor of the Judiciary”s observation and announcement were made the same day that government announced the appointment of a Council of Advisers  the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.

Cummings-Edwards said she never complained to President David Granger but merely informed him about the incident because Mr. Williams holds the Executive position of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.

Sources close to Mr Williams have said he has done nothing wrong and it was Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall who haf bern responsible for the turn of events in the courtroom.

Following is Justice Holder’s letter of complaint o the Chancellor of the Judiciary that she said Williams has not responded to directly.

Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran is among those who have urged Williams to apologise. Ramkarran has warned that Williams could be cited for breach of the Legal Practitioners Act and could be disbarred.

Letter from Justice Franklin Holder to the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards.
The Honourable Chancellor (ag.)
Madam Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, CCH.
The High Court of the Supreme Court,
Dear Madam Chancellor,

I would like to report an incident which occurred on the 23rd day of March, 2017, in the matter of the Application by Carvil Duncan, during the cross-examination of a witness by Mr Basil Williams, SC.
The Attorneys-at-Law in court at the time, including Mr Williams, were Ms Sam and Ms Stuart who were with him, and Mr Nandlall and Mr Jaigobin who appeared for the applicant.

During the cross-examination of the witness, Mr Williams had asked a question, the answer to which I initially recorded as “yes”. However, because of what the witness said immediately after and Mr Williams’ desire to cross-examine her on a document which she had prepared and for which he was making application to have admitted into evidence, I crossed out the answer “yes”.
Further into his cross-examination Mr Williams made certain statements which suggested that it was his belief, that the witness had said “yes”, and that this was the record of the Court. On recognising Mr Williams’ misconception of this part of the evidence, I then read aloud the record of the court in this regard. I further offered that he may ask the witness the question again if he so desired, since the record showed that there was no answer to the question. Mr Williams did not do so.
However, he proceeded to ask other questions of the witness, the answer to one of which, the witness said “no”. Upon the witness saying this, Mr. Williams, in a rather loud and bellicose tone said that I, the judge, must record “no” (in my Minute Book). I then said to him that a record is being made that the witness did say “no”. Apparently, not being satisfied with my assurance, Mr Williams followed up with words to the effect, that previously the witness had said yes and the court chose not to make a record of this. I then told Mr Williams that I took umbrage to his tone and what he was insinuating, which was in effect, that the Court was being selective in recording the evidence.

Mr Williams, in a truculent manner, while standing in the well of the court, responded by saying that the last person who told him what he should not say, was a Magistrate and he is now dead. He further said that “all morning Mr Nandlall disrespecting you, and you have not done anything about it.” This was, however, not a true statement of what had occurred. This was followed by a most egregious statement by Mr Williams, that “I could say what I want to say and when I want to say it, I have always been like that.”
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.
I recognise Mr Williams’ behaviour as I have related to be insulting, disrespectful, and calculated to scandalise and lower the authority of the Court in the face of the Court.
Mr Williams’ behaviour was highly contemptuous and deserving of him being cited for contempt in the face of the Court. Instead of doing so at that moment, I chose to leave the Bench.
However, it does not mean that Mr Williams’ behaviour should go unattended. He is not only a Senior Counsel, he is also the Attorney General and leader of the Bar. His behaviour begs the question, whether he is respectful and aware of the functions and duties that attend these offices.
I am not prepared to sit to 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 the Members of the Bar, since they too were scandalized by his despicable conduct