Chief Justice slams Attorney General over judges’ workload: “…you all don’t realise that if you cut us, we will bleed”

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 June 2024, 22:51 by Writer

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire

Time Limit for Judicial Decisions Act is heresy – Chief Justice

Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on Thursday lashed out at Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall who recently cautioned that judges could be removed for failing to write their decisions within 120 days.

Just minutes before scheduling decisions in two cases about the government’s eviction of residents of Cane View, Mocha, East Bank Demerara in January, 2023 to December 6, 2024, she remarked that everyone wants to refer to the four-month rule but there were 400 cases to be dealt with.

“I think that sometimes you all don’t realise that if you cut us, we will bleed,” she said, strongly suggesting that the judges are human beings whose work-load is extremely heavy. She said that she deals with 100 to 200 files weekly.

When the Attorney General agreed with her, saying “I know, I know Your Honour”, he almost immediately incurred the Chief Justice’s wrath. “No, no, no! You don’t think so,” she said. Mr Nandlall interjected once more and said the law should be changed, to which Ms George-Wiltshire replied that the law should have never been passed in the first place. “That was heresy. I don’t care that who reports that I said so. Heresy!,” she said.

Mr Nandlall sought to exclude himself from playing any role in passing the Time Limit for Judicial Decisions Act (2009) that prescribes that judges’ decisions must be made within 120 days but the Chief Justice indicated that he might have voted in favour of that law as a parliamentarian.

“I was not the Attorney General,” he said to which she retorted sharply, “I don’t care who was the Attorney General. Parliament passed it and I don’t doubt Mr Nandlall that you were quite well-seated there so I appreciate it was passed,” she said. Mr Nandlall said he was not in the House then.

The Chief Justice objected strenuously to public criticisms about the judges’ decisions and performances. “Terrible comments are made about the judges. It’s distressing. I have to comment. People are talking about judges being presumptuous and all kinds of things. It’s horrible,” she said.

Last month, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo deemed as “presumptuous” High Court Judge, Sandil Kissoon for stating in a decision in favour of the Guyana Teachers’ Union that President Irfaan Ali’s meeting with teachers was not collective bargaining.

She said she did not mind being criticised, but at the same time she was concerned that those criticisms were “unfair” and inculcating a culture of disrespect for the court system. “It’s very unfair and it’s also in effect bringing the entire judiciary into disrepute and causes John and Jane Public to think that they must not obey the courts’ orders, they must not be respectful of the court when some people are very, very disrespectful to us,” she said.

Attorney General Nandlall only recently publicly expressed concern that judges were violating the law by failing to produce their decisions in a timely manner. “Now, I know there have been shortages of judges and there have been many reasons and issues affecting the Judiciary; but there is a law, and this law must be complied with. Every other person in the country is expected to comply with the laws of this land. The executive is held to comply with the law, every agency of state is enjoined to obey the law, no agency is above the law,” he said on a recent edition of his weekly Facebook show “Issues In The News”.

But Chief Justice George-Wiltshire did not mince words in defending her colleagues’ work ethic in getting the job done without complaining openly. She challenged anyone to provide any evidence that judges, Commissioners of Title, Justices of Appeal, and Magistrates had said anything publicly that they were under pressure and stress. “Is not like we’re sitting down here twiddling our thumbs. No judge in Guyana sits and twiddles their thumbs. None. We have been fortunate that people have carried the load without a murmur, not one murmur,” she said.

Mr Nandlall sought to assure the Chief Justice that more judges were about to be appointed. “We are getting some valuable additions soon” but she said they would still have to grapple with a lot of work. “The load that they have to carry is not going to be easy. The files are all waiting for them,” she said.