The judge in the election petitions case says the failure of some of the lawyers involved in the case to obey an order she gave in July 2017 led to the “delay” in her ruling on whether to give permission to inspect ballot boxes used in the 2015 general election.
On Tuesday, when she gave the ruling denying such permission, Justice Esco Henry said that she had not received from some of the lawyers in the matter, electronic copies of written submissions, pleadings and affidavits on the application, which was heard Dec. 12 and 13.
Henry said she was “disappointed” that some of the lawyers involved in the matter did not comply with the order of the court.
The judge first made the observation in open court after consulting with both sides about whether they had sent the documents.
Maia Eustace, instructing solicitor for the petitioners, said that her side had sent the documents.
Richards Williams, a lawyer for the respondents, said that he thinks that his side sent them but was not “a hundred per cent sure”.
The judge noted that after hearing arguments in December 2017, she had promised a decision in January or February 2018.
She observed that it has taken a full two months to prepare the decision.
Henry said the information she has from the clerk and the secretary was that lawyers for the petitioners submitted some of the documents electronically but the other parties did not.
“If that is correct, that, largely, is attributable for what might be considered by some a delay in delivering this decision. And appropriate remarks will be appended to the end of this decision,” the judge told the court, and went on to read the main point of her decision, before circulating the written version a few hours later.
In a postscript to her written judgement, Henry said she “must confess that I remain disappointed and askance that some counsel without proffering an explanation, did not supply electronic copies of written submissions, pleadings and affidavits in accordance with the court order dated 12th July 2017.”
She, however, said that Grahame Bollers and Carlos James, two lawyers for the respondents, did not fall into that category.
“Legal practitioners for the Petitioner Benjamin Exeter provided electronic copies of some but not all documents, including their skeleton arguments/written submissions and affidavits sworn to by Mr. Exeter.
“Whether it was due to inadvertence, design or otherwise, the flouting of the court’s order in a case of some significance in which no less than 10 legal practitioners appear on the record, is frightening and cause for concern. It paints a very stark and vocal picture of the state of aspects of the administration of justice, especially in circumstances when some of the region’s leading lawyers appear,” Henry wrote in her judgement.
The judge said that such conduct “is alarming and sends the wrong signals.
“Equally significantly, it militates against the expeditious dispatch of the court’s work since the judge must of necessity sit to reconstruct the relevant portions of pleadings, affidavits and exhibits instead of cutting, pasting and adjusting in a more timely fashion as permitted by the technology.
“Suffice it to say, that if this is how the legal practitioners intend to conduct themselves during this matter, it is unlikely that the final decision will be rendered within the timelines contemplated by the Court of Appeal, when it sent this matter back to the High Court for determination in March 2017.”
Ben Exeter, who was the main opposition New Democratic Party in Central Leeward in the 2015 polls, filed the motion to inspect the ballot boxes as part of a petition he has brought challenging the results in that district.
The NDP’s Lauron Baptiste is also challenging the outcome in North Windward, where the ruling Unity Labour Party’s Montgomery Daniel was declared the winner.