The main opposition New Democratic Party has filed two appeals against the March 21 decision of acting High Court judge, Justice Stanley John to dismiss the two petitions the party filed, challenging the results of the December 2015 general elections in North Windward and Central Leeward.
The North Windward petition was filed on April 23, while the Central Leeward petition was filed last Tuesday, April 30.
Among the 28 grounds for appeal elaborated by Keith Scotland, lead counsel for, Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, the petitioner in the North Leeward case, was that the judge fell into error by “neglecting or omitting to provide any reasons for failing to consider the cogent and compelling evidence of Cheryl Sutherland and the controverted discredited evidence of Ville Davis, the first respondent, relative to the absence of a final count”.
This was a point on which the respondents in the case wrote to the court on three occasions after the judgement, asking that the judge provide reasons for ruling as he did on this point.
However, the only response from the court to the letters by Joseph “Joe” Delves, a lawyer for the government in the case, was to say that Justice John’s appointment had ended on the day that he handed down the ruling.
Maia Eustace, instructing solicitor in the Central Leeward case, told iWitness News on Wednesday that her chambers had received no response to a letter by Delves to the Chief Justice, asking that Justice John be reappointed temporarily so as to allow him to make the amendment to his ruling.
Delves’ letter, and one from the court, explaining the status of the jurist, has been copied to Eustace.
Justice John, a retired Trinidadian High Court judge was contracted to hear the petitions case, and has since been appointed temporarily to serve in Antigua and Barbuda.
Sutherland, a resident of Sandy Bay, was co-opted to witness the purported final count of ballots and other election documents on Dec. 10, 2015, the day after the general election, after none of the candidates or their agents attended the final count.
Sutherland, a schoolteacher, told the court that there was no individual counting of the ballots at the purported final count.
The first ground of each appeal is essentially the same: that the judge erred in fact and in law in dismissing the petitioner’s claim.
Scotland, a Trinidadian lawyer, is further arguing to the appeal court that Justice John erred in both law and fact when he failed to order an inspection of the ballots on the oral and documentary evidence foreshadowed by the witness statements, pleadings and viva voce testimony at trial, and/scrutiny and a recount of the ballots”.
The appellant is arguing that the judge declared valid the election of Montgomery Daniel of the Unity Labour Party, amidst what the petitioner said was “uncontroverted evidence” before the court.
Scotland is asking the Court of Appeal to rule that Justice John failed to properly consider the evidence of the then Supervisor of Election, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb as it relates to the design of the ballot boxes, the testimony with regard to Form 16 statements of polls in the trial, the significance of its absence relative to the conduct of the election, the fact that the absence of the Form 16 statement of polls was pleaded by the petitioner, and the fact that no explanation was given for the absence of the form 16 statement of polls in North Windward.
Scotland is also arguing that the judge fell into serious error in ruling that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the electoral law “despite multiple breaches of the election rules and the Representation of the People act.
The appellant is further arguing that the judge erred in fact and in law “when he failed to properly consider” that, based on the evidence and pleadings, none of the 14 ballot boxes produced by Ville Davis, the returning officer for North Windward at the purported final count were sealed in accordance with the relevant rules.
He said that, as a result, the ballot boxes were exposed “to the likelihood of the secrecy of the ballot being invaded and/or ballot papers being tampered with”.
The appellants are asking the appeal court to find that Justice John erred in fact and law by failing to treat with the complaint that there were 39 counterfoils more than the number of ballots, and that no recounting of the votes was done for North Windward.
The appellant is also arguing that the judge erred by holding that the election was conducted substantially in compliance with the law, even as none of the presiding officers transmitted to Davis envelopes containing keys of the ballot boxes in such manner as the election chief ought to have directed.
The lawyer is further arguing that the judge fell further into error when he ruled that the election was conducted in substantial compliance with the law “when the court had no documentation before it and the respondent failed to present any paper trail at all relative to the count that gave any detailed figure for the poll and no form 16 statement of the poll was every presented to the court for North Windward 1.
In the Central Leeward case, the law firm of Cato and Cato elaborated 27 grounds for Benjamin “Ben” Exeter’s appeal of the court ruling declaring as valid the election of Sir Louis Straker of the Unity Labour Party.