Lawyer Jemalie John and opposition senator Shevern John have asked the High Court to review the decision of the Cabinet to bar lawyers and limit parliamentarians parking in the yard of the High Court Building in Kingstown.
Lawyer Jomo Thomas of Jomo Thomas Chambers, acting for the claimants, have applied for leave for judicial review of the decision by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, as chairman of the Cabinet, contained in a Nov. 18, 2022 letter of the Registrar of the High Court, Andrea Young.
The letter prohibits members of the private bar from parking on the precincts of the High Court and restricts its use for parking by parliamentarians to when the house of Assembly is sitting.
A senior attorney, who asked not to be named, welcomed the legal move, saying, “This issue is not an issue if privilege as is outlined by the prime minister in his order to ban. The issue being reviewed is on of executive, prime ministerial overreach in that the prime minister had no authority to do what he did.”
If judicial review is granted, the applicants are asking the court to declare that the Court House Yard forms part of the precincts of the court and the power to regulate its use resides in the chief justice and not the Cabinet.
The applicants say that the Cabinet, therefore, exceeded its authority when it made the decision contained in the Nov. 18, 2022 letter by the registrar as to who can park and cannot park in the Court House Yard.
“Further or alternatively, in the circumstances of this case, it was procedurally improper for Cabinet to a make a decision effectively prohibiting [Counsel John] and members of the private bar from using the Court House Yard and restricting the use of the Court House Yard by the [registrar], for parking, without providing the applicants or members of the private bar and parliamentarians in general with an opportunity to be heard.”
The applicants are arguing that the use of the Court House Yard for parking by attorneys, jurors and parliamentarians is a long-standing practice and that they had a legitimate expectation that they would be consulted before a decision to curtail the practice was taken.
They say that prohibiting members of the private bar from parking at the Court House Yard while permitting “Counsel employed at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions/National Prosecution Service” is unreasonable and irrational.
The applicants further argue that the decision to restrict Senator John and parliamentarians to parking in the Court House Yard only when Parliament is in progress is unreasonable and irrational since the need for access by parliamentarians to the House of Assembly is not limited to periods when parliament is in session.
“In writing and issuing the 18th November 2022 letter the [Registrar] performed the role of an agent of the executive (Cabinet) which exceeded her authority as Registrar,” the application said.
They further said that implementation of the Cabinet decision contained in the registrar’s Nov. 18, 2022 letter “has caused irreparable damage as members of the private bar experience obstacles in accessing the court to represent their clients and jurors face obstacles in attending court in a timely manner, thereby disrupting the judicial process”.
They claimants said the implementation of the decision has also caused irreparable damage to the ability of parliamentarians to properly represent their constituents since they now experience difficulty to access the House of Assembly Office when they need to do so on days when Parliament is not in session.
“The Applicants have a good arguable case and should be granted an interim injunction to allow an immediate return to the centuries-old practice of utilising the Court House Yard thus aiding in the efficient and effective dispensation of justice and the making of laws in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the application for leave for judicial review said.