The Court of Appeal has adjourned the much-anticipated hearing of the appeal in the vaccine mandate case, which was scheduled for hearing today (Thursday).
When the case was called, all lawyers involved were present in the virtual hearing, which took place via the Zoom platform.
However, Justice of Appeal Mario Michel, who was president of the three-member panel — whose other members were Justices of Appeal Trevor Ward and Gerard Farara — said that one of the members of the panel who was scheduled to hear and determine the matter was unable to sit as part of the panel.
“Accordingly, and regrettably, this matter will be adjourned to a date to be fixed by the chief registrar in consultation with counsel,” Justice Michel said.
He said he wanted to assure the lawyers involved in the matter that the chief registrar would be asked to find the first available date convenient to counsel.
Justice Michel said this is to avoid any further delay in the hearing of this matter.
“Of course, the court deeply regrets having to take this course of action. We’re assuming that all counsel were in fact ready to proceed with the matter,” he said.
Justice Michel further apologised to the lawyers, saying that they undoubtedly would have expended much time and effort in preparing for the matter.
“Hopefully, that time and effort would not be completely dissipated by the fact that very soon the matter should be rescheduled for hearing.”
He further apologised noting that just two days earlier, the Court of Appeal had chided counsel for seeking an adjournment on the morning when a matter was called even as the other side had agreed to the adjournment.
“And I lamented the fact how much time would have been utilised preparing the matter up until four o’clock that morning,” the judge said.
“And what the court has just subjected counsel to is probably the same thing that counsel in that other method subjected the court to. so, we know how inconvenient that must be the council. And as I said, on behalf of the bench, my sincerest apologies.”
Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan, the lead lawyer for the government in the case, informed the court that he would be unavailable during the last week of February.
On March 13, 2023, High Court judge Justice Esco Henry ruled that the public sector workers dismissed under the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which came into effect in December 2021, never ceased to hold their jobs.
She ordered the government to pay them all wages and benefits they would have received had it not been for the government’s decision to terminate them.
Justice Henry further ordered that the government pay punitive damages.
The government appealed the decision of the court and applied for a stay of execution of the order, which acting Justice of Appeal Paul Webster granted last April.
The Public Service Union, SVG Teachers Union and the Police Welfare Association sponsored the lawsuit in which the claimants were dismissed public sector workers, Shanile Howe, Novita Robert, Cavet Thomas, Alfonzo Lyttle, Brenton Smith, Sylvorne Olliver, Shefflorn Ballantyne, Travis Cumberbatch and Rohan Giles.
The respondents were the Minister of Health and the Environment, the Public Service Commission, the Commissioner of Police, the Attorney General and the Police Service Commission.
At Thursday’s hearing, Astaphan, Solicitor General, Karen Duncan Gonsalves, Senior Crown Counsel Cerepha Harper-Joseph, Franeek Joseph, Shernell Hadaway, parliamentary counsel, and Grahame Bollers appeared for the appellants.
Cara Shillingford-Marsh, Jomo Sanga Thomas and Shirlan Barnwell appeared for the respondents