Outspoken attorney-at-law, Anselm Clouden has spoken out on the issue of the Justices of the Court of Appeal pulling out of this week’s sitting allegedly on the grounds of monies owed to them by Grenada.
Speculation is rife that the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) did not pay the Justices for two years and the current New National Party (NNP) administration is one year in payment default to the judges.
Last year, the Court of Appeal sat once in Grenada and as a result a number of cases that should have been adjudicated was not done.
Clouden told reporters at a press conference Monday that there have been reports that the NDC administration of Tillman Thomas had not paid its dues to the judiciary for two years.
He said that payments to the judiciary must be done by all member states within the OECS Supreme Court.
He stated that although the issue of non-payment started within the 2008-13 reign of Congress, the present administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell should be held culpable as well because there is continuity in government.
“If you don’t (pay), it compromises the judiciary, creates great inconvenience to litigants and it challenges or threatens judicial independence,” he said
According to Clouden, the non-payment to the judiciary sends a very bad signal not only to the legal profession but also to potential investors to the country.
“A strong and independent judiciary is one of the central support upon which our liberties are based and upon which our rule of law depends,” he said.
The long-standing lawyer argued that administrative arrangements must in no way impair the agreed constitutional function of the judges in relation to the determination of individual cases.
“Judges within the OECS both at the local level and the regional level ought to be able to function without impairment by the Executive – that is to say, the Executive not paying and I suspect this has been the problem in respect to Grenada in particular in the past,” he said.
Clouden contends that administrative arrangements can affect for better or for worse the work of the judges and in Grenada’s case it was for the worst.
The Court of Appeal absence affects “both litigants who would appear before the court and lawyers who have to fly in for cases at the Court of Appeal,” said Clouden.
“The non-appearance by the Court of Appeal can adversely affect the rights of convicted prisoners who may other wise be entitled to be free,” he added.
Clouden cited one of the problems that come with the absence of the Judiciary is that it compromises justice for someone who may be wrongfully accused.
“Every day that a prisoner remains on an unjust adjudication is an assault to his liberty, to his right to be free in accordance to the rule of law,” he said.
In order to maintain the integrity of an independent judiciary, Clouden said, certain obligations of the nation state must be adhered to and complied with.
He feared that if this was not done the law could be sacrificed.
The next sitting of the court of Appeal is due for July but Clouden said if the current situation is not remedied, it may continue with the Court of Appeal judges not showing up for their assignment in Grenada.
One of the current members of the court is Justice Davidson Baptiste who is known to have complained about the conditions he was forced to work in Grenada while serving as a judge.
The Grenada Bar Association was forced to take the Baptiste case to the public under a former Mitchell government.
Meanwhile, Attorney General, Cajenton Hood told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that arrangements have been made with the Chief Justice to have one-third out of the 3.3 million out to be paid to the Supreme Court as a part payment for the Justices of Appeal.