Victory for Judy Benoit and Ruggles Ferguson

The Court of Appeal on Monday delivered a ruling at a sitting in St. George’s which re-instates  the legal action taken by sacked Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit against Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.

Earlier in the year, Solicitor-General, Dwight Horsford was able to get a sole Justice of Appeal to throw out the Benoit case on a legal technicality.

Defense attorney Ruggles Ferguson who was furious over the decision served notice that he would make an application for a full panel of Court of Appeal Justices to hear the matter.

The Justices of Appeal met Monday briefly on the submission and ruled in favour of Benoit who is trying to get the law courts to review the decision taken by Dame Cecile last year to remove her from the post following complaints from the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government.

The ruling effectively reverses the short-lived victory of the State.

At the crux of the matter is a ruling handed down by  Justice of Appeal Louis Blenman who on January 21heard arguments put forward by SG Horsford on behalf of Dame Cecile.

Horsford was challenging an order made by high court judge, Justice Paula Gilford granting Benoit permission to file for judicial review of the manner in which the GG removed her from the office of Supervisor of Elections.

The Judge is said to have made the order on submissions made to her by Ferguson in the absence of Counsel for the GG –  the rules permit the judge to do so.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the order was made on November 14, 2013 but the court did not communicate the decision about the order to either parties, as well as failed to draw the order up or have it served on the parties.

A legal source said the effect is that neither the GG or Benoit knew that leave was granted.

He added that what was rather intriguing is that the application for leave was dated by the Supreme Court Registry as having been heard on November 28, 2013.

The records will show that on November 25, 2013, Ferguson served Dame Cecile with an application for leave and two days later Horsford filed “a Notice of Objection to the application for leave” and put forward his written arguments.

The registry then notified the two sides on November 28, 2013 that the Benoit matter was adjourned to December 12, 2013 for hearing before Justice Gilford in High Court No. 2.

This newspaper was told  that on the day in question, Ferguson was on his feet making oral arguments in support of leave when the Judge interrupted him.

A source who asked not to be named said the judge sent for her notebook and after reviewing it advised that she had “already granted leave and apologised for not sending out a leave order”.

Horsford took the position that the grant of leave is covered by the Civil Procedure Rules of the Court and conditional upon action being taken within 14 days of the leave and that order dies at the end of that period.

He held the view that the order granting leave by the judge had expired and could not be revived or revisited.

In his ruling, the Court of Appeal Justice concluded that the Judge at the lower court had no jurisdiction to extend the time within which to comply with the original grant of leave.

Ferguson took a contrary position in that since his client (Benoit) did not know of the original order of Justice Gilford made on November 14, 2013, she was not bound by it and it was a mere

With the extended Court of Appeal jurists now ruling in his favour, the lead lawyer at Ciboney Chambers has been given the green light to proceed with his case against Dame Cecile on behalf of Benoit.

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