Former Attorney General, Cajeton Hood is hopping mad over the June 3 date set for the first hearing of a constitutional claim filed by Justis Chambers against the Keith Mitchell-led government on behalf of secondary school teacher, Donna Lusan.
In an interview with THE NEW TODAY on Monday, Attorney Hood, who returned to head Justis Chambers in October 2017, after serving government as its principal legal advisor for four (4) and-a-half years, said the first court date, which is set for about five (5) months after the claim was filed in January, is in breach of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), which stipulates for matters of this nature to be given a date “no later than four (4) weeks” after the date when the claim was filed.
“We filed an ‘originating motion’ on her (Lusan’s) behalf on Monday, January 28, 2019 and we got back from the court a date of June 3, 2019,” he said.
According to the lawyer, an originating motion is the title that is given to special claims that are filed in court and that there is a section within the Civil Procedure Rules, which covers that area including constitutional matters.
Hood described the case as “a very, very important” and “a landmark matter” that should be heard expeditiously by the law courts.
“…I can’t recall any case in which a government, an Executive, decided, contrary to the Constitution, to refuse to pay the full salary of workers who they claim were on strike…they (the government) said she was on strike and she is saying she was not on strike”, he said.
“The amusing thing is that the teacher is bold enough to challenge the (government’s) decision not to pay her for (5) five days…in a claim for relief under the Constitution, which is the highest law in Grenada. So, it (the teacher’s claim) is supposed to be treated in a special way”, he added.
Lusan is a teacher at the Church Street-based St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s, whose salary was docked by approximately EC$1, 200.00 in retaliation by the Keith Mitchell government following a union-led strike action last November on the 25% pension and gratuity payment issue.
According to the former Attorney-General, “the rule in the civil procedure rule, which we are supposed to be operating by, says that the first hearing (for constitutional claims) must be held no later than four (4) weeks after the date of issue of the claim”.
“So this means when a claim is filed, the court office is supposed to insert a fixed date on the claim for the first hearing…it is a clear breach of the rules, which says a first hearing must and the word must mean that you don’t have a choice. That’s the language of the statute.
The first hearing must take place within four (4) weeks”, he said.
“And quite honestly, I am alarmed by this,” added the attorney, who wrote to the Supreme Court Registrar last week Wednesday, pointing out that in light of the date, when the claim was filed on January 28, the June 3rd date set for hearing is contrary to the provisions of our rules (CPR).
“I have written the Registrar and served the Registrar since last week Wednesday and I have not had the courtesy of a response by telephone or otherwise”, he revealed.
Hood recalled last November when the Attorney General’s Chambers then headed by Dr. Lawrence Joseph was able to move the court to have a hearing of an injunction against the unions on a Sunday, purporting to prevent them from advising their members to engage in strike action.
“They (government) were able to move the court to have a hearing on a Sunday…only to hear afterwards that the matter was adjourned and then a few days later the matter was flippantly discontinued not by Mr. (James) Bristol, (who was mitigating on behalf of the unions) but by the government side.
“And the matter was being mitigated (on behalf of the government) by the current Attorney General (Darshan Ramdhani), who was then (serving as a) Consultant in the Ministry of Legal Affairs,” Attorney Hood pointed out.
“If that frivolous application by the Attorney General’s Chambers could have been heard on a Sunday (because) it was so urgent…and now I am claiming that what the government has done in taking money out of the teacher’s pay package, which is directly in contrary to the laws of Grenada and it’s not considered urgent and has been put to a date of June 3, then I don’t know what could concern me more,” he declared.
THE NEW TODAY understands that both the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU) are giving full support to a lawsuit being contemplated against government for docking of the salaries of striking public sector workers.