Since writing the following article, it is reported in the Nation News that the Barbados Bar Association is contemplating strike action against the Supreme Court in general and the Chief Justice in particular. BU wishes to make it clear that the following report was written without knowledge of the position of the Barbados Bar Association and before the Nation report was published. BU extends its full support to the Barbados Bar Association in this instance and, depending upon circumstances, will revisit its comment that the Barbados Bar Association is toothless in due course.
The question we now have to address is this. AFTER A YEAR IN OFFICE, WHAT HAS THE CHIEF JUSTICE DONE?
The answer is, in sincere and flattering imitation of Freundel Stuart (the attorney-general who agreed to his appointment and the prime minister who changed the law so that no meritless challenges could be made to that appointment) the Chief Justice has done NOTHING. Except talk a lot.
The Chief Justice has talked about arbitration and ADR. Boy has he talked it to death. But yet we see no mechanism in place to make this (in appropriate circumstances) mandatory or even viable. Nor do we see a system of qualification for court-approved arbitrators, which basically means that any member of the Bar can be an arbitrator. A situation hardly likely to inspire confidence and cooperation in a public fed up with a toothless Bar Association and a disciplinary committee of same that allows attorneys to rip the public off left right and centre, without disbarring their tails.
So, apart from talking about ADR, the Chief Justice has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to implement it. And absent any clear guidelines, the general public (which is not stupid) has realised that it is a haunt for cowboys and is keeping well away.
The Chief Justice as a Judge
During his tenure of office of a year, the Chief Justice has written only one decision. A decision that he did not even take the time to deliver personally, but had it read to the court by Justice of Appeal Sandra Mason. And it was a matter of almost trite law. So, far from upgrading the standards of the judges on the bench by example, the Chief Justice appears to have adopted the principal “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
The Court of Appeal
The Chief Justice says that there are three hundred (300) appeals outstanding. We have to accept that number. We note there are five (5) justices of appeal of which only three (3) sit on any given appeal. So, BU’s question is that if there are 300 outstanding appeals with 5 justices of appeal of which only 3 sit at any given time, why is the Chief Justice now urging and requiring that the Court of Appeal sit for three days a week only? We fail to see the logic in that and, indeed, it looks as if the Bajan habit of paying public officials for doing nothing is well and thriving under the leadership of this Chief Justice.
BU also notes that there are a great number of appeals on which, 9 months and a year after hearing, decisions have not been rendered, thus breaching the constitutional rights of the litigants. Rights that each and every judge has sworn to uphold and who, hand on the Governor General’s Bible, have clearly lied and been foresworn.
Three out of five judges sit three days a week, which means that the other two are doing nothing and yet judgements are delayed beyond the time limit set for delivery. And this assists with getting rid of a backlog of 300 cases HOW?
Miss Elneth Kentish
In places like Canada, it used to be the practice by large and influential law firms to get rid of their unsatisfactory/incompetent senior members by arranging for them to be appointed to the Bench where, to quote one eminent queens counsel, “They became among the judges most often and successfully appealed.” In the case of Barbados, this practice would seem to apply to 100% of the Bench, but we are focussing here on the worst offender, Miss Elneth Kentish.
R.G. Mandeville & Co. clearly adopted this principal in getting rid of Miss Elneth Kentish, by brokering her “elevation” to the Barbados Bench, where she has distinguished herself mightily in many areas of law, including, but not limited to:
The largest number of successful appeals against her decisions.
The extraordinarily length of time (even by Barbados standards) it takes her to give these successfully appealed decisions.
The mirth and derision that the majority of her decisions cause within the legal fraternity, who explain their standpipe type hilarity with, “Well, you got to laugh otherwise you would have to cry.”
And finally, the only Barbados judge in history to be personally sued for failing to do her job as a judge and costing a litigant millions of dollars. The hearing of this action is being stalled by the legal fraternity as it is clear that as soon as it comes to the CCJ, it will succeed and Miss Kentish will have to be dismissed from the Bench. We refuse to refer to this female to any longer as “Madam Justice”.
For a while, all was relatively well as Miss Kentish was on long leave and was being replaced by the excellent Pamela Beckles. But all good things in Barbados’ justice system must, it appears, come to an end and Miss Kentish is back.
To make sure that no one misses the fact that she is back and on her usual, ground-breaking form, Miss Elneth Kentish has produced an order in which there are no parties and one of the purported parties has died and has not had an administrator appointed for them. But nonetheless, this person, un-named in the order, is ordered by Miss Kentish to perform certain things. Presumably from beyond the grave. Otherwise one has to imagine Miss Kentish will order that litigant’s remains to be exhumed and hanged in public for contempt to Miss Kentish and her court (common c).
Miss Kentish’s order is now being widely circulated within the legal profession to the disbelief of counsel and, of course, their hilarity. Comments out of respect for the BU family we withhold. But why SHOULD Miss Kentish pay ANY attention to the comments and views of counsel when clearly her boss, the Chief Justice, does not. And here is a case in point.
Kingsland/Justice Worrell and the Chief Justice
On Friday 28 September last, four queens counsel with their juniors and staff congregated at the Law Courts for the hearing of a constitutional motion by and against Justice Randall Worrell seeking, inter alia, that he recuse himself from a hearing of a review of costs ordered in 2002, 10 years ago, and as yet undetermined and unpaid. The fact that BU can ascertain no grounds whatever for recusal by Justice Worrell, is merely coincidental as BU does not choose to go into the lack of merit of the case.
BU notes that interest runs on those costs of well over $1 million at a rate of 8% per annum and that “allocaturs” (which, for the interest of Dr. GP and other language scholars, is from Latin allocatur, “it is allowed” and designates a certificate given by a registrar or taxing master at the termination of an action, where the amount costs is determined and ordered paid) were issued. The total sum was well over $1 million in total with pre and post judgement interest running at 8%. Therefore, calculated at 8% on just $1 million, the amount of costs now payable is well in excess of $2 million. The matter of these costs ordered/taxed by the Registrar in 2002 was appealed and set down before Justice Randall Worrell and remains (despite a minimum increment of $1 million due solely to judicial sloth, incompetence and delay) outstanding.
You would think that this would be a very simple matter of housekeeping, so why is there delay? It should be akin to cleaning up a spilled cup of coffee in your kitchen. And indeed it would be, except in Barbados where, in typical form, the Registrar has lost her file by which she calculated and determined the costs. But it appears that this file, years later, has been re-located and is “awaiting signature” as if placing a signature is a matter of considerable difficulty for the person in question.
Meanwhile, even if these notes were NOT available (and they have only just been rediscovered) Justice Worrell, had the right in law, whether he knows this or not, to re-hear the costs matter. However, Justice Worrell appears to have done the judicial equivalent of a spoiled brat running to get his parents to intervene in a childhood dispute.
Justice Worrell has run screaming to the Chief Justice, who has responded in resplendent Barbados judicial, as opposed to parental, form. Had the Chief Justice responded in resplendent Barbados parental form, he would have boxed Justice Worrell’s ears and told him to grow up and deal with it.
The Chief Justice waited until all counsel were present in court and then sent his clerk to inform them that, “Justice Worrell will not sit on any further matters dealing with Kingsland.” This, instead of directing an e-mail to the four (4) queens counsel involved, telling them not to attend on Friday 28 September. And what is wrong with that, you ask?
As has been noted in the past, the fees of queens counsel in Barbados likely top $1,000 per hour and each of those queens counsel, it is understood, had a junior at $500 per hour. The prep time would have been a few hours and counsel would bill for half a day of their time. So, a timely e-mail which would have avoided expense was eschewed by the CJ in favour of a message delivered late by his clerk that will have cost the litigants over $30,000. Let us assure readers that these $30,000 in costs will have to be borne solely by the litigants.
BU has declined to comment on merit of the actual case, BUT BU asks the Chief Justice politely, but with rapidly diminishing respect, on what legal basis he removes a sitting judge from matters part-heard before that judge?
This is not a question that seeks to expose matters of national security, merely of total judicial incompetence. We require an answer. If one is not forthcoming to us, we have every reasonable expectation that the Chief Justice will find himself compelled to answer the question to a higher authority. And we will be there to report his answer.
BU takes great pleasure in posting the letter from Mr Clyde Turney QC to the Chief Justice asking precisely the same question, couched in what, for a senior lawyer, is very uncompromising language. The Chief Justice is quite adept at leaking his replies to letters to the blogs, so we look forward to him leaking his response to Mr Turney’s letter so that Barbados can be fully informed and, like the adults we are, be enabled to form our own opinions.
But, what of the litigants themselves in this matter where costs were ordered in 2002 for an action commencing, we have determined, in 1998? How has this affected them and where are they today?
Imagine, if you will, being owed hundreds of thousands of dollars each that you have had to expend on a case and which money (in part) the courts have ordered must be paid back to you. Would any of BU’s family and readers consider it acceptable to be told not to worry because interest is running at 8%? Is this an assurance you can take to the bank when you need to pay for medical treatment for yourself or a loved one? Or when your house roof starts to leak? Or you have no food to eat? On the contrary, this assurance will not stop starvation, soaking or sickness and death.
So, BU has checked on the status of the litigants.
Much has been written here on BU about the Plaintiff, Mrs Marjorie Knox. BU will not reprise that here, but refers any new readers unfamiliar with the case to its report of June 24, 2010 to be found here.
BU’s latest information on Mrs Knox is:
Mrs Knox, resides in Miami, Florida with her daughter, Kathleen Davis.
Mrs Knox is 90 years old and on the evidence of her Ontario lawyer’s files, senile and in need to constant supervision.
Mrs Knox, or those acting in her name, commenced proceedings in Florida back in 2010 against essentially the same persons and for essentially the same reasons as the litigations (determined and ongoing) in Barbados.
For Mrs Knox to stand any hope of success in bringing these actions in Florida, it is required that she be a resident of Florida and try to establish a link between Florida and an action about property located in Barbados brought against Bajans. For Mrs Knox to live anywhere BUT Florida would certainly make it impossible for her to get the Florida courts to accept jurisdiction.
Despite the legal and tactical reasons why his client is, at her own volition and for her own ends, a resident of Florida and not of Barbados, BU heard Mr Alair Shepherd state to the CCJ this year that the reason for Mrs Knox’s residence in Florida and not in Barbados was because of physical threats to her safety.
The CCJ has recently delivered a judgment in which it is clear that it has believed Mr Shepherd’s incomplete advises to it. We note that the CCJ is linked to BU and it is therefore hoped that it will now note its error, caused by Mr Shepherd’s omissions. Indeed, the matter of Mrs Knox’s safety and security and the threats she purports to have received were the subject of an extensive hearing in Ontario, both before Justice Bryan Shaughnessy and on appeal before Justice Howden. We refer the CCJ to these judgements, containing as they do an authoritative report from an FBI expert. The matter of Mrs Knox’s security aside, however, BU’s legal eagles scrutinised the central thrust of the CCJ decision, being a question of garnishment and costs, and agrees with its findings on these issues and with Mr Shepherd’s submissions, excluding his untruthful and disingenuous comments about Mrs Knox being in danger in Barbados.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mrs Knox’s conduct and situation, it is reprehensible that the Barbados Courts have, to all intents and purposes, doubled the amount she will be required to pay in costs and interest, due to delay. But, and here we post the response of Mr Alair Shepherd QC to Mr Turney’s letter and let the public of Barbados interpret it as they will, maybe Mrs Knox (or whoever is guiding her hand as she signs things) wants it that way.
And what has happened to Mrs Knox’s sibling defendants, Muriel, Vere, Eric and Keith Deane during the last 10 years waiting for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs to be repaid to them?
· Muriel Deane DEAD!
· Vere Deane DEAD!
· Eric Deane DEAD!
· Keith Deane is in his 90s and is Mrs Knox’s sole surviving sibling.
Defendant Philip Vernon Nicholls, the senior partner of the law firm of Cottle Catford & Co., is involved in the winding up of Cottle Catford and with certain financial problems and irregularities on which BU has already touched in a previous report. Doubtless, matters would be considerably improved for Mr Nicholls if he could avail himself of the costs owed him by Mrs Knox the delay in payment of which appears to be having a knock-on effect on certain clients of Cottle Catford.
The Chief Justice’s Report Card
The answer to the question of the Chief Justice’s report card is that he has resoundingly and comprehensively FAILED in all subjects. Except talk! He is good at talk. He is, to put it mildly, a great disappointment to BU which backed and fully supported his appointment and is now going to recognise its error and cut its losses.
A new government under the BLP is now highly likely and we all know the position of the BLP on the matter of the appointment of Marston Gibson as Chief Justice. Therefore, we urge the Chief Justice to start to do his job forthwith and to take proper legal advice and to make every effort to regain the confidence of the majority of the legal profession that he has completely lost. The Chief Justice will have noticed that the honeymoon is now well over and divorce proceedings are now the order of the day.
The Alexandra Commission of Inquiry and Report
As the next step in the process happens to be the courts, it is probably right that it should form a part of this report. Unsurprisingly, given the number of documents that have (most properly in our view) found their way into the public domain in this PUBLIC INQUIRY, the Report, which has now been out for over a week, has not been made public – not even to counsel concerned. But worse, it has been secreted from the people who paid for it – the taxpayers.
And speaking of paying, it is reported that Milton Pierce and his staff (counsel for the Inquiry) have been part-paid for their work, but neither counsel for the BSTU or for Mr Broomes have received one red cent in remuneration for their many hours of work. And in addition to all that, the transcripts of several days of hearings have not been made available.
BU intends to continue this series and to out every story it comes it way dealing with this mockery that is called a Justice System. We have already had significant success in redressing certain wrongs. Therefore, we urge the general public to send us its stories. Be assured that these will be sensitively handled and, where in doubt, BU has its own legal eagles to advise it, so that our sources are looked after and protected.
Only by bringing everything that is wrong with the Justice System in Barbados into the light and naming and shaming, not only in Barbados, but in the wider international legal community that now reads BU, will we get anywhere. We will turn these incompetents into standing jokes so that wherever they go they will know that no one takes them seriously and they are figures of contempt.