Archive for May 8th, 2009

Court staff behind allegations

| 08/05/2009 | 13 Comments

(CNS): During his opening statement on behalf of Justice Priya Levers, Stanley Brodie QC (left) noted that the bulk of the allegations against her came from court staff taking it upon themselves to make complaints about the judge based on selected exerts from court room transcripts.  During the first morning’s proceedings of the long awaited tribunal, he said that had the Chief Justice investigated any of the allegations he would have discovered that what he had described as “a groundswell of complaints” against Levers were from the same source and completely unfounded.

Brodie began his presentation regarding the source of the allegations after Timothy Otty QC of Clifford Chance representing the tribunal introduced the process and the allegations against Justice Levers. Otty told those crammed into the small inquiry room that the tribunal (headed by Sir Andrew Leggatt) was a fact finding exercise to discover if the accusations made against Justice Levers were true and whether they amounted to misbehaviour severe enough to request her removal from the bench.

Otty said the accusations were that on a number of occasions Justice Levers had made inappropriate remarks about other members of the judiciary, she had behaved inappropriately in court, that she was bias against women and some nationalities including Jamaicans, Filipinos and Canadians, as well as against crown counselors. He also outlined further complaints involving accusations that she wrote inappropriate letters to the media calling the judiciary into disrepute under a pseudonym.

In response Brodie said there was no credible evidence to suggest that any of the allegations were true. He described her distinguished career and her long standing, good relationship with Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who had supported Justice Levers’ application to become a judge in Cayman. He also read a number of references, including one from an ambassador and a number of legal colleagues attesting to her ability and the respect she commanded as a judge.

“Your lordships will understand that never in her worst nightmare did she think she would face removal proceeds instigated by her long time colleague and friend the Chief Justice,” Brodie said. “Removal proceedings are devastating and humiliating and the worst thing to happen to a judge. The damage to Madame Justice Levers has been great.”

 He noted, “The allegations against her are totally without foundationand made by people with an axe to grind,” adding that most of the allegations came from court staff and not from the lawyers involved in the cases. He said the staff had taken it upon themselves to compile exerts from court room transcripts which they submitted to the Chief Justice as evidence.

However, Brodie noted if the Chief Justice had stopped for a moment and investigated any one he would have found there was no complaint from the people involved. He said it was odd that the court reporters had taken it upon themselves to be guardians of the judiciary when none of the legal fraternity seemed to support the accusations. He also dismissed Elizabeth Webb’s submission that Justice Levers was the author of the notorious Leticia Barton letter in Cayman Net News as plainly untruthful, evident through her own statements.

Guiding the proceedings throughout the day Otty called the first witness – Phillip Boni- who had represented a client in family court (one of a few non court staff witnesses that had made complaints against Justice Levers). He described a court room dispute with Levers where he admitted to a minor tantrum because he felt he was not being listened to by the justice but said after that he felt she began to take note of him and his client and went on to agree there was even handiness in the case.

“Can you point to anything that indicated justice Levers acted in an in-judicial manner?” Brodie asked, Bonnie said no. Other lawyers who had represented the same complainant and other family cases where accusations had been made against Levers came to the stand, including Linda DaCosta and Zena Merren, both said they could not recall Levers saying any of the things cited in the complainants’ statements such as referring to her as “that women.” Nor did they recall any inappropriate behaviour. The three legal witnesses for the morning all concurred that Justice Levers was doing what was expected of her in court.

In a video link, the female complainant who said that the judge was biased against her gave an emotionally charged account of her memory of her treatment by Justice Levers. The witness stated that she would never forget being referred to as “that woman” by Levers and her accusation that her child was “messed up” because she was the mother. Despite other statements to the tribunal that those things were not said, the complainant said they were and she could still recall the moments. During the questions, however, the witness (who cannot be named for legal reasons) then admitted that Levers had actually been fair to her but said that every time she was fair she felt Justice Levers  would then be mean. The witness still acknowledged that she had been awarded a lump sum, maintenance and primary custody of the child by Levers.

Brodie suggested that perhaps rather than bias this was a case of the witness not liking a judges ruling. He illustrated that the witnesses did not get absolutely everything she wanted as she later petitioned for more money and was being disagreeable about the situation rather than proving Justice Levers was biased against her. Brodie noted that as a judge Levers was required to listen and consider both sides in the best interests of the child despite the animosity between the parties . Brodie’s questioning also revealed that when she made her complaint to the chief justice the witness had used language in her e-mail that suggested she was asking him what information he wanted, and that it seemed as though her compliant had been encouraged rather than submitted from her own initiative.

The last witness of the day was Carol Rouse, a stenographer who Otty indicated had madecomplaints that the Justice’s behaviour was upsetting for people in the court as she made witnesses feel uncomfortable, that she sighed, rolled her eyes, gestured to the jury and other such behaviour that Rouse considered inappropriate. Otty said, however, that other court room witnesses did not recall any of this behaviour though Rouse insisted it happened.

Brodie took her through her statement and asked her to say what she meant. Rouse said at a particular trial she didn’t think the way Justice Levers behaved was appropriate but was unable to fully articulate what she meant other than having a feeling. Brodie noted that some of what the stenographer considered inappropriate was in fact the justice ticking off counsel for incorrect procedures and denying defendants a fair trial.

Rouse said she was not a judge or a lawyer so didn’t know but she just found her behaviour shocking and inappropriate and not what she considered normal courtroom behaviour.  Rouse added that she felt Justice Levers belittled witnesses and influenced the jury but could not indicate where in the transcript as it was based on her own interpretation of Justice Levers’ behaviour and not things she wrote down as recorder of the proceedings .Rouse’s testimony will continue tomorrow as the tribunal reconvenes. 

Meanwhile Otty also noted that during the course of the tribunal sensitive material relating to Operation Tempura may be considered as it had found its way into the evidence and concerns had been raised about its use as it remained part of ongoing investigations.

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Minister takes on the media

| 08/05/2009 | 35 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands’ response to White House proposals on US tax reform has appeared in key international media houses following interviews with and comments from Minister for International Financial Services Policy Alden McLaughlin. The high profile responses were made following US President Barack Obama’s much publicised speech on Monday in which he announced proposed changes in US tax law that would crack down on wealthy corporations who avoid tax by moving their money into offshore tax havens, specifically mentioning the Cayman Islands.

Elsewhere in the international media, the Cayman Islands were given a less favourable appearance when an unknown man apparently threatened to have a news crew from Al Jazeera arrested while they were filming a report on the Cayman Islands financial sector. (Watch the video here). With his hand over the camera, the man, who had an American accent and was identified only as a property manager with one of the businesses here, said, “All I’m doing is telling you, just be very careful. You’re in a small country.”

McLaughlin answered tough questioning from the BBC Radio World Report and provided comment to The Financial Times in which he warned that the proposed changes could have unintended consequences and defended the islands’ role in creating "efficiencies" that benefited business. "Blocking access to the Cayman Islands may have very real unintended negative consequences for international trade and the economies of large countries," he said. McLaughlin’s statements from the FT were further picked up by other specialist media in the UK and Ireland, including Wealth Bulletin and FinFacts Ireland.

The minister also provided comments to the Caribbean bureau of the Associated Press putting forth Cayman’s perspective on behalf of the government, though at this time the does not appear to have been picked up by the media.

According to the Portfolio of Finance & Economics Public Relations Unit, Minister McLaughlin’s messages focused on three areas: the contribution of offshore financial services centres like the Cayman Islands to global business and international capital flows; the negative consequences to international trade and large globalised economies of blocking access to jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands; and a reminder that the US has effective law enforcement, regulatory and tax information channels with the Cayman Islands – some dating back 25 years – with the result that Cayman offers no protection to American businesses or individuals who want to commit tax or any other crimes.

This week’s media activity coheres with the Cayman Islands Government’s larger communications and public affairs strategy for the financial services sector, which involvestargeting international decision makers and opinion formers – and the third-parties that influence them – to help protect Cayman’s reputational and economic interests, the PRU said.

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