Bid to stop Levers’ costs fails

| 09/02/2009

(CNS): Although the tribunal, appointed to investigate complaints relating to Grand Court Justice Priya Levers, recently agreed to pay 75% of Levers’ costs to defend herself against the accusations of misbehaviour, CNS has learned that attempts were made by the Governor’s Office to overturn that award and reduce the obligation to 20%. However, the attempts failed. Under the current arrangement the Grand Court judge will receive three quarters of her legal costs on a week to week basis and the remaining quarter will be paid to her if the tribunal finds in her favour.

According to sources close to the issue, the Governor’s Office had contacted Sir Philip Otton, one of the tribunal’s judges, stating that they were having difficulty with the award made by the tribunal that obliged the Cayman Islands government to pay Levers’ cost up front. However, the tribunal has refused to alter the award. Justice Levers’ defence attorney, Anthony Akiwumi, recently stated the significance of the tribunal agreeing the fees.

“This was an important issue because the costs of her legal representation in the Tribunal of Inquiry will be substantial and the unanimous decision of the Tribunal of Inquiry in Madam Justice Levers favour is significant.”

Justice Levers also noted recently her right to the hearing when Minister Charles Clifford appeared on Rooster’s morning phone-in show, Crosstalk, suggesting that in the past the government would have paid off the judge instead of incurring the costs of another expensive legal hearing — thereby implying her guilt by his suggestion. Justice Levers herself called in to the show to correct him, saying she had a right to be heard and that the Minister would do well to find out the details of the accusations against her.

“The constitution provides that the only way that a judge can be removed is by holding a tribunal of enquiry and then subsequently that tribunal’s recommendation must be endorsed by the Privy Council,” Justice Levers said. “Since the minister is being asked to fund these exorbitant costs he should find out the nature of the complaint. That, I think, is very important if you are being asked to fund something.”

The full details and nature of the accusations made against Justice Levers have yet to be revealed in the public domain. However, CNS understands they have no connection to any of her judgements or any issues of dishonesty. According to sources, they are of a personal nature and Justice Levers still enjoys widespread support throughout the legal community.

When he announced the tribunal last September, the governor said that in April 2008 certain complaints relating to Justice Levers were brought to his attention.  “Having given the matter the most careful consideration, I have appointed a tribunal under the relevant provisions of the Constitution to inquire into the matter and report back to me,” the governor said at the time.

According to the terms of reference of the tribunal, it will carry out a “factual investigation and report to the governor whether the conduct of Madam Justice Levers taken as a whole has fallen below the standard reasonably to be expected of a holder of the office of Judge of the Grand Court so as to warrant proceedings for her removal.

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