Court staff behind allegations

| 08/05/2009

(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 thelong 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 relatingto 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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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey, there are regular updates on too. Seems lie Cayman news outlets are stepping up to the plate. Keep up the excellent work CNS! 

  2. Hey 14:15 says:

     " I pay the same import duty, vehicle license fees, garbage fees, and all other Gov’t taxes as everyone else and the only time I am allowed to express my political views is on Election Day" –

    I pay the same import duty, vehicle license fees, garbage fees, and all other Gov’t taxes as everyone else and I am not allowed to express my political views on Election Day, after all I have only lived here for 11 years,  built a business here, raised a family here, own a house here  . . .

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t worry, you’ll get status in a few more years, then after another 25 years you can run for the LA.

      That’s why I’m voting against the new constitution – to stop the Cayman Islands becoming the laughing stock of the world!

      • Anonymous says:

        "Don’t worry, you’ll get status in a few more years, then after another 25 years you can run for the LA".

        That is a pretty illogical basis for voting against the draft Constitution. Is the current Constitution, better? If one has obtained Caymanian status one can immediately apply to be naturalized and,provided you renounce any other citizenships you have, you can run for the LA.     

        The draft Constitution is one that Caymanians can be proud of.

  3. Expat007 says:

    I once was spoken harshly to by a judge, can I get some money too?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hey, if Justice Levers is vindicated and files a claim against Government I will be next in line for a few $$$$. I am a citizen of this country but because I am a Government employee, I cannot overtly display any political preference or affiliation, nor express myself politically (except, as I am forced to do, anonymously). Yet I pay the same import duty, vehicle license fees, garbage fees, and all other Gov’t taxes as everyone else and the only time I am allowed to express my political views is on Election Day.

    I will claim to be compensated for suffering that double standard.  Hmmm, might have to wait on resolution of the human rights issue. 

  5. frank rizzo says:



    Why are they on TV and not in a courtroom?

  6. Anonymous says:

    CNS – why not allow commentary?  It is a tribunal not a court.

  7. Nicky Watson says:

    CNS will be following the tribunal carefully. However, while it is taking place, we will not be posting comments on the participants or the testimonies of witnesses or comments that predict the outcome.

  8. Twyla M Vargas says:


    That is where you will hear it being told straight to the point.  They will roll their eyes, turn their heads, smile and tell you bare faced  "youre lying" "Dont come into my court and want to be the judge"  "This is my court room and I am the Judge"  "Pay the woman the money,"   "Who do you think you are fooling"   "Why do you stay with this man if he does nothing for you"   "Get a life" and I could go on all day with the comments being made by these famous Judges. 

    I do believe a well learned Judge will know how to exercise his judical rights, and know how far to go, but the public should realize that when you find yourself in front of a judge you should not only expect,  a sentence, a pat on the hand, or a fine, we should also expect to hear some minor councelling which will lead us in the right direction.

    Some people go into a court house and feel that they can be feisty with judges.  I do not agree with it, and on the other hand as I said a well learned Judge will know how far to take it.   I sincerely hope this case does not turn out to be another Law Suit.   The government pocket book is geting lighter and although there is more stress around the corner, we are forced to ask ourselves "What next?"

    • Ebanks the Plumber says:

      People who appear before these tv judges volunteer to do so and then sign waivers agreeing to accept the judge’s decision.  It is entertainment!

      In the Cayman Islands, cases to the Grand Court are assigned by an officer of the court on a work load/time frame basis.  Defendants do not get to chose their judge.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CNS;

    Please continue to provide daily updates on this. I would loved to attend, but can’t.

  10. Expat 007 says:

    Please keep reporting the specifics of these proceedings.  We need to know about this.