Judge fights Jack over report

| 20/11/2009

(CNS): Lawyers for the suspended grand court judge, Justice Priya Levers, have filed an application for a judicial review to stop the governor from releasing the report produced by Sir Andrew Leggatt on the tribunal which heard complaints against the judge earlier this year. The report was given to the governor in August and recommended that Justice Levers’ case go before the Privy Council in London to decide if she should be struck off the bench. Following an FOI request on the report, the governor has made moves to release it. However, the judge is fighting to keep it under wraps until she has fought her case before the UK’s highest court.

Following a number of complaints regarding the judge’s behaviour going back to 2007, the governor, Stuart Jack, announced last year that he was to convene a tribunal to hear those complaints, which eventually sat in May 2009. The complaints included accusations that the judge had written letters to the media undermining the judiciary, that she had spoken ill of her judicial colleagues in public and that she had made inappropriate remarks and shown bias in court. The findings of the tribunal were then submitted to governor in August, but he said they would not be made public until after the Privy Council had heard Levers’ case.

Legal documents filed in the Grand Court earlier this month by Levers’ attorneys,  Stuarts Walker Hersant, have requested a judicial review to hear their case to prevent the governor from releasing the report before the Privy Council hearing because the lawyers say it is unlawful and will prejudice the judge’s case.

“The Applicant seeks an Order of prohibition against the Respondent (the Governor) permitting the publication of the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the removal of the Applicant until a determination has been made by Her Majesty’s Privy Council, upon its Advice to Her Majesty The Queen, on whether the Applicant should be removed as a Grand Court Judge….”

The lawyers note that, not only would the release of the report before the case is concluded by against natural justice, the governor had stated public in a press release and in the media that he would not publish the contents until after the case went to London.

Although it is unclear by whom and when the Freedom of Information request was made, the governor appears to have made his decision to release the report on 2 November, which is when Levers’ legal team moved to stop the application.

Following his receipt of Leggatt’s report in August, Jack had clearly stated that because “the case is ongoing and will be referred to the Privy Council the governor is not at liberty to release the report.”

But then in a letter to the judge’s lawyers on 2 November, three months after the governor had said he would not release it and was not at liberty to do so, his special counsel said that the lawyers had been provided with ample time to peruse the report and the governor considered it appropriate and in the “public’s interest” that he makes it public, and the proposed date for the release was 10 November 2009.

“The Applicant respectfully contends that the Respondent’s decision is irrational, ultra vires, inconsistent, in breach of the principles of natural justice, disproportionate contrary to the Applicant’s legitimate expectation and, prima fade, unlawful,” the lawyers state in their documentation to the court. The lawyers argue that the public’s interest with regard to natural justice would be undermined should the report be made public before the hearing is complete.

Furthermore, according to an affidavit filed with the judicial review application from Justice Levers, the governor’s special counsel had not informed the Privy Counsel that the governor had stated publically he would not release the tribunal report until after that court heard the case. The affidavit also states that all parties including the tribunal members had agreed that the report would be submitted to the governor on an entirely confidential basis and remain that way until the case reached its full conclusion.

A spokesperson for Levers said the judge did not wish to hide anything from the people of the Cayman Islands but simply wished to ensure her case was heard properly. “There is no certainty of any decision until the Privy Council have heard all the evidence,” the spokesperson said. “In the past, tribunals on other cases have been found by the Privy Council to have shown bias and the judge’s case is not over yet. All she is asking for is a fair hearing.”

CNS also understands that the judicial review, which is now scehduled to be heard on Friday morning is behind closed doors in judges chambers.

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  1. John Evans says:

    Having been involved in some of the investigations leading up to, and as a witness to, the tribunal this move makes a lot of sense to me. We need to remember that the accusations against Justice Levers were underpinned by claims that she wrote letters to Cayman Net News attacking the Chief Justice and the judiciary in general. These letters being published during my employment with the newspaper. In fact right up to the final days before the hearings commenced my sources tell me that officers from the ill-fated Operation Tempura team were still desperately, and unsuccessfully, trying to connect her with the letters. As the records of the tribunal reflect, this link was not only never proven but both sides finally decided that the letters (which by then had mysteriously disappeared) were most likely written from within the news organisation itself. Whatever is going to happen at the Privy Council, the fact is that the issue of these letters is still far from resolved (although the RCIPS seems to be working very hard to bury it) and if for no other reason than that any further reporting of the tribunal findings seems ill-advised.

  2. Anonymous says:

    what has she got against release of the report?  maybe there are things in it that are not helpful to her?  who knows

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is not the UK’s highest Court. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Of course the report should be disclosed.  Justice Levers held a PUBLIC office.  She is alleged to have acted inappropriately against the PUBLIC and with having PUBLICIZED comments to undermine the judiciary.  She cannot now keep such PUBLIC matters secret; they are not and never were private matters.  This is not her divorce or estate matter; this is about whether she has acted unbecoming of her PUBLIC position.  It would not affect the Privy Council’s deliberations one iota anyway, whether this impartial tribunal’s findings are released to the PUBLIC or not, the tribunal’s findings are what they are and the Privy Council’s findings will be what they will be.


  5. Anonymous says:

    For some people they are so blinded by their dislike for the Governor that they cannot agree with anything that he does.

    It was a good thing to disclose this report and let the people read and decide for themselves.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So much for open and transparent government and public administration!

    • Anonymous says:

      I really don’t think that publishing it here is going to "prejudice" the Learned Judges of the Privy Council, who have already read the report, I am sure.

      I don’t think publishing it will make an ounce of difference to that outcome.

      In this case, I think the Governor is right.  If he has had a request under FOI and there is not a good enough reason to withhold it, he may very well be right in deciding to release it in the public interest.

      As another poster said, the case was heard in a properly consistitued court in which the Judge involved had every opportunity to present her side of the case.  The proceedings were already published verbatim by a number of media.  So what is the big deal? 

      I am sure that the Privy Council will publish its judgement on the case.  i can’t imagine that in the interest of transparency that they would not.


  7. Anonymous says:

    It would be interesting to see the final figure on the total cost of the Levers case to the Islands’ taxpayers.

    • Anonymous says:

       This is one endeavor that you cannot put a price tag on.  No matter the cost, a country must have a good, impartial, intelligent, compassionate and incorruptible judiciary.  If any of the allegations against Justice Levers is true, better to spend a few million removing her and establishing that the high standards for the Cayman Islands’ judiciary will not tolerate a member that would act in such a fashion than keep her and have a sub-standard one.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Personally, I believe the report should be made public.

    Not for one minute do I believe that making the report go public now, will in anyway prejudice any outcome of Justice Levers, with the Law Lords ultimate ruling at the Privy Council.

    This was a local and independent inquiry which was conducted by respected Judges from the Caribbean and the UK, where it was alleged by Justice Levers fellow judicial colleagues and others, that wrong doing and misbehaviour had taken place by her, both sitting on and off the bench.

    In all other local criminal or civil cases where an inquiry and judgement was made in favour or against a defendant or respondent, the judgement would have been made public via the media or through the FOI Law even if it was going to be appealed to the Cayman Islands Court of Appeals and then on the Privy Council.

    So what is the difference here ?? We don’t want to make it public "YET" because it’s a sitting Judge of the Grand Court ??

    Are we going to circumvent the FOI Law because it’s a Judge who finds herself sitting on the other side of the bench now ??

    I say again, the report should be made public and we all should remember that the Privy Council chambers and Her Majesty’s palace is not located in the Cayman Islands but across "the pond" in the UK.



  9. Anonymous says:

    The sooner Jack A.. leaves the better, how much more damadges to these Islands and how much unrightfulness and un-justice to Peoble here do we have and will take from this Governor? And how much more is it going to cost us he would be better of with paying attention to the real Crime problem here (he is charge of the Police) in Cayman and stop playing with Peoples lifes and spending our Money stupidly!

  10. Anonymous says:

    What is wrong with this man? Give the woman an opportunity to be tried in a court of law not by the public.  I don’t see anything wrong with having her have her day in court and then putting everything out there for the world to see. Why prejudice her case at this time.

    Let’s start the campaign to get JACK OFF this island!!

    Anyone heard yet when he is leaving or is that still under wraps?

    Still feeding my wild chickens and won’t take long to round a few green iguanas for the big day!



  11. Anonymous says:

    Jack is right (I don’t say that too often), this report should certainly be disclosed.