Court reserves judgment in case against Chief Justice

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The Court of Appeal today reserved judgment in a case against the island’s top judge, filed by Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith.

Smith, through his attorney Hal Gollop, QC, is asking the three member panel to overturn a lower court ruling that Smith did not have a case when he sought summary judgment against Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson in a matter that dates back to April 2015.

Instead, High Court Judge Pamela Beckles had ordered that the matter should go to trial.

Back then Sir Marston had refused to hear Smith when he appeared before the Chief Justice as attorney for Branlee Consulting Services – a private company owned by former executive chairman of CLICO Holdings Leroy Parris – on the grounds that Smith had not paid his annual subscription to the Barbados Bar Association.

Smith, on the other hand, contended that the Chief Justice had effectively barred him from practising law in Barbados’ courts, and had asked the Supreme Court for a summary judgment, including damages, against Sir Marston on the grounds that the Chief Justice had not complied with a number of civil court rules of procedure.

These included the failure to acknowledge service of court documents on him, failure to acknowledge his intention to file a defence and, upon being served, the failure to file a defence within the 28-day stipulated period.

After Beckles dismissed the case Smith turned to the Court of Appeal, and today, the three appellate justices heard submissions from Gollop and Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite, QC, who appeared on behalf of their boss and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who was named as the second defendant, but who was not at today’s hearing.

In pressing his case, Gollop argued that the Chief Justice had not filed the required defence in the stipulated period of 28 days after May 29, 2015, the date he was served, suggesting that had he done so there would have been no reason to file a second one on September 16, the day of the hearing.

At the same time, Gollop also questioned a decision by the Attorney General to file an acknowledgment of receiving the court documents a week before the documents were even served.

In fact, Gollop pointed out that the Attorney General was not even the one facing the suit, but was included simply in consideration of the awarding of costs.

It was one of the major points over which the judges had lengthy exchanges with the Deputy Solicitor General, with one judge, Kaye Goodridge, describing the filing as a non-event.

However, the Deputy Solicitor General argued that court rules bar any appeal against any trial judge’s order, that Beckles had correctly found the case should go to trial and had given unconditional leave for the Chief Justice to defend his actions in a trial. All of these arguments were rejected by Gollop. The Court of Appeal judges did not indicate when they would issue a ruling.

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