Friday, January 12, 2018
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE COUNTRY’S top judge has hit out at the “uninformed destructive attacks” on judicial officers by certain individuals over the past year, as he stressed the importance of a judiciary free from “extraneous noises” and “improper influences”.
Acting Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs, during his address to mark the opening of the 2018 legal year, said while criticism of judicial decisions is expected and often “worthy of analysis”, such attacks are “not acceptable” and “help no one”.
Although he did not specify which attacks he was referring to, he noted the judiciary has endured “notorious examples” of those attacks over the past year.
The acting chief justice also stressed the importance of “judicial independence,” charging the courts should not be “subject to improper influences from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests.”
In September, outspoken self-styled activist Omar Archer was convicted and sentenced to 21 days in prison by Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson for contemptuous remarks he previously made about the legal proceedings against former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson. The sentence was suspended once Archer made donations to two charities and performed community service.
That same month, a bench warrant was issued for the arrest of media personality Christina “Chrissy Love” Thompson for failing to appear before that same judge to face charges of contempt of court stemming from certain remarks she made about Mr Gibson’s legal proceedings.
“Criticism of judicial decisions is expected, and if often worthy of analysis,” Acting Chief Justice Isaacs said in his address. “What is not acceptable is uninformed destructive attacks on judicial officers or on the judiciary as a whole, and we have had notorious examples of such attacks over the past year, which helps no one.
“At its core the concept means that judicial officers must be free from interference in the decision making process. Judicial officers are even independent of each other, but naturally there are times when a collegiate effort is required on one legal issue or another.
“The job of a judicial officer is to interpret the law in any given case and a conscious effort must be made to block out all extraneous noises.”
He added: “At the administrative level, the judiciary has its life blood, funding, supplied by the executive. This arrangement is unavoidable since the purse strings of all of government is properly controlled by the executive. The general liaison between the judiciary and the executive is the attorney general.”
Acting Chief Justice Isaacs then referred to a quote from former Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley’s address in 2016, which read: “The judiciary is not a department of the Office of the Attorney General, it is an independent branch of government headed by the chief justice, a fact that seems to escape some in the administration at times.”
Acting Chief Justice Isaacs continued: “I referred to that brief quote to underline the effort that must be made to ensure the independence of the judiciary while at the same time for the executive and the judiciary to nurture that delicate balance between the branches, which together make up our democracy.”