Former Attorney General, Justin Simon QC, has come out in defence against recent harsh criticisms of High Court Justice Justice Marissa Robertson by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Browne referred to Justice Robertson’s consideration to hear a motion that will allow for the principles of Half Moon Bay (HMB) Holdings to seize money – via a ‘garnishee order’ – from the government’s assets as ‘flawed’, ‘unreasonable’ and ‘perverted’.
This pronouncement by the Prime Minister did not sit well with Simon, who also sits as the current chairman of the Disciplinary Committee as appointed by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.
“I hold no brief for HMB, but I unreservedly condemn the Prime Minister’s statement in respect of the judge,” the former AG said.
“That kind of criticism, especially coming from the head of government, undermines the judiciary and sends the wrong message to the public. It undermines what the judiciary do and what it stands for,” he argued.
An irate Browne had made comments this past weekend not only disagreeing with Justice Wilkinson’s approach, but he also had strong and targeted words to other sitting judges who may someday adjudicate in matters of public interest.
“Next thing people are going to think that the Prime Minister has some power over the judge or that he can simply send a ‘message’ to the judge… not acceptable at all,” the queen’s counsel stated.
Browne, agitated at the possible impact of having US$17 million removed from the government’s assets in one lump sum payment, argued that the judge should take into consideration the detrimental impact the order would have on the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
While the former AG largely agreed with the PM that great consideration should be given as to how the government’s priority payments are structured, the attorney said that those are arguments for the government’s counsel to make before the court and not in a public forum.
“The courts should make a determination. That is the proper way matters of that nature should be dealt with no matter how angry, or annoyed, or disappointed you are with a decision,” Simon stated.
The QC referenced the judicial system as a whole to include the court of first instance, the appellate court and the court of final appeal as institutions aggrieved parties can access if not satisfied with court decisions.
“That is the process that we must accept and we must respect,” he added.
“When this matter is brought before the court, the court determines [its ruling], based upon considerations that are placed before the court. And when you criticise a decision, then do so on the basis on the terms of the decision and how the decision was arrived at.”