The judicial tribunal looking into allegations of misbehaviour by Justice Priya Levers started in a packed hotel suite Thursday as the judge’s lawyers promised to clear her name.
Top international barristers, eminent judges and leading members of Cayman’s legal community all packed into the tiny Reef Suite 442 at the Marriott Beach Resort – a converted hotel room – for the tribunal, which is expected to run through 18 May.
Tribunal Chairman Sir Andrew Leggatt noted that part of the case against the judge touches on her involvement in rumours about inappropriate criminal activity among members of Cayman’s judiciary.
However, he said Justice Levers will not be seeking to rely on the accuracy of those rumours.
‘No one should give any credence to those rumours,’ he said.
The tribunal is also set to hear allegations that the judge displayed bias against women, Jamaicans, Sri Lankans, Canadians and defence attorneys and that she was the author of a series of letters to the Cayman Net News in 2007 that were critical of members of the Cayman Islands judiciary.
Thirty witnesses are due to appear before the tribunal – the last of which will be Justice Levers, who is being represented by Stanley Brodie QC and local attorney Anthony Akiwumi.
Also set to give evidence is Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, although different rules have been set for his appearance. The Chief Justice has been given a summary of the areas that he will be questioned on and the tribunal has granted his legal counsel the power to re-examine him to clarify any issues arising after being cross examined by lawyers for Justice Levers.
In opening remarks to the tribunal Thursday morning, Mr. Brodie described how Justice Levers and Chief Justice Smellie had enjoyed a close relationship for years, having both been barristers in Jamaica.
Ms Lever’s appointment as a Grand Court justice in the Cayman Islands, which had been supported by the Chief Justice, had been the pinnacle of her career, he said. Two years later Mr. Smellie asked her to extend her contract for another five years.
Never in her worst nightmare did she imagine that within two years the Chief Justice would be launching disciplinary proceedings against her, Mr. Brodie said.
The proceedings have been ‘humiliating – the worst indignity that can be inflicted on a judge,’ he said.
Evidence against the judge came from ‘people with an axe to grind’ he said.
Much of the initial complaints against the judge came from court stenographers. Mr. Brodie wanted to know why they had declared themselves the guardians of the public interests and why Mr. Smellie had listed to their advice in launching disciplinary proceedings.