Events took a bizarre turn at the Justice Priya Levers tribunal Saturday with claims the judge consulted a card reading psychic and had drawn up a list of people that she wanted barred from her funeral.
The claims came from Justice Levers’ long-time secretary, Elizabeth Webb, who said the psychic told Justice Levers that she would receive a kidney from a car crash victim, and had predicted the judge would one day work with someone named Webb.
The tribunal heard of an August 2007 letter the Grand Court judge had sent to two local attorneys saying, ‘I wish to have a certain element of peace and respect in death, which may come at any time now,’ before listing people that she did not want at her funeral.
Mrs. Webb said Justice Levers had repeatedly criticised other judges, to the point that she was forced to ask the judge not to gossip with her about judges and court staff any more.
‘I saw Justice Levers’ behaviour towards other staff and people. I was getting sick of what I was seeing and hearing,’ she said, adding that she became so stressed by the judge’s behaviour that she became physically ill.
Net News letters
The secretary also detailed why she thought Justice Levers was the author of a series of letters to the editor that appeared in the Cayman Net News in 2007 that blasted other Cayman Islands judges.
Mrs. Webb said the judge had taken a strong interest in the letters when they first began appearing in the paper in July 2007, and had instructed her to make copies of them and keep them in a special file.
Mrs. Webb said the judge also asked her to send copies of the letters to certain other attorneys and a court of appeal judge, and had said not to let anyone see her making copies of the letters.
Mrs. Webb said she became convinced Justice Levers was the letter writer when she saw a letter on the judge’s desk, in the judge’s hand writing, addressed ‘to the editor’ with the name Leticia Barton at the bottom.
‘I was nervous when I saw it,’ Mrs Webb said, ‘I could not believe what I saw … that Justice Levers was actually a writer of one of the articles that was published against the judiciary.’ Justice Levers denies ever writing the letters.
Mrs. Webb said she saw the Leticia Barton letter in the Net News about two weeks later and the judge had asked her to photocopy it.
But Counsel assisting the tribunal, Timothy Otty QC, questioned whether Mrs. Webb had really seen the letter in the Net News, after the edition was pulled and not distributed on Grand Cayman (although it was distributed on the Sister Islands). There was no evidence given about whether the paper was pulled because of the letter or some other reason.
In a statement to the tribunal, Barry Randall, a Net News manager, said Mrs. Webb would have had to gone to great lengths to find a printed copy of the edition, or someone in possession of a copy must have made a point of showing it to her.
But Mrs. Webb insisted ‘I am sure I saw it in Justice Levers’ chambers’, adding that she later made copies of it from Justice Levers’ file.
Stanley Brodie QC, for Justice Levers, suggested that Mrs. Webb had made the allegations up after her relationship with the judge deteriorated in early 2007.
He said Mrs. Webb did not read the body of the letter and the name Leticia Barton could not possibly have had any significance to her until the same name appeared in the paper a few weeks later.
He suggested Mrs. Webb saw something addressed to the editor – which could have been to any editor about anything – and that the Leticia Barton memory had been added after she saw the letter in the paper.
Mrs. Webb had said the letter she saw was one page long. But Mr. Brodie insisted that the judge’s handwriting would have required three pages.
‘What you are saying is a complete fabrication,’ Mr. Brodie said, but Mrs. Webb insisted, ‘I know what I saw’.
Also appearing Saturday morning was senior court reporter Karen Myren, who, in a 2007 letter to the Chief Justice, complained that women appearing in Justice Levers’ court ‘are insulted, castigated, demeaned, and humiliated for no particular reason’, resulting ‘in such an unpleasant and unfair environment that people are traumatised after the experience.’
Mr. Brodie has suggested that three Canadians – Ms Myren, her colleague, Carol Rouse, and former acting Grand Court Judge Dale Sanderson – all set out to destroy Justice Levers’ relationship with Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and to undermine her tenure as a Grand Court judge.
Ms Myren rejected this, saying that she had too much respect for the Chief Justice to unnecessarily put him in that position. ‘I wouldn’t do that to him and I wouldn’t do that to Justice Levers.’
Mr. Brodie asked why more lawyers hadn’t come forward to support the court reporters’ claims about the judge.
Ms Myren said she knew other lawyers and court staff had told the Chief Justice about what was happening in Justice Levers’ court, but many were not prepared to put it in writing.
Ms Rouse told the tribunal Friday she was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ more of Cayman’s lawyers hadn’t come forward to make complaints, adding some had made comments to the effect of ‘you have to think about your future clients’.
Mr. Brodie asked why Ms Myren had not followed the advice of Justice Sanderson, who had told her it was not her place to raise complaints about Justice Levers.
‘He was saying that to protect us from what has happened here – having people turn against us or accuse us of concocting this whole thing.’
Explaining the decision to take her complaints to the Chief Justice, Ms Myren said: ‘my conscience just weighed too heavily on me, sitting in court and seeing what was transpiring.
‘I couldn’t stand it any longer.’
The tribunal continues Monday.
For last Thursday and Friday’s reports from the tribunal, and for regular updates, visit www.caycompass.com