Levers denies allegations

Justice Priya Levers denied allegations of misbehaviour during the day and a half of intense questioning at her tribunal last Thursday and Friday.

Mrs. Levers was the last witness to give evidence in the tribunal, which featured nine days of oral and written evidence from witnesses, including Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsey-Hale and several court staff and litigants.

The tribunal heard final submissions from the attorneys yesterday.

On Friday, Mrs. Levers insisted she had not written the notorious Leticia Barton letter, stating: ‘I had nothing to do with that letter.’

The letter Mrs. Levers denied penning, written under a fictitious name, was critical of the judiciary and was printed in the Cayman Net News on 27 July, 2007. Mrs. Levers’ secretary at the time, Elizabeth Webb told the tribunal that prior to the letter being published she had seen a letter in the judge’s handwriting signed ‘Leticia Barton’ and addressed to ‘editor’.

Mrs. Levers’ counsel Stanley Brodie QC tried to prevent his client from being questioned on the letter, saying that any suggestion that Mrs. Levers was the author of the Barton letter was ‘hopelessly unsupported by evidence’.

Mr. Brodie argued that if this were a criminal case, the Crown would have to discount the evidence, and that if the allegation were true, it would be so serious that the evidence supporting it would have to be overwhelming.

After a five-minute break during which the judges retired to consider whether Mrs. Levers could be questioned about the letter, they decided that since the tribunal was inquisitorial in nature, they wanted to hear what she had to say about it.

Mrs. Levers denied writing it.

‘At the time, I was part of the judiciary. I still am, I hope, for now. I did not write about myself,’ Mrs. Levers said when asked about the letter by Timothy Otty QC, counsel for the tribunal.

Mr. Otty had argued that the authorship of the letter was a ‘very important issue before the tribunal’.

He went through the contents of the Barton letter, asking Mrs. Levers about each of the issues raised in it.

Mrs. Levers, throughout her almost nine hours of questioning responded also to evidence from witnesses who claimed to have had conversations with her, or who had told them about conversations with her, in which she was allegedly critical of fellow judges and the chief justice.

She denied having those conversations in many of the instances and disputed the content of conversations in others.

In her testimony, she admitted she had been scared of losing her security of tenure as a judge after receiving a memo and documents from Mr. Smellie that was critical of her work and her comments in some cases over which she had presided.

One of the cases the chief justice had brought to her attention was the Crown versus Christopher Ebanks, heard in February 2006. Mrs. Levers admitted she ‘may have been over-zealous’ in comments she made from the bench during that case that ‘half the judges were having coffee’ at 2.30pm in the afternoons.

She said she made that remark because she was upset that a fellow judge had been unable to take over a case from her when she needed to undergo dialysis because he was going scuba diving.

The chief justice also made notes on the Crown versus Anthony Bryan when he questioned the relevance of her asking whether the victim and attacker were Caymanian.

When told they were Jamaican, she asked if the badly beaten victim had a work permit and how it was that she was about to get Caymanian status. The chief justice had written in the margins of the transcript: ‘What business is this of the court?’

Mrs. Levers said: ‘I am not proud of this case,’ adding repeatedly that she apologised to the victim and had not made the comments due to any bias or prejudice towards Jamaicans.

The psychic link

The judge also set the record straight on whether she believed in psychics, an allegation raised by Ms Webb. Mrs. Levers insisted in response to a question by Mr. Brodie that she did not believe in nor had consulted psychics. She later told Mr. Otty that she had ‘adopted’ an elderly lady who was without family and lived in an old people’s home in Jamaica.

When Mrs. Levers would bring her gifts of Chinese food or money, the elderly woman would tell her: ‘God bless you. You’ll get a bag of grapefruit tomorrow morning from Mandeville,” Mrs. Levers said.

Mrs. Denno had told her: ‘Somebody with a red car is going to give you a kidney’, explained Mrs. Levers, who had been on dialysis at the time and subsequently received a kidney transplant.

Mrs. Levers said she told Ms Webb that if no suitable kidney donor was found, she would get the secretary to stand by the window and ‘the first red car you see, you will run down and stop that car and ask the man or woman if he would give me a kidney. That was the extent of the conversation as far as getting a kidney from a red car went.’

Subsequent to the closing submissions by Mr. Otty and Mr. Brodie, the tribunal will make a recommendation to Governor Jack about whether the question of Justice Levers’ removal from office on the grounds of misbehaviour should be referred to the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee.