Levers challenges Governor Jack

Suspended Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Priya Levers will challenge the proposed release of a report that is expected to be highly critical of her past performance on the bench.

The report was drafted following a Tribunal of Inquiry conducted in the Cayman Islands earlier this year at the request of Governor Stuart Jack. The report was completed in August, but Governor Jack declined to release it at that time.

Ms Levers

Ms Levers

However, court records obtained by the Caymanian Compass have revealed that Governor Jack changed his mind and informed Justice Levers in a letter sent 2 November that he intended to release the report.

The initial release date for the Tribunal’s report was set for 10 November. However, that release was delayed after Mrs. Levers’ attorneys filed for a judicial review of the governor’s decision.

A 27 November date was set for the judicial review to be heard.

In the filing for judicial review, Mrs. Levers’ lawyers argued that the governor’s decision was ultra vires, outside the law, and that Mr. Jack had not given sufficient evidence as to why the Tribunal report should be released.

Mr. Jack had earlier stated that the matter of Justice Levers’ continued employment in the Cayman Islands would be taken to the Privy Council in London for consideration.

No date has been set for the Privy Council’s hearing of the matter. However, Mrs. Levers’ attorneys stated in the 5 November judicial review filing that the Governor’s decision represented a complete reversal and was not properly explained.

A press release issued by Governor Jack’s office on 20 August read: ‘Because the case is ongoing and will be referred to the Privy Council, the governor is not at liberty to release the report. Once the Privy Council has made its ruling, a decision will be taken concerning the report’s release to the public.’

On 2 November, the governor’s special counsel sent a letter to Justice Levers that read as follows: ‘Having provided you with ample time to peruse the report, His Excellency now considers it appropriate and in the ‘public’s interest’ that he makes the report public. The proposed date for the release of the report is 10 November, 2009.’

According to Mrs. Levers’ attorneys, a letter received from the Governor’s special counsel on 3 November stated that Mr. Jack had changed his position after careful consideration and after receiving a freedom of information request for the Tribunal’s report from a journalist.

Cayman Free Press filed an open records request for a copy of the Tribunal’s report on 31 August. The governor’s office did not inform CFP of any decision to release the document and CFP was not aware of the governor’s 2 November decision to release the report prior to last week.

The governor’s special counsel also stated that the governor had received guidance from the Privy Council on the matter and noted that his earlier decision to withhold the Tribunal’s report appeared to be ‘at odds with the position taken by Gibraltar in relation to the release of the Cullen Inquiry report into the removal of Chief Justice Derek Schofield.’

The 207-page report written following the Schofield inquiry, described in the UK press as ‘damning,’ was released publicly prior to the Privy Council’s hearing the matter.

Mrs. Levers’ attorneys stated in their filing for judicial review that there was a ‘clear attempt by the (governor) to oust the jurisdiction of the Grand Court to intervene’ in the matter.

The filing seeks orders of certiorari (an order from a higher court asking a lower court or tribunal to send records in a case for the higher court’s review) to quash the governor’s decision to release the report. It also seeks to prevent publication of the report until the Privy Council has heard and decided on Justice Levers’ case.

The filing also seeks an order for damages – to be assessed – for injury to Justice Levers’ reputation and an order requiring the governor’s office to pay all court costs for the judicial review.

The judicial tribunal that looked into allegations of misbehaviour by Justice Levers was held in early to mid-May.