Lawyer says Levers findings ‘illegal’

Claiming
the findings of a Tribunal of Inquiry “instigated” by former Cayman Islands
Governor Stuart Jack were illegal and unfair, the attorney for a suspended
Grand Court Justice said this week that his client should not be removed from
the bench.

The
tribunal’s report, released Tuesday on orders from the UK Privy Council, found
that Justice Priya Levers was “unfit” to serve in that office because of
several instances of serious misconduct it found in court cases handled by Mrs.
Levers between 2006 and 2008.

A
four-day hearing before the Privy Council to decide Justice Levers’ fate is
scheduled to start 21 June in London.

The
Council will make the final decision as to whether Mrs. Levers will continue to
serve, and is in no way bound by the tribunal’s report, attorney Anthony
Akiwumi said.

“It
will be argued that the Tribunal of Inquiry’s findings were: illegal, unfair,
unreasonable and unlawful,” according to a statement released by Mr. Akiwumi
Tuesday. “On a reading of the Tribunal of Inquiry’s report, it is apparent that
evidence that was either blatantly incredible, melodramatic or speculative…was,
if not accepted by the Tribunal of Inquiry, relied upon by it to reach adverse
conclusions which were contrary to evidence and contrary to law.”

Mr.
Akiwumi stated that, of the many allegations made against the suspended Cayman
Islands justice, “few” ended in adverse findings being made.

The
tribunal reviewed 17 cases, 11 criminal and six family court cases, in its
report. Of the criminal court cases, serious misconduct on the part of Justice
Levers was found in three cases and one instance of judicial misbehaviour was
identified. In the other seven cases, the tribunal found that Mrs. Levers’
conduct did not rise to that level, although in one instance it pointed out her
comments while on the bench were “wholly inappropriate”.

In
the six family court cases reviewed, serious misconduct was found to have
occurred in four.

The
tribunal’s report took a different view, stating that Justice Levers’ comments
while on the bench “go beyond occasional inappropriate remarks and reveal a
course of conduct by a judge who has shown herself to be devoid of self-control
and incapable of self-criticism”.

Mr.
Akiwumi said the tribunal’s findings were based largely on speculation or lack
specific details, meaning the tribunal reached its conclusions without
evidence. He also argued that superior court judges had the right to expect
“security of tenure” except for cases of proved misbehaviour or inability.

“Regrettably,
though, such adverse conclusions as the tribunal reached were…seemingly
ignorant of the fact that Madam Justice Levers, a learned and distinguished
jurist, had the support of a substantial majority of legal practitioners, of
diverse experience, who had the privilege of appearing before her in the Grand
Court.”

Mrs.
Levers herself pointed out that many allegations examined by the tribunal came
from court reporters – stenographers, not journalists – and questioned what
qualifications they had to judge judicial behaviour.

The court reporters

Testimony
of two court stenographers, Karen Myren and Carol Rouse, was called “pivotal”
to the work of the inquiry.

“They
were an unusual source of complaints,” the tribunal report stated. “They became
increasingly uncomfortable by what they were recording and what they were able
to observe.”

“The
tribunal found both of these women to have been motivated by their outrage
prompted by events they had recorded and witnessed and not by any malice or
ill-will towards Justice Levers. We also found their testimony reliable and
convincing.”

One
of the court reporters forwarded the transcripts of several cases to Cayman
Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in March 2007 along with a memo which the
tribunal described as using “rather extreme language” to show her feelings.

Describing
the atmosphere in Justice Levers’ court room, the stenographer wrote: “The
trial itself becomes secondary to the constant theatrics, bullying, hurtful and
inappropriate comments that are generated. Women, in particular, are insulted,
castigated, demeaned and humiliated for no particular reason.

“It
becomes apparent very early on that she has already made up her mind about the
case, almost always in favour of male defendants, to the point of coddling them
as if they are the victims. Justice is rarely seen to be done.”

1 COMMENT

  1. It is a pity that lawyers (as well as others) cannot hold their peace while the legal proceedings are ongoing. Do they not accept that the Law is above them? It seems not.