Election challenge proves costly

Seven people who unsuccessfully
challenged the legitimacy of two candidates from Bodden Town elected in the
2009 General Election have been served with bankruptcy notices.

The notices sent to the
challengers, which includes Artist Gordon Solomon and Social Activist Sandra Catron,
require them to pay to Mark Scotland and Dwayne Seymour US$70,041.76.

That’s the amount due on the final
judgement obtained by Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour against the group of
challengers in Grand Court on 19 February and 17 March.

The consequences of not complying
with the notice are that the individuals will have committed acts of
bankruptcy, which would allow bankruptcy proceedings to be taken against them
by Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour.

Mr. Solomon expressed surprise at
the stance taken by the MLA’s and their lawyers, calling it excessive.

“I didn’t expect all of this just
because of standing up. Maybe I was a little naive and did not realise what we
were getting into. However when we got our advice from England, this is how we
were instructed to proceed. We also had a very short time to put things in
order. I did not imagine anything about having to pay the other side’s legal
costs.” 

Mr. Seymour said he was not aware
that bankruptcy notices had already been served, but noted that both he and now
Mr. Scotland had to seek financing to cover the cost of the proceedings.

“We were simply two honest men
trying to do well for the Cayman Islands and the people of Bodden Town. These
people made a decision to get into the arena, bringing a frivolous claim that
was executed totally incorrectly and ended up wasting everyone’s time and
taking food from my children’s mouths. What would they have gained from it is
the important question.”

He contends more money and time
would have been wasted and he and Mr. Scotland would have retained their seats
through a by-election.

A statement sent by Sandra Catron
to the Caymanian Compass read on 3 June: “We have been somewhat astonished to
receive bankruptcy notices in relation to the costs of Cause 288 of 2009. It
seems that because we sought to uphold the constitution, our two Bodden Town
representatives have sought to have us declared bankrupt if we do not immediately
pay their costs which were awarded in March of this year. We were advised by
senior counsel that it was possible to seek to have the constitution upheld by
way of an Originating Summons and that it was also possible to do so by way of
an election petition under the Elections Law. We chose the former approach
because it was less of a partisan approach to the issue. The majority of us
have no party affiliation whatsoever. The irony is that if we had taken a
partisan approach and proceeded by way of an election petition the circumstances
of our two representatives would likely be very different now. We respect the
view of the court and the rule of law so their costs will be paid. There was no
need to take a heavy handed approach of threatening your own constituents with
personal bankruptcy but we have come to expect no more.”

The challenge to Mr. Scotland’s and
Mr. Seymour’s elections was thrown out of court after Chief Justice Anthony
Smellie ruled that the challenge was brought too late and that what was filed
was not in the prescribed form of an election petition.

Under the Elections Law the
challenge should have been made 21 days after Mr. Scotland and Mr. Seymour were
officially announced winners in the Bodden Town election. The challenge was
made 26 days later.

The Chief Justice said the
challengers were required to take their challenge by election petition.

“If the time limits imposed by the
Elections Law can be bypassed, then there would be no time limits at all. That
cannot be a proper interpretation of the constitutional intent,” he said.

The challengers said the two
candidates were disqualified because they had not met the deadline for filing
notice of their contracts with Government. Neither their attorneys nor the
court addressed the allegation.

While the challenge made by voters
in the district was dismissed, it was possible for Attorney General Sam Bulgin
to take action, which he did not do.

Speaking for the two MLAs at the
time, Ramon Alberga QC and Attorney Steve McField applauded what they called a
landmark judgment. Immediately following the proceedings, Mr. Alberga had asked
that costs be awarded on the standard basis. Their team was led by Lord Pannick
and included Attorneys Michael Alberga and Christopher McDuff.

1 COMMENT

  1. Whether or not I agree with the principle – I respect the seeven people who sought to challenge the legitimacy of two candidates from Bodden Town being elected in the 2009 General Election. However, now it is time to pay the piper to the two MLA’s. To think that there woudl not be some costs assocaited with the challenge was misguided.

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