Privy Council advises Levers’ removal from bench

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The United Kingdom’s Privy Council
has recommended that Justice Priya Levers be removed from office for
misbehaviour and an inability to carry out the functions of her role as a Grand
Court judge in Cayman.

The Privy Council’s Judicial
Committee published its findings on its website on Thursday, 29 July, after
considering the judge’s conduct of court proceedings, her relationship with
Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and her attitude toward fellow judges.

The committee stated that it was
“most concerned with those occasions when [Justice Levers] has been guilty in
court of completely inexcusable conduct that have given the appearance of
racism, bias against foreigners and bias in favour of the defence in criminal
cases.

“They have been fatal flaws in a
judicial career that has had many admirable features,” it said.

In its advice, published following
a four-day hearing in London last month, the Privy Council determined that
Justice Levers had shown “bias and contempt for Jamaicans” and demonstrated
misbehaviour that would “of itself, have justified her removal from office”.

The committee was referring to a
grievous bodily harm case Justice Levers heard in which she asked why the
victim, the Jamaican girlfriend of the defendant, had not been sent “home”,
described her as “a woman like that” after hearing she was married to a
Caymanian, and accused her of “spreading her goodwill around”, which the committee
said was a “clear allegation of promiscuity”.

The committee described the judge’s
comments about the victim as “monstrous”.

The Privy Council found that the
judge was also guilty of serious misconduct on three occasions in cases heard
in Family Court.

“She made offensive and racist
comments to a Canadian mother…, demonstrated a similar attitude in suggesting
that a Filipino mother go back to the Philippines and made a remark… which
would be perceived as outrageously racist and would be wholly unacceptable from
the bench anywhere in the world,” a summary of the Privy Council’s report
stated.

The seven-member committee found
that critical comments Justice Levers made about fellow judges on two occasions
in court constituted “serious misconduct” in one case and were “inappropriate”
in the other.

The report said that evidence from
a number of witnesses showed that after May 2007, Justice Levers had formed a
powerful dislike of the Chief Justice and some fellow judges. “She had
disparaged them in private conversations with others involved in court
administration, which crossed the line from indiscretion to become misconduct,
although not misbehaviour justifying removal from office on its own,” it said.

The committee, having read
statements from many colleagues and friends attesting to the judge’s good
qualities, stated: “[Justice Levers] has high standards and shows strong
disapproval for those whom she does not consider measure up to them. That
disapproval has extended both to some who have appeared in her court and to her
own colleagues.

“Unfortunately she has not kept
that disapproval to herself. It has led her repeatedly to make in court
comments that have ranged from the inappropriate to the outrageous about those
who have appeared before her and, on two occasions, about her judicial
colleagues.”

The report stated that the Privy
Council committee was satisfied that “by her misconduct [Justice Levers] showed
that she was not fit to continue to serve as a judge of the Grand Court and
humbly advises Her Majesty that she should be removed from that office on the
ground of her misbehaviour.”

In May 2009, a judicial tribunal
into Justice Levers’ behaviour was held in Cayman. The tribunal was convened by
former governor Stuart Jack following a complaint from Chief Justice Smellie.
The three members of that tribunal recommended that the judge be removed from office.
Their findings and the transcript of the tribunal hearing were passed on to the
Privy Council for consideration.

The Privy Council took exception to
some of the comments made by the judicial tribunal in relation to Justice
Levers, saying it was not appropriate for it to castigate Justice Levers’
conduct in the “extreme terms” adopted in the tribunal’s executive summary.

“It is one thing for an investigating
tribunal to identify conduct that it considers amounts to misbehaviour
justifying removal. It is quite another to do so in terms that may irreparably
damage the reputation of a judge before her conduct has been appraised by the
Judicial Committee,” it said.

The final determination of whether
Justice Levers, who was suspended by Mr. Jack in September 2008, will be
removed permanently from office lies with the current governor Duncan Taylor
and the Queen.

Head of the Governor’s Office,
Steve Moore, said Thursday that the Privy Council’s advice was to the Queen and
Mr. Taylor, who is off island until Monday.

Mr. Moore said: “Her Majesty and,
in turn, her representative in the Cayman Islands would need to consider that
advice and take what action is necessary.”

Justice Levers’ lawyer, Anthony
Akiwumi, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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Mrs. Levers pictured during the judicial tribunal held in Cayman in May 2009.
Photo: File
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2 COMMENTS

  1. All I have to say is this, A Very Good Example Of When Someone is GIven Too Much Power!

    Editor’s note: This comment had to be edited for legal reasons. We ask readers to please not make defamatory statements about individuals or the judiciary in their posts.

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