Privy Council to decide chief justice v governor

The judicial committee of the United Kingdom’s Privy Council is expected to publish a judgment this week concerning a petition that has pitted Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie against Governor Duncan Taylor and the local Judicial and Legal Services Commission.

The petition, presented by Chief Justice Smellie in May, asked Her Majesty, the Queen of England to refer two matters to the Privy Council

The Council committee heard representations in the case on 16 October.

The first issue concerns the extension of an appointment of a justice to the Cayman Islands Grand Court. The second involves the publication of a complaints procedure in relation to the Cayman Islands judiciary.

Both matters, according to a statement issued on behalf of the Privy Council last week, involve interpretation of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009. The Privy Council is the ultimate legal authority for the Cayman Islands, which is a British Overseas Territory, and serves as the eventual court of appeal for Grand Court cases, save certain claims that go the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“The governor….applied to the judicial committee to advise Her Majesty that it would not be appropriate to give substantive advice on the merits of the two issues, primarily on the basis that these issues should be resolved, at any rate initially, in the [Cayman Islands] Grand Court,” the Privy Council release stated.

According to Section 4 of the UK Judicial Committee Act, 1833: “It shall be lawful for [Her} Majesty to refer to the said judicial committee for hearing or consideration any such other matters whatsoever as {Her] Majesty shall think fit…”

At issue is whether the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee can decline to rule on any issues raised in a petition referred to it under the 1833 Act. This is the issue upon which the Judicial Committee is expected to rule Thursday.

The specifics of each claim, the appointment of the justice and the publication of a complaints process for the Cayman Islands judiciary, were not explained in the release from the Privy Council.

Attempts to seek comment from Chief Justice Smellie’s office, Governor Taylor’s office and the local Judicial and Legal Services Commission on the matter proved fruitless.



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