Constitutional silk on minister’s legal team

Government’s former drafting adviser for the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution Order is seeking to join Education Minister Tara Rivers’s legal team as she fights a challenge to her eligibility for public office.

An application for limited admission to the Cayman Islands bar was filed last Tuesday on behalf of Jeffrey Jowell, QC, to assist Ms Rivers.

Mr. Jowell is considered one of the leading authorities on public sector law in the United Kingdom and he was paid $424,000 from July 2007 and June 2008 by the Cayman Islands government to advise on the drafting of the new constitution. That document was approved by voters during a May 2009 referendum.

It will be an interesting task for Mr. Jowell, since the wording in parts of the 2009 governing document was used to challenge Ms Rivers’s suitability as a candidate by the husband of her West Bay district opponent Velma Hewitt.

John Gordon Hewitt alleges that Ms Rivers held both a US passport and had not been legally resident in the Cayman Islands for the mandated seven years prior to her 27 March nomination. Mr. Hewitt has asked the Cayman Islands Grand Court to consider Ms Rivers’s candidacy null and void.

Mr. Hewitt also asked the court to name his wife, who received the fifth largest number of votes in the 22 May general election, the fourth elected member of the Legislative Assembly from West Bay if Ms Rivers is removed. It’s unclear at this stage if that is even possible, or if a special election would need to be called to fill the post.

Ms Rivers attended Toronto’s York University business school in 2001 gaining an MBA in 2004, followed by a law degree in 2005. She qualified as an attorney in both Ontario and New York in 2006. While qualifying in the UK, she worked for London-based Allen & Overy, which also has offices in Canada and New York. She qualified in the Cayman Islands in 2009, joining Conyers Dill & Pearman. It remains unclear, however, how long she may have been a student, exempted under the constitution, or how long she may have been absent prior to her March nomination.

Representing Mr. Hewitt, local attorney Steve McField presented during the last court hearing on the matter a list of pointed questions for Ms Rivers to answer.

Those included the following questions: “That Ms Rivers resided in the United Kingdom during the period 2 October 2006 to 30 May 2009? That Ms Rivers was employed to Allen & Overy, Allen & Overy Service Company Limited of No. 1 Bishops Square, London E1 6AD, UK, from 2 October 2006 to 30 May 2009? That Ms Rivers was not a resident in the Cayman Islands for the past seven years prior to 27 March 2013?”

The petition challenging Ms Rivers’s election is set to go forward on 17 July.