A 20-minute hearing Tuesday in Grand Court may presage a broad constitutional battle later this week as petitioners fight what they are calling the Cayman Islands government’s extra-legal presumption to close a section of West Bay Road by Public Beach.
Appearing before Justice Alexander Henderson, attorneys for both the four plaintiffs and the government disputed whether a full hearing should commence on Thursday or the court should throw out the original petition, filed five months ago.
Repeatedly calling it a matter of “public interest” requiring a quick solution, Justice Henderson denied the defence’s request to adjourn the matter, ordering instead an open-court hearing on Thursday to decide whether to delay the case, to begin arguments or to abandon the application.
Mourant Ozannes attorney Hector Robinson said the defendants in the petition – the attorney general, the governor, the Ministry of Works and the National Roads Authority – were not prepared to proceed.
“With the new government, the attorney general apparently is advising the Cabinet about all the matters under him, and this is one of them. The Cabinet requires more time to understand the issues more clearly,” Mr. Robinson said, “so we have requested to seek adjournment.”
He did not propose a date for resumption, saying only “we cannot proceed without instructions. We are in correspondence with the attorney general and the listings officer” of the Grand Court.
Clearly impatient, Justice Henderson said he was “not inclined to grant the adjournment”, saying everyone involved had had ample time to grasp the issues in what was “a relatively simple claim”.
Mr. Robinson described the 25 February petition, charging government with serial violations of due process in closing the West Bay Road, as an “abuse of process”, but failed to present supporting evidence.
Justice Henderson ordered the parties to be ready on Thursday to argue the case, at which time, he said, attorneys could debate abuse of process, ask for an adjournment or abandon the action.
Should Justice Henderson rule in favour of the plaintiffs on Thursday, ordering arguments to start, a full hearing will challenge the governor’s transfer of the right-of-way on 4,000 feet of West Bay Road to the ForCayman Investment Alliance, a public-private partnership between Dart Realty and the Cayman Islands government.
Still unclear are the penalties the court might impose if the transfer proves flawed, whether a significant fine or forcing Dart to reinstate the highway and reverse any construction already completed.