Translator loses suit against government

A Caymanian business owner lost her application to appeal a court ruling after she filed a suit against government because the Chief Immigration Officer declined to recognize her as a translator of the Spanish language.

Gean Welcome Brown told the Cayman Compass she intends to appeal against the decision of Justice Alexander Henderson after he dismissed her application earlier this month to appeal against the decision of Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who had dismissed her suit.

Ms. Welcome Brown said she had filed a writ because her constitutional rights had been violated, including her right of self-determination and non-discrimination.

Justice Henderson said the traditional way of complaining against the action of a government official is by applying for a judicial review of that action, but Ms. Welcome Brown had chosen to bring a writ. Her choice might well be viewed as an attempt to avoid the rigor of a 90-day time limit, he commented.

The court can be flexible when a complainant is a lay person without legal representation, the judge noted. In this case, however, Ms. Welcome Brown has a law degree from a university in Colombia.

If there were valid complaints to be made against the Chief Immigration Officer and others named in the writ, they could and should have been advanced at the appropriate time in the appropriate procedural manner, Justice Henderson ruled. He found that Ms. Welcome Brown’s appeal ultimately enjoyed no reasonable prospect of success and he refused her application to appeal.

The original issue was not dealt with. Ms. Welcome Brown told the court she is Caymanian, proficient in Spanish and English, and has a business license to perform translations. In April 2013, she requested the Chief Immigration Officer to recognize her as a translator so that translations performed by her would not be denied or rejected when her customers presented them to the Immigration Department.

She said the department requested her qualifications and on July 5, 2013, refused to recognize her as a translator because she did not have a certificate from a university qualifying her as a translator. She told the court that there are currently no rules, laws or regulations for recognizing someone as a translator. She named two entities the department accepts as translators and said she would provide affidavits as to their records.

Justice Henderson said he could not accept affidavits because such information should have been part of her writ.

Ms. Welcome Brown went on to detail her dealings with the Office of the Complaints Commissioner and Governor’s Office, among others.

Her writ was filed on Oct. 22, 2013 and the matter was set for hearing on March 3, 2014. On that day, the Chief Justice was indisposed. An email was sent to all parties involved, but Ms. Welcome Brown said hers went into her junk mail, so she did not know the matter was to be heard the next day, March 4. She herself was ill and had a two-day medical excuse, which she sent to the court.

On March 4, she was serving as a translator in a court case in the chambers of Justice Richard Williams. Attorneys representing the various government departments saw her and tried to serve her with their bundles of legal documents. She refused to accept them.

Ms. Welcome Brown told Justice Henderson that the Chief Justice’s secretary came to her “with her bare mouth” and said she needed to go to the Chief Justice’s court. “I told her I didn’t have any notification of that,” Ms. Welcome Brown said, and she declined to go.

Justice Henderson said the secretary was giving her notification, asking her to attend. What was wrong with that, he wondered.

Ms. Welcome Brown replied that it was not proper notice, that she should have been summonsed in writing. She also pointed out that she was on duty in another court.

Justice Henderson said all the courts are the Chief Justice’s courts. Ms. Welcome Brown disagreed. “The whole building can’t be his court,” she said.

When she did not attend the Chief Justice’s court, he proceeded with the hearing and dismissed her case.

Justice Henderson noted that Ms. Welcome Brown’s grievance was two-fold: that her application to be recognized by the Immigration Department as an interpreter was not dealt with fairly; and that her complaint about that decision was not dealt with fairly.

He awarded costs to the attorneys representing the government entities.