The Dominica Bar Association (DBA) strongly condemns the recent statements of the Leader of the Opposition attacking the Judiciary following the Court’s decision delivered on Wednesday, 14th October, 2020, on the strike out applications to the Election Petitions seeking to void the December 2019 Elections in 10 Constituencies.
We refer specifically to the following statements made on Q95 Radio by the Leader of the Opposition: “I believe that the [Judge’s] ruling in the application to strike out the election petitions is not the work of a judge in the meaning and purpose of our system of justice. Rather, it is the work of an axe grinding political activist under the influence, for whatever reason, of forces opposed to truth, righteousness and justice in the democratic governance of Dominica. That is my opinion…” The DBA considers these statements to be a deliberate attack on the Judiciary.
Unfortunately, these types of remarks have become a patterned response following any ruling of the court that is not in keeping with the Leader of the Opposition’s wishes. His statements have now escalated from being unjustified attacks of bias against a resident judge to very serious and baseless accusations of “political activism” against a nonresident judge. This pattern of behavior can neither be accepted nor can it be ignored. The DBA notes that the statement itself that, ” …it is the work of an axe grinding political activist under the influence, for whatever reason… ” indicates that it is being made in the absence of any supporting facts or evidence. These types of unjustified statements from a person in a position of national leadership does significant damage not only to the reputation of the judge, but also to the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
The DBA reiterates that the role of the Judiciary is to interpret and apply the law with impartiality, independence and integrity. In this regard, the Judiciary of the Eastern Caribbean States have executed their functions and duties with a consistency that all citizens can rely on and be proud of.
The DBA therefore takes the opportunity to emphasize that where any person is dissatisfied with a decision of the Judiciary, the appeal process is available, when the law permits.
While an expression of dissatisfaction, disappointment and/or disagreement with a court’s decision is a fundamental right of every citizen, such a right ought to be exercised with prudence so as not to undermine the trust and confidence which citizens are expected to have and should have in the administration of justice.
Therefore, the DBA is calling on all legal practitioners to always properly advise their clients on the role of the Judiciary in a democratic society; on the negative impact irresponsible utterances may have on the public confidence in the administration of justice; and on the fact that actions which unjustifiably damage public confidence in the administration of justice may amount to contempt of the court.
The DBA is again calling on the members of the public, and the Leader of the Opposition, specifically, to desist from making and/or to reject these or similar statements which serve to undermine the authority, integrity and reputation of our democratic institutions, in this case the Judiciary.
We as members of the DBA are, and all legal practitioners should be, very concerned that these baseless, unwarranted and vicious attacks on the Judiciary continue to be made with impunity that notwithstanding, we should all reject these kinds of statements outright.