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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A high court judge who has been a fierce critic of Chief Justice Ivor Archie is challenging his decision to transfer her to head the Judiciary’s new Family Court in Tobago.
In a five-page letter sent to Archie on Friday, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Justice Carol Gobin questioned the decision, which was only sent to her on Monday.
Gobin, who has been openly critical of Archie since misconduct allegations arose two years ago, raised several issues with the decision including the perception that it was based on their tempestuous relationship.
Archie’s decision to transfer Gobin came days after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that he would not follow the Law Association’s advice to institute impeachment proceedings to investigate the claims against Archie.
Rowley obtained a legal opinion on the association’s report and corresponding legal advice on the issue which stated that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a constitutional probe as suggested.
The association has suggested that the opinion, prepared by British Queen’s Counsel Howard Stevens, was flawed and is currently seeking additional legal advice on whether to bring a judicial review lawsuit to challenge Rowley’s decision.
“I must specifically note as well that this unilateral and arbitrary assignment, taking place in the context of our well documented past differences must appear, to any dispassionate and reasonably informed bystander, to be tantamount to the imposition of a sanction,” Gobin said, as she called on Archie to reconsider his decision and hold consultations with other judicial officers on the “far-reaching changes” being contemplated.
In her strongly-worded letter, Gobin challenged Archie’s claims that the decision was based on her expertise in Family Law.
She claimed that since joining the Judiciary in 2004, her only involvement in the Family Court was when she volunteered to assist a colleague for a week, during the Judiciary’s annual vacation in 2005.
Gobin also suggested that a judge who has served in the Family Court in Port-of-Spain should have received the assignment based on their experience and expertise.
Gobin also sought to lay out her legal understanding of the need to consult with staff before relocation.
She said the relocation would affect her ability to support her husband, who requires medical treatment and after-care at their home.
“This would be impossible if I was relocated and my family physically separated,” she said.
While she noted that judges serve in Tobago from time to time, there is a historical practice under which they are not assigned there for a protracted period so they can manage their case-load at the Judiciary’s operations in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando.
In her letter, Gobin informed Archie that she would be forwarding the assignment letter and her response to her colleagues so that the issue could be discussed at a staff meeting carded for Monday.
Since the misconduct allegations were levelled against Archie in October 2017, Gobin has repeatedly advocated for Archie to meet with her and her colleagues to clear the air on the issues. However, he has repeatedly declined the requests which are usually made in email threads sent to all judges.