In separate and joint statements issued by the Dominica Bar Association (DBA) and the OECS Bar Association (OECS Bar), Hon. Lennox Linton, the Leader of Opposition of Dominica has been the subject of strong condemnation for what is described as “recent vicious attacks on His Lordship, the Hon. Justice Raulston Glasgow” in remarks made by him following the delivery of a decision on 14 October 2020, in which the Judge struck out 10 election petitions filed by the United Workers Party of Dominica, which were filed following the December 2019 general elections.
The statement of the OECS Bar states, “We have seen social media postings, memes and heard in particular the recording of a statement, which we understand was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition on Q95 Radio, which openly assert that Justice Glasgow’s decision was somehow politically influenced.”
This is not new. The OECS Bar, in conjunction with the DBA, is always eager and overly anxious to issue condemnation once it involves a matter originating from Dominica, particularly when it concerns an unpopular decision of the court in favour of the government of Dominica or against the parliamentary opposition and the people of Dominica. Therefore, the current episode of politically influenced legal condemnations is not out of character. This is the third time in the last few years that these two organizations have demonstrated that they are unaffected by the ‘Tardy Bug’ that has infected and crippled the justice in Dominica and the OECS by extension. They have been swift in issuing their respective and joint condemnations with respect to the rather innocuous and largely inconsequential remark of the Leader of the Opposition that the decision of the Hon. Judge, IN HIS OPINION,“.. 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….”
The OECS Bar considers the above statement “as part of the reprehensible personal attacks on judges by any elected official….Such comments challenge the reputation of the third, co-equal branch of Government and are clearly calculated to shake public faith in the same; are a grave threat to the independence of the Judiciary; and the personal safety of judicial officer,” the OECS Bar wrote in its censure of the Leader of Opposition as instructed by a manipulative and political Senior Counsel, who many consider to be the de facto Prime Minister of Dominica.
For its part, the Astaphan influenced DBA considered the statements of Mr. Linton “to be a deliberate attack on the Judiciary,” which it characterized as “a patterned response following any ruling of the court that is not in keeping with the Leader of the Opposition’s wishes.” It considered the opinion of the Leader of Opposition as “escalated from being unjustified attacks of bias against a resident judge to very serious and baseless accusations of “political activism” against a nonresident judge.”“A pattern of behavior,” according to the DBA, “that can neither be accepted nor can it be ignored…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.”
Although the OECS Bar recognizes that members of the public have the right to comment on decisions and to express their OPINIONS, which is necessary in any healthy democracy, it nevertheless defines and qualifies what the nature of the criticism ought to be as per its standard and expectations. ”The criticisms should be informed by a knowledge of all the relevant facts,” it arrogantly states, as if to suggest that the Leader of Opposition is unaware of the facts on which the case that his party filed and on upon which he freely expressed an OPINION.
Indeed, one joins the Bar Associations in condemning genuine, unprovoked threats against members of the judiciary, in fact any threat to any individual especially public figures, who are performing their public duties and supposedly seeking to uphold the rule of law. Of course, the public must be aware of the redress offered by the appellate process when dissatisfied with a decision of the courts. Yes, perhaps Mr. Linton should consider modifying his tone and rethinking the contents of his public utterances considering his position as a public figure and especially the Leader of the Opposition who wants to win hearts and minds to win a general election moving forward. However, the hasty, unwarranted, barrage of denigration of the Leader of Opposition by the Prime Ministers (de jure and de facto of Dominica), the Minister of National Security and the two Bar Associations is rather unbecoming to the extent that Mr. Linton’s innocuous statements are deemed as “threats and attacks” of a criminal nature such that “the state of Dominica reserves all rights under law to refer these and other attacks to the Director of Public Prosecution.’ This is pure unadulterated hogwash, as Senior Counsel would say, even if he promised to launch a personal complaint before the DPP. The comments of Mr. Linton may be distasteful but not a “vicious attack” on the judge to warrant such an overreaction by people who do not care about justice for the ordinary man but are simply politically driven and seeking to maintain the corrupted socio-political status quo.
The ordinary citizen on the street would hardly categorize the statements of Mr. Linton as an attack on the judge much less entertain the notion of a “vicious attack.” These dubious efforts appear to be well orchestrated and manipulated by a Senior Counsel, who enjoys the attention of local and regional media as he maliciously claims, “there has been a sustained calculated attack against the integrity of individual Judges in the Administration of Justice by Lennox Linton and the UWP.” He has called for and seemingly is responsible for more or less directing both the local and regional Bar Associations and others to condemn Mr. Linton for what he describes “as being the main threat to the country’s democracy and safety.” Such conduct by Senior Counsel is a political overkill that merely adds to the public suspicion and distrust of the regional justice system and is part of the continuing persecution and prosecution of the Leader of Opposition by a dishonest, vindictive, non-transparent, unaccountable, corrupt and anti-democratic regime.
Similar in tone, speed and contents as the OECS Bar did in May 2017 with respect to its hypocritical expression of concern when ordinary Dominicans expressed outrage with what was considered to be mounting in justice following the delivery of a Judgment of Justice Stephenson Brooks, who on April 27th, 2017 ruled in favour of the Claimants, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and members of his Cabinet by striking-out the defence of the defendants- Opposition Leader Lennox Linton and the owner of WICE Q95 for allegedly publishing certain defamatory words uttered by the Opposition Leader on the basis that the Defendants had no prospect of success at trial. Without allowing a trial, the Judge ordered that the matter proceed to assessment of damages.
The extraction of social media posts and unfairly attributing them to the United Workers Party while ignoring more threatening posts by supporters of the Labour Party to make a baseless claim that a judge was faced with a “well-orchestrated cowardly attacks and threats from faceless, nameless individuals within Dominica and on social media” is shameful. Dominicans for the most part are simply expressing dissatisfaction with the judgments from the High Court in Dominica-particularly from the court of a particular judge who is seen as being part of the government. One wonders whether the Bar Associations have more important things to focus on instead of who might be criticizing a judge’s judgment, especially from a judge known to be biased against a certain political group and in favour of another in a small society.
The OECS Bar again was quick and proud to exhibit its professional giddy bliss in expressing strong condemnation and deep concerns with what it described as “irresponsible public attacks on the integrity of the CCJ (Sir Denis Byron, who is now contracted to reform of electoral laws) by Dominican lawyer Cabral Douglas.” The sin of Mr. Douglas, as far as the Bar Association is concerned, was having “publicly criticized” a judgment and documenting concerns of a number of alleged ‘procedural irregularities’ to the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) complaining, which in his view, should cause the decision of the CCJ to be set aside, whether or not the RJLSC has any power to interfere in the judicial work of the CCJ.
In that regard, Mr. Linton can gain some solace in knowing that the majority of people of Dominica are with him as he remains resolute in asserting that he has not attacked, nor has he requested of anyone to attack or threaten anyone. In response to the suggestion of the OECS Bar Association “to cease, desist and withdraw his comments” and to apologize, Mr. Linton remains adamant that his opinion on the matter will not be withdrawn in light of the “selective silence and criticism” of both the local and regional Bar Associations. He called on the OECS Bar to seek to better serve the public in line with their mission, aims and objectives, which they seem to have ignored.
Both the Dominica Bar and the OECS Bar would be well served to focus on working with the people of Dominica in ensuring constitutional and electoral legislative reform in accordance with the rule of law to ensure free and fair elections and to safeguard our dying democracy in Dominica. We welcome the support of the Bar Associations in demanding that the DLP government pass the Legal Professional Act, advancing the need for legislative changes to secure term limits for the holder of the office of Prime Minister and for setting a fixed date for elections in Dominica every five years.
At this juncture, the Dominican Bar Association should call on its OECS counterpart to assist in calling for the enforcement of the rotation policy for resident judges, who may have become too entangled in the political life of the country in which they are resident. The Bar must continue to condemn the inefficiencies and delay in our court system along with the “unjustified statements from all persons in position of national leadership with the potential to significant damage not only to the reputation of the judge, albeit a difficult task when the judges themselves exhibit bias. More importantly, the local and OECS Bar Associations must hasten to stop the rapid decline of public confidence in the administration of justice in Dominica. Both Bars should take every opportunity to remind the Judiciary of the ECSC of its role to correctly interpret and apply the law with impartiality, independence and integrity so that we the people can boast of being proud of our judicial system for its consistency, independence, impartiality, fairness and professionalism.