Dr Francis Alexis, QC, is tied to the Guyana government the election recount case before the CCJ. He commented that the appellant PPP/C (Bharrat Jagdeo and Presidential candidate Irfaan Ali) has no real prospect of success. Alexis is deputy chairman of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission that appoints judges. It is a conflict of interest to represent clients that appear before the commission. He ought to have been silent on matters before the commission to which he is a party.
Alexis ought to have known better. He is a former lecturer of law at University of West Indies, a former Attorney General of Grenada, a Queen’s Counsel and a lawyer of over four decades. Alexis appeared in the Guyana Court of Appeal for the Applicant, in the case of Eslyn David v Chief Elections Officer that is now before the CCJ. Its hearing is scheduled to take place on July 1.
Over the centuries that English law has evolved, there have been certain doctrines commonly called “conventions”. With the passage of time, they have graduated to assimilate the force of law and indeed, form an integral part of the body corpus of English law.
These conventions supplement the law to protect institutions of the law, the legal system itself, the rule of law and cannons of fundamental justice.
When the British legal system was supplanted in Her Majesty’s colonies so were those conventions, deeply ingrained. When these colonies were granted independence, some of these conventions were codified in the independent constitutions of these territories. However, those conventions that were not codified, still form part of the rule of law in these territories. Guyana and the Caribbean are among those territories whose legal systems devolved in the manner just outlined.
One of these conventions is that lawyers who sit on bodies that appoint judges should not appear before those judges. A logical corollary of this principle is that they should not make any public statement, adopt any posture or commit any acts which may be viewed as influencing, or intending to influence, litigation pending before Judges whom they have appointed or has a responsibility to appoint.
This convention is grounded deeply in the doctrine of natural justice and forms part of that network of principles that protects and ensures judicial independence and fundamental justice. Dr Alexis has egregiously violated these principles. Not only has he made a public statement but has expressed his legal opinion on how the case should be decided, exposing himself to the obvious accusation that he is attempting to prejudice the outcome of the proceedings.
An ordinary citizen who violates the sub judice doctrine is likely to be hauled before the courts for contempt. Alexis is not an ordinary citizen, in this regard. He has done much worse. The truth is he should never have appeared in the proceedings, in the Court of Appeal of Guyana, knowing of the likelihood of it journeying to the CCJ. His entire involvement in this case is highly reprehensible and must be condemned.
If Alexis wishes to remain a respectable jurist, he must withdraw his remarks with an appropriately worded statement admitting this gross misadventure. It is this type of conduct which fuels the fears of those Caribbean citizens who cling desperately to Her Majesty’s Privy Council.
I feel assured in the integrity and independence of the CCJ. I take solace from the fact that the CCJ had no difficulty in rejecting Dr Alexis’s argument in the Guyana Court of Appeal, in the No-Confidence Motion cases, where he submitted that the term “majority” means “absolute majority” in Article 106 of the Constitution of Guyana.
Similarly, to think that “votes” in Article 177 of the Constitution means anything other than “valid votes” is simply a tautology, as the framers of the Constitution obviously recognise that the legislative scheme which governs the electoral process ensures the weeding out of invalid votes, prior to counting. A person or government is not elected from invalid votes. What are counted or recounted are only valid votes. The layman understands this much, more so, judges of the highest court in the region.
(former AG, Guyana)