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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Section 137 of the Constitution states...

The full text of the Constitution of Trinidad & Tobago is available for download from the Trinidad & Tobago Parliament web site at http://parliament.gov.tt/docs/constitution/ttconst.pdf.

The Constitution is also in print once again and hardcopy is available from the Government Printery at a cost of 50 dollars.

Section 137 of the Constitution, REMOVAL FROM OFFICE OF JUDGE, reads as follows. [Emphasis mine throughout]
1. A Judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office, (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause), or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

2. A Judge shall be removed from office by the President where the question of removal of that Judge has been referred by the President to the Judicial Committee and the Judicial Committee has advised the President that the Judge ought to be removed from office for such inability or for misbehaviour.

3. Where the Prime Minister, in the case of the Chief Justice, or the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, represents to the President that the question of removing a Judge under this section ought to be investigated, then-

a. the President shall appoint a tribunal, which shall consist of a chairman and not less than two other members, selected by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Prime Minister after consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission in the case of a Judge, from among persons who hold or have held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court;

b. the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and recommend to the President whether he should refer the question of removal of that Judge from office to the Judicial Committee; and

c. where the tribunal so recommends, the President shall refer the question accordingly.

4. Where the question of removing a Judge from office has been referred to a tribunal under subsection (3), the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Chief Justice in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, may suspend the Judge from performing the functions of his office, and any such suspension may at any time be revoked by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister in the case of the Chief Justice or the Chief Justice in the case of a Judge, other than the Chief Justice, and shall in any case cease to have effect-

a. where the tribunal recommends to the President that he should not refer the question of removal of the Judge from office to the Judicial Committee; or

b. where the Judicial Committee advises the President that the Judges ought not to be removed from office.

The process for impeachment of a judge, specifically, the Chief Justice, reads fairly clearly, in that:
  1. The Prime Minister refers a report of misbehaviour to the President.
  2. The President calls a tribunal of eminent judges to investigate the allegation.
  3. The tribunal gets back to the President with the results of their investigation and, if necessary, a recommendation.
  4. Where necessary, the matter is either handled immediately, or taken to the Judicial Committee.
  5. If suspension of the judge is required, it is at the President's discretion to revoke the suspension, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In the current case, the Prime Minister has been blocked by injunction from approaching the President with any allegation, if I understand correctly, of misbehaviour by the Chief Justice.

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