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Grenada Bar Association seeks magistrate's removal
Published on July 19, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- The Grenada Bar Association (GBA) is seeking a review of the performance of a local judge and his possible removal from the bench.

jerry_seales.jpg
Magistrate Jerry Seales
Magistrate Jerry Seales is being accused of “abuse of power” and GBA president Ruggles Ferguson says, “This must stop.”

Seales has been a magistrate for several years and has presided at various local jurisdictions, including the traffic court in the capital, St George’s.

His conduct as a magistrate and the GBA’s action have become topics of public debate and divisions in Grenada.

Many farmers, for example, have applauded Seales for often ordering flogging for lawbreakers convicted of praedial larceny.

But public transit operators, accused of traffic offences, recently protested after complaining of excessive punishment meted out by Seales who, among other things, ordered convicted drivers to pay hefty fines immediately at court or be sent to jail.

ruggles_ferguson.jpg
Grenada Bar Association President Ruggles Ferguson
Ferguson, who is also president of the OECS Bar Association, wants the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) to “rethink” the appointment of Seales, saying the magistrate is guilty of “missteps” in not applying the law properly, and of making “irrational decisions”.

“I do feel strongly that this magistrate is not a fit and proper person to be sitting on the bench,” said Ferguson, who is one of Grenada’s most prominent attorneys. “He happens to sit in a seat of power and he chooses to abuse that power.”

Seales has not commented publicly on the allegations against him.

However, Ferguson said a document is being prepared and will be sent to the JLSC, outlining the GBA’s complaint against Seales.

“The Judicial and Legal Services Commission has the ultimate authority to recommend to the governor general a magistrate’s removal from office,” Ferguson said.

One Grenada newspaper, Caribupdate Weekly, agrees that should Seales be found guilty of legal abuse, “he should be disqualified from serving as a magistrate”.

However, the paper believes there are bigger issues that ought to be addressed by the government.

The issues, according to the newspaper, include the need for an overhaul of “old colonial and slave laws” that permit “injustice to be unleashed on our citizenry”.

“We must ask why, in 2014, so many archaic laws are still on the books. And ask, too, where are the voices of the churches and groups like the Grenada National Organization of Women – usually vocal in opposition to abuse – when state-sanctioned violence is routinely inflicted on those who are black and poor, and who are sent to police stations to be beaten about their bodies by RGPF officers,” Caribupdate said in an editorial.

“Yet, Seales – and other magistrates too – never order the same punishment for lawbreakers of any other race, colour, ethnicity or socio-economic background.”
 
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Comments:

Jeffrey Aird:

If the excessive and abusive behavior of this Magistrate is indeed documented, then indeed there should a review of his performance. Nowhere in the civilized world can you demand a person pay a fine on the spot, and then imprison the person because they cannot pay!! You HAVE to give them time to do so!! And flogging still on the books for minor offences? Ridiculous!! The behavior of the slavemasters is evident in the Caribbean!! In countries where civilized laws are adhered to, people are never sentenced under the kind of draconian laws you all have on the Island. They SHOULD be abolished!!

Helen Grenade:

Hooray to Ruggles Ferguson for cleaning out the Judiciary, the Magistrate may apply the Law, but he is not above the Law. Who is guarding the Hen-House?
We need some degree of transparency. Change has to start from the top and applied systematically, not in a haphazard manner, meaning that if you start with the Judiciary, see it through to the end.

The article clearly points to a change in attitude in the Courts system, with the hope that it will lead to change in action. We the people of Grenada have to wait and see whether this is the case.

Eric McEwen:

About time too! Jerry Seals appears to be a law unto himself, has no interest at all in what is right and fair, often taking decisions outside his delegated legal authority. This is well known in St Marks and I know a number of people who have unjustly suffered at the hands of this magistrate. Unfortunately, they have to live with this as they simply do not have the resources to seek further redress through the courts.

Thankfully, someone has been taking note of the appalling decisions this magistrate has taken. I applaud the Bar Association for seeking his removal from the Bench. Hopefully, someone will also review and to correct the appalling miscarriages of justice under this magistrate.


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