Registrar of the High Court Janine Harris-Lake (inset)
By Toni Frederick
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) -- Following the withdrawal of St Kitts and Nevis High Court Registrar Janine Harris-Lake’s application for a judicial review of her redeployment from the post, the matter will reportedly be re-filed to take into account new information.
Legal counsel for Harris-Lake, Douglas Mendes SC, withdrew the matter upon receipt of documents from lawyers for the government side during a sitting of the Court on Thursday. The documents are said to have added a different dimension to the case.
On December 17, when Harris-Lake was due back from leave, she was informed by the Minister of Justice Patrice Nisbett that she had been redeployed to the post of director legal reform.
In the original application, Harris-Lake’s lawyers argued that neither the minister of justice nor the Public Service Commission were empowered to remove her from the post of registrar, that they had breached the Constitution in doing so and their decisions therefore were unlawful and of no effect.
The documents provided to her legal counsel on Thursday reportedly indicated that the Public Service Commission had appointed her to the post of director on December 12, though her removal as registrar had not been approved by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.
On receipt of the new information, Mendes requested and was granted permission to withdraw the matter, and is expected to file a re-framed case.
Counsel for the government side made no request for costs, however Justice Thomas Astaphan instructed that Harris-Lake pay costs in the matter of the redeployment. She has been granted leave to appeal the costs order.
Justice Astaphan said that the case was unreasonable as the Public Service Commission had highlighted in its letter to Harris-Lake that it was still awaiting approval from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission before it issued her with formal notification. He said this should have given her reason to pause and not initiate legal action.
He further instructed Mendes to apologize to him for refusing to respond when asked for his perception and implications of the statement, “Still awaiting approval of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.”
Mendes reportedly left the court without apologizing.
Meantime, a second matter filed in November in which Harris-Lake challenged being sent on unrequested leave, will come before the Court in May.
Harris-Lake, the sister of opposition MP Dr Timothy Harris, was last September 17 asked by the Attorney General’s Chambers to bring all outstanding legal matters under her purview to the attention of minister of justice and to proceed on 64 days accrued leave from September 20 to December 17.
Her lawyers in the that matter argue that the leave amounted to a suspension from her duties, something that only the Judicial and Legal Services Commission is empowered to do.
It was just before she was to return from that leave that Harris-Lake was informed of her redeployment.
Contacted for a comment on Saturday about the case and the exchange with Justice Astaphan, Mendes said, "It would be unseemly of me to become involved in a public spat with a member of the judiciary. Judges have the advantage of pronouncing upon the behaviour of counsel in court and the etiquette of the profession demands that there be no response in kind. It is a hazard of the profession,” he told WINN FM.
“As to the merits of the registrar's case, it is also not appropriate for me to comment. The judge has granted leave to appeal his decision on costs and the soundness of his decision will be tested in due course by the Court of Appeal," the senior counsel said.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network