CCJ dismisses UWP’s election petition

A third attempt by the United Workers Party (UWP) to adjudicate claims that Dominica’s 2019 election was invalid, has not ended in their favour.  This, as the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), dismissed an application filed by members of the party for special leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the case of Cuffy and Others v Skerrit and Others.

The CCJ in its ruling yesterday, July 6, 2022, agreed with the Court of Appeal that the Petitioners who challenged the results of the last General Elections by way of election petitions, had no right to appeal the decision of the High Court judge to strike out their petitions.

In the wake of Dominica’s last general election held on December 9, 2019, in which the UWP lost by an 18-3 margin to the incumbent Dominica Labour Party government, ten election petitions were filed at the High Court claiming that the elections were conducted in a manner contrary to established electoral laws and regulations and that in ten constituencies, the candidates declared to be the winners had not been validly elected. They sought to have the court overturn the results in St Joseph, Mahaut, Morne Jaune, La Plaine, Castle Bruce, Salybia, Roseau Valley, Roseau Central, Roseau South, and Wesley constituencies.

The respondents (among whom were the Chief Elections Officer, various Returning Officers, the Commissioner of Police, members of the Electoral Commission, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General) applied to strike out the petitions submitting to the court that the petitions lacked sufficient details. The trial Judge, Justice Raulston Glasgow, agreed and on October 14, 2020, struck off all ten election petitions and awarded costs of $5,000.00 to the respondents.

Unsatisfied with the ruling, the Petitioners filed Notices of Appeal against the Judge’s decision. The respondents raised the issue that the Court of Appeal had no authority to hear the appeal. They stated that ss 40(6) and (7) of the Constitution only permit appeals against a final decision in law. They claimed that the decision of the trial judge was not final, it was what the law refers to as “interlocutory.” This means that the trial judge dismissed the petitions at an intermediate stage and as such, he did not determine the merits of the petitions. Consequently, there could be no right to appeal the decision. The Court of Appeal agreed with the respondents and declined to hear the appeal.

The Petitioners subsequently applied to the CCJ, the highest municipal court in the region, for Special Leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal, which the court determined on written submissions that it had jurisdiction to entertain the application.

In a judgment authored by CCJ President Mr. Justice Saunders, the Court held that in order to determine what is a final decision in ss 40(6) and (7), one must look at the meaning, aim, history, rationale and context of those constitutional sub-sections. The CCJ noted the numerous Commonwealth Caribbean cases which stated that election petitions must be determined “expeditiously” so that the legitimacy of a government does not remain in question.

The CCJ found that the trial judge did not determine the merits of the petitions, meaning that Justice Glasglow did not reach the stage where he would have determined the question of whether a candidate was validly elected or not. Instead, he struck out the petitions on procedural grounds. Accordingly, the decision of the trial judge was not final, but interlocutory.

The Court disagreed with the Petitioners’ argument that their appeal should be heard in light of the importance of the petitions.

The CCJ further noted, however, that the Constitution guarantees every person in Dominica the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal. A very high value is placed on that right. Therefore, if a Petitioner complains at a stage before the trial of their petition (an interlocutory stage), that their right to a fair hearing has been violated, then the Court of Appeal should assume the authority to hear that complaint. Nevertheless, the CCJ took the view that in this case, no issue arose as to whether the Petitioners had not received a fair hearing.

“The Court found that they were afforded a fair or reasonable opportunity to be heard,” Mr Justice Saunders averred.

Mr Justice Jamadar in his concurring judgment found that the right to be registered to vote is at the heart of free and fair elections which he says is part of the “basic deep structure of Dominican constitutionalism.”

A complaint which appeared in most of the petitions was that the election officials failed to use the revised annual list and supplementary register as required by law. The trial judge acknowledged the clear failure to follow that law. Mr. Justice Jamadar found that on constitutional grounds, the Court of Appeal arguably may have had jurisdiction to hear the appeal, irrespective of whether the decision was considered to be final or not. However, except for what he called “ this small nuance,” he basically agreed with the Court’s decision.

Consequently, the CCJ refused the application for special leave and thus upheld the orders of the Court of Appeal. No order as to costs was made, since the CCJ considered that efforts by the citizenry, in good faith, to call attention to perceived deficiencies in the electoral process, should not be discouraged.

The members on the Bench were the Honourable Mr Justice Adrian Saunders, President of the Court, sitting with the Honourable Justices Wit, Anderson, Rajnauth-Lee and Jamadar.

The Applicants/Petitioners were represented by Mr. Alair Shepherd Queen’s Counsel (QC) and  Ms. Zahidha James and Ms. Najmah Reece.

Senior Counsel (SC), Anthony Astaphan, who led a battery of lawyers in the matter, represented the first respondent along with Mr. Lennox Lawrence and Ms. Jodie Luke. The second, third, fourth, seventh and eighth respondents were represented by Ms. Heather Felix-Evans. The ninth respondent was represented by Mr. Anthony Astaphan SC and Mr. Stephen Isidore. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth respondents were represented by Mr. Levi Peter, the Attorney General, Mrs. Vanica Joseph and Ms. Nadira Lando.

Following the ruling of the court, SC Astaphan described the decision of the court as “very important.”

“The basis of the decision is that whether the Judge was right or wrong. The CCJ was clearly of the view that it was within the competence of the High Court judge …to strike out [the] petition which in his opinion after consideration of the allegations made in the petition to strike them out and not disclosing the cause of action,” he posited.

“That’s the basis upon which the petitions were struck out, that’s the basis upon which the Court of Appeal said it had no jurisdiction to hear an appeal on the judgment on the petitions and that’s the basis upon which the CCJ held that it was not a final decision,” Astaphan said.

He further asserted that the petitions filed after the 2019 general elections are “dead as are the election petitions filed in 2005, 2009 and the criminal complaints that were filed in the Magistrate’s Court…all of which are now dead as a result of the decision by the CCJ”.

Attorney General Levi Peter who spoke to State owned DBS radio following the ruling said Dominicans can expect a change by way of reforms in the next general election.

“Hopefully  we will not have a repeat of this saga, which has happened in virtually every election, I think from probably about 2005. It is a pernicious insertion into the politics in the Caribbean and certainly in closer regions, that every election virtually, that is held, the losing party refuses to accept that they’ve lost and I think that perhaps an exception is the recent situation in Grenada, where the Outgoing Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, actually conceded formally and publicly and I have no doubt that that will allow Grenada to breathe and move forward.”

He advised the opposition to take a “leaf out of that book” and accept defeat.

Dominica News Online will publish the comments of Lennox Linton and Zahida James in a subsequent article.

Below is the full version of CCJ judgement.

Download (PDF, 427KB)

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  1. Imputing Improper Motives (IIM)
    July 8, 2022

    CCJ dismisses UWP’s election petition: I read the decision, and this headline does not do justice to the decision rendered by the Court.

    However, the UWP cannot allow the Lin clowns and the Man bite dogs who, it is clear they did not read the judgment and are unable to understand the content. Thus, allowing these two above to use DNO to advance propaganda would be a disservice to the judgement.

    It is incumbent on the UWP to go around the country and explain the judgment to the people.

  2. July 8, 2022

    AG mr Levi Peter let me again remind you sir since you studied the British system of law in England you must be fully aware that you are not the AG of the DLP but the entire country, as the Constitution demands. It is sad that you have not led from the front when it comes to Electoral Reform in Dominica; yet you find it fit to spew your garbage in regards to the CCJ’s report and it’s decision decision. While the UWP may have lost, the CCJ justices were not kind to you; read between the lines mr “big shot” you are the one who is the “biggest looser” since you have failed to protect the voting populace and allowed “tainted elections under your watch”; you sir take a leaf from the book of the Grenadian PM who clearly stated that he was not comfortable with, and had problems with the electoral office and it’s conduct of the elections but promised to fix it. Just a reminder you will be held accountable for any misgivings going forward.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
  3. Man bite dogs
    July 8, 2022

    I love it when ugly Lenny, and his boom-boom blue monkeys squeal like a pig to the slaughter house ha ha ha suckers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8
  4. Lin clown
    July 7, 2022

    UWP does not understand what what PERCIEVED deficiencies
    mean.They do not understand what IF mean.The court is telling them they cannot and should not appeal the ruling of Judge Glasgow,so cost stand.UWP know they should not waste the court’s time with stupidness and BSThere is no good faith in anything UWP,and they should be made to pay cost of $25,000 each.UWP must understand the PEOPLE have rejected them,and Jonathan Y St Jean and IBO cannot change that.They should go back to the drawing board,if they have one and find out why they lost 1,163 votes in the 2019 election.They should work on preventing the DLP from taking the Marigot and Roseau North seats.UWP lost a case they have to pay cost yet they lost but the people win.Never hear more stupidness,and coming from a man with no qualification,playing lawyer without spending a day in law school.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12
  5. We the People
    July 7, 2022

    Ok so the case is over. I hope the authorities really take heed of what the CCJ had to say. And especially to STOP bringing in people to vote!!!!

    They claim not to bribe “their supporters”, but strange how these supporters only come to vote on tickets purchased for them.

    How come they never come on their own???????????????

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3
  6. Bwa-Banday
    July 7, 2022

    And to hear Tony Astaphan talk about the case one would believe that DLP won the billion dollars lottery. I am lead to believe that he has not fully comprehended the tongue lashing that the lower courts and the DLP received from the CCJ.

    My only dissapoinment is that the same CCJ erred in not sending the case back to the lower courts to undergo a full trial. The excuse for not doing so is NOT a good president, can’t be found in case law, and was designed to say “ok, the system messed up including not hearing the case soonest after the election”.

    Now that the CCJ has given all and sundry the green light to REMOVE labour out of office because they are illegitimate, let me see what UWP, DFP, DPSU, APP, Aex Team Unity(?), Moun-Serwooyea, CCM, NJAM, the CDPF and the so called president Charlo will do never as a unit for once. Hope they start taking action with NO TALKING. sums up the decision best…take a look.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2
    July 7, 2022

    Ibo MALAPROP France, why can’t you stop being an embarrassment to yourself and the BLUE PARTY you love so dearly’? . Try to educate Lennox who thinks that he is the Alpha and the Omega. This guy believes he knows everything yet he knows nothing. This guy is just a BULLY. Very ignorant and arrogant. When he speaks, the tone in his voice speaks volume of the kind of dictatorial attitude he has. This guy has no qualities of a good leader but only displays the qualities of a BAD leader. He is not a people’s person. This kind of behavior is a TURNOFF’. All he does is wage WAR in the country. An art you, you Ibo MALAPROP France have learnt from him very well. Even you want to dictate to DNO what should be done and what should not (published) on it site. Yet YOU ALL in the Useless Wicked Party(UWP) claim the PM is a dictator, come on.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 19
    • Ibo France
      July 8, 2022

      KID, you remind of a garbage truck driving around trying to find a place to dump its contents. You are looking someone to dump your stupidity on, not me.

      Dump your silliness on Lie Clown, Dog Biter, ds, Lizforsatan, and your other shameless cohorts.

  8. July 7, 2022

    These guys act like Trump in America ; they will not accept the facts and live in an alternate universe. That is unfortunate for our beautiful and tranquil paradise.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4
  9. July 7, 2022

    How about that IBO France, Francisco Telemakak, Jonathan St. Jean, and company? Still not happy, still not satisfied? And by the way Francisco, you talked up the academic qualifications of the Mitchells in Grenada, is your Opposition Leader academically qualified besides being expelled from the Dominica Grammar School? Both Mitchells are University Alumni. Should I say that Lennox Linton is a High School expelled Alumnus as his academic qualification? Are you three going to re-appeal to the Privy Council? Take a hike, brothers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 13
    • Jonathan Y St Jean
      July 7, 2022

      @ds, I strongly suggest that you get someone to explain the decision of the CCJ to you because it’s clear as daylight that you lack the capacity to understand and interpret the decision in writing given by the highest court in the region. The court went out of it’s way, beyond the scope of the matter before it, to spell out that the current government is illegitimate and the past elections in Dominca were tainted and the country should not go into any other elections without clearing the messy, tainted elections. Now, who tainted the elections? The illegitimate government you proudly embrace. What does that say about you? Nothing to be so corky and proud and pompous about. Also the CCJ reported that Glasgow didn’t properly hear the case in the high court. Therefore what are you really braying about? Instead you should be ashamed that the court agreed with the opposition petitioners that the Skerritt government is corrupt and the elections were tainted. Chew on that.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7
      • July 7, 2022

        The bottom line is that the UWP has lost its appeal one more time. No if, no but, nothing to explain.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10
      • Gary
        July 8, 2022

        Did the Court really agreed with the opposition petitioners that the Skerritt government is corrupt, and the elections were tainted, lol. How can you say the Court agreed with the opposition petitioners when no evidence was presented in the Court to prove the things they were alleging, the elections were tainted, it was clearly stated in the judgement that the opposition petitioners failed to provide evidence in all their allegations. I wonder when will your interpretation correspond with your conscience instead of your partisan belief.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11
        • Ibo France
          July 8, 2022

          Gary, you are back from self-exile or incarceration? It’s just pathetic that you have brought back nothing new and mentally gratifying. It’s the same old monotony and recycled, antiquated politics.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
        • Jonathan Y St Jean
          July 8, 2022

          @Gary, yes it stated that the election was tainted. If you understand the meaning of
          tainted then you will comprehend that it wasn’t clean, meaning it was dirty, it was contaminated, it was altered from a pure state What tainted it? Who tainted it? Cheating and violating the election laws. The government spokespersons said that $300,000 was too much to spend on cleaning the process in 2019, yet in the gut of the Covid-19 pandemic, in early 2020, when the economy ground to a halt, Skerritt could find $450,000 to pay Dennis Byron. The court also said that Dominca should not go to elections again with such a tainted, contaminated process ever. This doesn’t auger well for a government which had been in office for over twenty years and now has to cheat and taint the electoral process to remain in office. That’s shameful but I know that you don’t know how to feel shame.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Jonathan Y St Jean
      July 7, 2022

      @ds, and Skerritt has only fake honorary doctorates. At the last Caricom meeting in Guyana PM Mitchell was presented as Dr. Mitchell but Skerritt was not. Why? Because the intelligent people at the Secretariat know that Skerritt’s has hand-me-downs and they are not real doctorates.Dr. Dr. Bulls…

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3
      • July 8, 2022

        I guess you could say that the Mighty Sparrow has a fake Doctorate degree from UWI, right?

  10. Letusagree
    July 7, 2022

    It must be noted that the last two petitions were never tried in a court of law.

    In the 2014 elections petition, even when the CCJ ruled the the matter was properly before the court, somehow, by magic the DPP squashed the case and so nobody was tried for treating and bribery.

    In the 2019 case, the High Court Judge killed it before a trial, even when this judge admitted that the voters’ lists used in that election broke the law.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
  11. Garcon
    July 6, 2022

    An actual victory in the literal sense of the word was not achieved. However, a moral victory was won as the court has included a strong rebuke of how elections are conducted in Dominica. This is a massive shame to every Dominican and we should act now to correct this. What was being said all the time is validated at the highest level. Electoral reform is imperative.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 7
  12. Danziger
    July 6, 2022

    Racine patat, hope my sister get the message cuz she put out some things i’d under her roof, last election. I forgive her, i’ll stay far away from her. Enough is enough. When ever I go home, don’t want their food, sleep nothing from them. GOODBYE.

  13. Jonathan Y St Jean
    July 6, 2022

    The mockery which poses as justice in the region has revealed itself once again to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. An election which was held in 2019 and only now in 2022, two and a half years later the court’s decision is given. Was it that the country should have remained without a government for that length of time? Well I hope that Dennis puts in his long awaited reform report that when there is a court dispute about the outcome of the election that an interim government be put in place to conduct affairs of the country until the slow coach court can wake up from it’s slumber and give a rulling.
    Levi Peters should be ashamed because the CCJ did confirm that the election process in Dominca is “tainted”. Who tainted it,Levi? You want the opposition to just accept the results of a tainted election? Then why participate in a tainted election? The rule of law has gone to the dogs and the guardians of the legal system have lost their damn minds.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5
    • Ibo France
      July 7, 2022

      Mr. St Jean, the courts (Magistrate, High, CCJ) take a noncommittal stand on elections matters brought before them by opposition parties no matter how glaring the corrupt practices are by the incumbent.

      What will eventually dislodge the satanic Despot from office is a well-informed, restive electorate.

      The Dominican electors need to wise up, coalesce and collectively throw Roosevelt overboard for the Ship of State to sail unencumbered with obstacles of corruption, victimization, ineptness and personal enrichment.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  14. Ibo France
    July 6, 2022

    It is quite apparent that Caribbean courts are extremely reluctant to rule against a sitting government in these election petition cases.. They seemingly think it is tantamount to overthrowing a government.

    The ball is now in the voters’ court. Stop sitting on your hands with your feet under your derriere, show Roosevelt and his goons that the power of the people is mightier than he people in power.

    DNO, can you become relevant for once? Stop your brown-nosing of Roosevelt, grow a spine, ask him about the long overdue Dennis Byron’ s Electoral Reform Report. When all expenses to furnish this report are calculated, it will cost taxpayers minimum $650K.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 9
    • July 7, 2022

      Now you mad. Once the judge rules in favour of the Administration you go berserk. You just can’t take it. Why don’t you set up your own court of appeal, your appellate court, and have for your judges Ibo France, Francisco Telemakak, Jonathan St Jean, and Lawyer. Now you all gonna start soucaying sel. Who got the last laugh?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14
      • Jonathan Y St Jean
        July 7, 2022

        @ds, the court did not, repeat “did not” rull in favor of the administration. You lack the capacity to understand simple matters all so you can do is distort the facts and bray about the illegitimate government you endorse. The court however echoed the point that the opposition had been making for the past four election cycles that the elections process is tainted. This says loudly that the current government is illegitimate and corrupt.

    • July 7, 2022

      How can one not adore and love Skerrit? Skerrit is a champion, a Mike Tyson, A Mohamed Ali. Now, he will take his fight to the three stooges, Ibo France, Jonathan St. Jean, Francisco Telemakak.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14
    • Roger Burnett
      July 7, 2022

      I doubt that Sir Dennis Byron will have time to complete his report on electoral reform now that he has taken on a new job:

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
  15. Eagle-Eyed
    July 6, 2022

    It is about time ugly Lenny bow out of politics and go back and do his radio show on Q95. This guy is a pappy-show politician. He can never become PM.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 21
    • Jonathan Y St Jean
      July 7, 2022

      @Eagle-Eyed, you should have ended you false prophetic submission with the qualifying addendum, “as long as the labor party continues to corrupt and taint the electoral process”.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

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