A Court of Appeal matter involving former parliamentary secretary Jacqueline Theodore and the Attorney General of Dominica regarding a land dispute has been traversed to the next sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal in April.
The main counsel for Theodore, a foreign attorney, failed to show up for the hearing due to reasons he stated in a letter to the court, which include difficulties he faced due to the passing of Hurricane Tomas.
Theodore was asked to pay $700 to cover the expense of the AG’s appearance in court yesterday while her attorneys, who include Lennox Lawrence, were ordered to file and serve skeleton submissions within 21 days. These submissions were due to the court since June 2010, the justices of appeal reminded them.
“You’re giving us all sorts of excuses…They’re not holding water,” Chief Justice Hugh Rawlins told Lawrence when he attempted to justify his team’s non-compliance with court orders.
Lawrence told the court that though he was present at yesterday’s hearing, Theodore’s main counsel was the one who was detailed to put forth the appeal since the matter was handled exclusively by his chambers.
Lawrence told the court that he had only received word that their main attorney would not be able to attend a few days prior to the hearing. This, he said, was not enough time to secure an alternative attorney due to the “weight” of the matter.
“Your record has to count…don’t call on Sir Richards, it’s your responsibility,” one of the three Justices of Appeal responded.
“I respectfully say in relation to that….counsel is very well qualified to respond,” Francine Baron-Royer who was and represents the Attorney General supported.
Lawrence, in light of this, asked for an adjournment which Baron-Royer, suggested it be put at the earliest convenience, even if it means in another jurisdiction – to avoid a long delay. She asked however, that the opposing team be made to cover these expenses.
Lawrence countered this request stating that this would cause great financial burden on his client.
“To date, we haven’t been served with any submissions,” Baron-Royer argued, adding that the appeal had already been scheduled in April 2010, where Theodore’s lawyer had said he was not prepared. Baron-Royer highlighted that the first hearing for this matter was in April 2009.
The justices of appeal further frowned on the lawyer’s non-compliance stating: “We have not heard a justifiable excuse why skeleton arguments have not been filed…that does not have to do with the Hurricane…What has happened between October 2009 and now?”
The justice informed the court that the high court registrar had made a formal request to Theodore’s attorneys for submissions to be ready in June 2010. “That’s almost five months and no skeleton,” he stated.
Lawrence promised to have the submissions ready by the stipulated time. As ordered by the court, he will be bound to pay $750 to the high court if these submissions are not filed or served within the 21 days.
“We have had enough of it. The court cannot sit…while matters are languishing in the system,” the Chief Justice said.
This appeal was spurred when a tribunal had awarded Theodore over $3 million for land belonging to her husband in Calibishie, which the government had acquired for the use of a road some years ago. Theodore took the issue to the media some time ago when she was not fully compensated by the government.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit then announced that the government would appeal the amount that was awarded to the former parliamentary secretary in 2008 for the land.
She has already been paid $ 210,737, according to the Government.