11 Jan 2010

A brief summary

Over the years, Sherman McNicolls has made a name for himself. Not a very good one at that, especially in the latter few years in which his judgement(s) have been called into question on several occasions.

Holding the position of Chief Magistrate, Shermie has at times come across as a lapdog of the current Manning administration, ready to bark at the slightest urgings. A ‘shook’ as we say in Trini parlance.

Funnily enough, his tie-in with the administration is no less a person than the Attorney General, one joker Jeremie…

To recap… first of all, there was a funny (peculiar, not ha ha) land transaction that occurred during a trial for Basdeo Panday (leader of the Opposition). During this trial, Shermie allegedly bought land from a well-known witness in the case, and as I pointed out, during the case. This transaction was facilitated by phone calls from joker Jeremie the Attorney General, who involved the Chief Magistrate and the treasurer of the PNM (the party currently in power). Again oddly enough, the treasurer of the PNM was also a high ranking official of the company owned by the well-known witness.

The land was bought well below market value from all reports and then, when caught by the Chief Justice, resold at a higher rate (bought by a subsidiary company of the same persons who sold it). If you have a suspicious mind like me, that can be perceived as a bribe, especially since shortly after Shermie found the leader of the Opposition guilty under the charges and sentenced him to a maximum penalty.

Subsequently the Privy Council found bias in Shermie’s and JJ’s actions.

Then, following this debacle episode 2 started. Remember I said Shermie was found out about the land transaction by the Chief Justice? Well, he ‘took in front’ as they say in Trinidad and made a complaint that said Chief Justice sought to interfere in the afore mentioned case against the leader of the Opposition.

After many months of legal wrangling, the unthinkable happened. When called upon to testify at a trial of the Chief Justice, one Sherman McNicolls – Chief Magistrate, entered the witness box and refused to testify!

His reason struck the nation dumfounded.

“As a judicial officer I form my own decisions on the law..."

"In my judgement it would have been improper both in principle and in law to allow for the cross-examination of evidence in two separate proceedings..."

Never mind that at the time there was no “two separate proceedings” or that as a witness he is not allowed to make decisions as to whether he can testify or not… (Can you imagine a witness in a murder trial for example, refusing to testify and citing the precedent of the Chief Magistrate?)

Following this, episode 3 began when  the JLSC (Judicial and Legal Services Commission – responsible for appointments and disciplinary matters of the judicial arm of the Government) – brought 6 disciplinary charges against Shermie. That matter went all the way to the Privy Council and was heard on November 9th, 2009. The judgment has not yet been released but an email from the Clerk to me indicates it will be released sometime within the next 2 weeks.

Should the Privy Council rule against Shermie, he will face a disciplinary tribunal (in Trinidad) over his failure to testify.

By letter dated August 2, 2007, the JLSC wrote McNicolls, signalling its intention to have him interdicted/suspended under Regulation 89 of the Public Service Commission Regulations.

The JLSC had appointed Justice Sebastian Ventour to investigate whether disciplinary charges should be brought against the Chief Magistrate for failing to testify in the Sharma case.

In a report dated April 11, 2007, Justice Ventour found that McNicolls' refusal to testify "may have compromised the rule of law and the administration of justice."

Should he be found guilty by the Tribunal, Shermie will most likely lose his pension and other benefits as he is dismissed from the Civil Service.

This is unlikely to happen for a number of reason. As we already know, Shermie has friends in high places (or low, depending on your point of view). Having done Master’s bidding, he will be protected (lest he spill whatever beans are cooking in the fire).

Then too, he is a qualified lawyer, and has influence within the Judiciary. He therefore has an ironclad ass to prevent shaft up the nether hole.

Again taking in front, Shermie has submitted sick leave for the next 90 days. By the time that sick leave is up, the judgement of the Privy Council will have been released. If Shermie loses and is to be disciplined by the JLSC, then he resigns with all his benefits intact. Good riddance some may say, but like a slippery eel, Shermie escapes the brunt of the law.