Anthony Astaphan calls for respect for the courts

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan

ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 10, 2011 (CUOPM) – A prominent Dominica-born attorney is defending the integrity of regional jurisprudence, saying it is regrettable that people would view the court from their side of the political divide.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan was speaking on Antigua’s Observer Radio on Monday, eight days after the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal ruled in the United Progressive Party’s favour in the election petition cases and one day after the lower court in St. Kitts and Nevis struck out a petition mounted by People’s Action Movement (PAM) Leader Lindsay Grant.

The judge in the Hon. Glenn Phillip and Mr. Lindsay Grant matter referred to the Antigua and Barbuda case in arriving at her judgment.

In Antigua and Barbuda criticism has been harsh at times, first for the March 31 High Court ruling of Justice Louise Blenman who voided the March 12, 2009 elections of Prime Minister Hon. Baldwin Spencer and Ministers Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro and John Maginley, and lately for the Court of Appeal’s final ruling that overturned that decision.

“That’s regrettable,” said Mr. Astaphan, who represented the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) in the election petition case.

“We cannot have confidence, love and respect in the court depending on the victory we have had or the loss that we have suffered.

“We have to respect the courts … our Court of Appeal has done yeoman service over the last 40 to 50 years,” Astaphan said, adding that while he represents politicians, he “cannot take political positions on any judgment in any court.”

Following last Wednesday’s ruling, Political Leader of the Antigua Labour Party Lester Bird said the Court of Appeal had “emasculated” Blenman’s “well-reasoned” decision.

He added that he had been forced to reconsider support for the CCJ, although he was the prime minister who signed the agreement.

Mr. Astaphan on Monday joined with other officers of the court, including Attorney General Hon. Justin Simon, in expressing support for the acceptance of the CCJ as the final arbiter for the region.

“We claim to be politically independent and we claim to have moved away from neocolonialism, colonialism, and imperialism, all these wonderful left-sounding phrases and catch phrases and so on, and the CCJ is part of our total process of liberation and emancipation,” Mr. Astaphan said.

Recently at a news conference in St. Kitts, Senior Counsel Astaphan was severely critical of the Political Leader of the People’s Action Movement (PAM), Mr. Lindsay Grant for attacking the Appeal Court after an Eastern Caribbean Appeal Court had held that there was absolutely no basis in fact or in law for the findings of contempt against former Attorney General Dr. Dennis Merchant and that that the injunction by Justice Frances Belle did not extend to the Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, did not extend to the proceedings of the Parliament, and therefore there was no valid, living, extant, or enforceable Order at the time the Prime Minister submitted the Report to His Excellency the Governor-General and had no application to the Hon. Prime Minister and the Parliament.

“Coming from Mr. Grant as an officer of the Court, coming from an Attorney-at-Law and someone who wants to be a pretender of thrown, it is a very serious matter of integrity and credibility that Mr. Grant can continue at will almost to continue making these outrageous statements,” said Mr. Astaphan at a Press Conference after the St. Kitts ruling.

“It is outrageous; it is absolutely outrageous to seek to suggest some impropriety of the Court of Appeal by mentioning these names when the Court of Appeal is now being recognized in CARICOM and the Commonwealth as setting a high standard for jurisprudence and the development of the law,” said Mr. Astaphan, who added that it was a wicked statement also for Mr. Grant to make a statement about the number of times the Privy Council has overruled the Court of Appeal.

“The time has come for politicians to stop playing games with the Court. Stop dragging the Court into the political arena. Stop disrespecting and bringing the courts into public disrepute because it promotes, secures, and assists you in seeking some cheap political points. It is a shame that once again another political leader in the opposition has stooped so low in order to score political points,” said Mr. Astaphan at the news conference in St. Kitts.

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