St. Kitts and Nevis High Court Judge refuses to grant injunction, sets April 18th date to hear substantive matter

Queens’ Counsel, Dr. Henry Browne (left) and Mr. Sylvester Anthony speaking outside the Lee Llewellyn Moore Judicial and Legal Complex on Friday afternoon. (Photo by Erasmus Williams)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 5TH 2013 (CUOPM) – Resident High Court Judge His Lordship Mr. Justice Errol Thomas late Friday afternoon, denied an interim injunction sought by six members of the National Assembly to order that the lawmaking body debate a Motion of No Confidence following passage of the 2013 Budget.

‘The claimants sought to get the court to grant an interim injunction pending the hearing of the substantive matter or at least pending a request to respond to the application. We objected very strenuously and at the end of the day, after two and a half hours of submissions mostly on their part, the court declined to grant any interim injunction and the matter has been adjourned for further hearing on the 18th of April,” said Mr. Sylvester Anthony appearing for the respondents, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Curtis Martin, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas and members of the Federal Cabinet.

Mr. Anthony pointed out that the submissions on behalf of the opposition parliamentarians were only served less than 12 hours before the hearing.

“In fact, the Honourable Speaker only got his papers this (Friday) morning and so our position was that this matter was sufficiently serious and required a fair process which meant that we had to have an opportunity to respond adequately to what was being submitted,” said Mr. Anthony, adding:

“Our essential position is that the court has no jurisdiction to hear this matter and we were of the view that that position ought to be first argued for the court to determine whether it had jurisdiction before it went any further.”

Mr. Anthony told the Communications Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister that the position of the respondents is that the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act, precludes the Judge from making any Orders against the Speaker in relation to his powers as Speaker of Parliament.

“We think that that is a sufficiently important point that needs to be argued fully, before the judge goes further to listening to applications and urging motions filed by the claimants. They sought to get us to give them some kind of undertaking that the Parliament was not going to meet, or the Parliament was not going to do any business before it discusses the No Confidence Motion. We refused to give that kind of undertaking because it is not in our provisions to do so…but the more important thing is this, if you want an interim injunction in the court, you have to show what the urgency,” said Mr. Anthony.

“Our point was simply is this. It is 112 days since they have filed the motion. They have gone all over the World, Caribbean Islands, on every radio station in St. Kitts and they have had Public Meetings, but they have never once come to the court,” he said.

“How can you wait for 112 days and then on the 112th day, come in on a Friday afternoon at 2:00 pm, serve the papers on us, less than 12 hours earlier and tell the Judge the he must give you an order?” said Mr. Sylvester, who further pointed out that application from the opposition is based on the fact that they say they don’t know what the Parliament will do, but they are afraid that the Parliament might do other business other than the hearing of the Motion.

“That cannot be the basis under which you get an injunction from the court, especially an injunction that has an effect of tying the hands of the Parliament; that cannot be a proper basis to seek an injunction. And we are going to be resisting that application very, very strenuously when we appear before the court on the 18th of April,” said attorney Sylvester.

Queen’s Counsel, Dr. Henry Stogumber Browne noted that the legal team objected to the process in that it was not fair.

“Some of the papers we received only today to argue the case, but latched onto that, we were sufficiently agile to demonstrate to the court that it lacked the necessary jurisdiction to tie the hands of Parliament; that he cannot fetter and must have respect for another branch of Parliament. We convinced the judge, that to say that Parliament cannot meet after the Budget unless you are going to debate the Motion of No Confidence, is an extreme proposition, which does not sound in Constitutional Law. And as my learned friend (Sylvester Anthony) said, they sought an interim injunction to fetter the powers and privileges of Parliament based on some speculative thinking and we told the court that that whether the motion is heard or not heard, is not a justiciable matter,” said Dr. Browne.

“The answer, if they think they need an answer, lies in the political realm and they are certain constitutional positions which they could adopt if they fell that they are politically aggrieved, but it is not in our place to tell them what position or positions they should adopt,”

But whatever they are, they do not sound before the bar of the court, they are non-justiciable matters founded in convention which is not to be adjudicated upon, one way or the other,” said the Queen’s Counsel.

Filing the claim against the Government and the Speaker are Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley; Premier of Nevis, Hon. Vance Amory; Hon. Eugene Hamilton, Hon. Shawn Richards; Hon. Sam Condor and Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris.

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