Maria Williams’ views are devoid of legal reasoning
Editor: Please permit me to reply to the letter which appeared in March 1, 2019 issue of the Searchlight with the captioned ‘Judgement in three teachers case.’
Evidently, Maria frowns on the well reasoned decision of our appeal court and charged it with ‘simply wanted to arrive at an outcome favourable to the teachers.’ The court, comprised of Chief Justice Janice Pereira, Davidson Baptiste and Gertel Thom, who served here with distinction before her elevation is dismissed for arriving at a decision that ‘abandoned reason and logic and showed little regard for the actual state of the law.’
We know that Maria Williams is not a practicing attorney in SVG. Therefore we can safely state that Maria Williams is an assumed name. Why would someone with legal training so cavalierly dismiss a decision of our Court of Appeal as one lacking in substance and out of step with the law?
Here’s the short answer: Maria Williams’ letter is long on political diatribe and woefully devoid of an understanding of public law/judicial review. If Ms Williams is in position of authority and weighs in on how to deal with public law/judicial review matters that have been brought in recent times, it is small wonder that government continues to be stung with one unfavourable court decision after another.
If the court lacks understanding of the state of the law, then the government should appeal. I am prepared to wager that because of the soundness of the Court’s decision which was arrived at in 23 well argued pages, the Law Lords in London will dismiss the appeal in less than 15 pages.
The views articulated by Maria Williams are so patently devoid of legal reasoning and so pregnant with political bile that any first year law student would find no difficulty dismissing it as meritless. Ms Williams misses a very important point made by the Court of Appeal. It said that the government is expected to know the law. Further it said the government had the responsibility to bring section 16 of the agreement with the teachers union in line with the constitution and failed to do so. This is why Justice Baptiste writing for the court said it was remarkable that the government was attempting to use the Constitution as a shield against citizens who were asserting their rights.
Ms Williams’ claim that the court based its decision regarding the petitioners pension on the Constitution reflects that s/he is out of her/his depth. Section 6 of our constitution speaks to the protection of property rights. By failing to honour section 16 of the agreement after the 2010 elections Daniel, Johnson and Thomas lost their pension rights and went to the court for vindication. How else would the court resolve the matter except through the constitution?
It is also important to recognize that the constitutional argument only makes sense in the context of the powerful argument of legitimate expectation. Williams says the teachers’ expectation was not legitimate because they resigned. Let that argument be made before the Privy Council. The Privy Council may conclude once the authorities signed the collective bargaining agreement, forcing the teachers to resign after is tantamount to constructive dismissal, incidentally an argument which the Court of Appeal did not address although it was raised by the lawyers for the petitioners.
Incidentally, I do not know what ULP teacher/politicians such as Elvis and Debbie Charles think about the decision, but the victory of Daniel, Johnson and Thomas works in their favour and thus entitles them to pension. Stephenson is not so entitled because he was not a teacher covered by the agreement.
Williams may know some rudimentary law, but clearly this letter reflects poorly on his/her understanding of Public law/Judicial Review matters.
Jomo Sanga Thomas