Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Building but Old Practices

In a ceremony to mark the laying down of the foundation stone for the new Palaise de Justice, Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende remarked that there must be more accountability from the judiciary.

Last thursday, 17th March, saw the laying down of the foundation stone for the new Palaise de Justice. The new building is expected to be completed in June 2012, it will house the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and all of the administrative offices of both courts. The building will be of two stories. The ground floor will house 4 Supreme Courtrooms, an auditorium, prison cells and numerous administrative offices. The 1st floor will house the Chief Justice's courtroom, a few other Supreme Courtrooms and the Court of Appeal. There is also a room on this floor earmarked as a Lawyers' waiting room, perhaps this will be the new Robing Room.

The whole project is being financed by the Government of the Peoples' Republic of China and the building shall be located at Ile du Port, adjacent to the National Assembly of Seychelles. A Chinese construction company will construct the new Palaise de Justice. The Chinese have always been cleverer than the west when it comes to such construction projects, preferring to use its own companies to build the projects rather than giving the money to a 3rd party to complete the project, which "could" lead to some of the funds disappearing into some swiss bank account. The problem here is with accountability.

And this brings us to the important speech delivered by Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende at the ceremony. The Honourable Chief Justice stated that in order for the judiciary to better serve its clients - the public, the judiciary must be more accountable. A new building does not mean a new era of justice, in fact, a new building means nothing if the judiciary continues to fail to deliver. And perhaps more mechanisms to increase the accountability of the judiciary is one way to improve things.

Let's be clear about what is meant by "the judiciary", even if the Chief Justice did not say so, it is clear to those in the know that when he mentions accountability of the "judiciary", he is not talking about the administrative staff. He meant, or he ought to have meant, the "judges". That judges must be held to be more accountable for their actions.

Too often have we seen such crappy judgments from judges that are supposed to be learned. Judges get the most simple principles wrong. Often lawyers wonder if these judges ever went to law school... and in fact we do have judges that never did! They try to sound clever and impress the laymen, and in fact, they do often get away with impressing those that don't know any better, but trouble happens when the crappy judgments of the Supreme Court meets their superiors in the Court of Appeal. I do recall not too long ago the Supreme Court judges acting as the Constitutional Court going into big complex arguments about the principles of interpreting legislation, only for the Court of Appeal to pronounce that there is no need to go into the principles of interpretation when legislation is crystal clear and can simply be read and applied. A polite way for the Court of Appeal to say "can't you guys f***ing read?" to the Supreme Court judges. So we have the Court of Appeal who can correct the Supreme Court, but only when people appeal. But then who is around to keep the Court of Appeal accountable?

In fact there is a procedure in which judges may be investigated and even removed from office. It is the Constitutional Appointments Authority who has the power to initiate investigations against a judge. The procedure has been set out in an earlier article of the Robing Room, which you may view by clicking here.

Many lawyers and in fact some judges have remarked, albeit in private, that the only way our legal system can improve is if a few judges leave... or are made to leave.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

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