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Statement of the OECS Bar Association regarding recent attacks on Justice Bernie Stephenson Brooks in the Commonwealth of Dominica

Recent attack

 In a defamation action brought in May 2014 in the High Court of Dominica, and bearing suit number DOMHCV 2014/0214, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and members of his Cabinet (“the Claimants”) sought damages against Opposition Leader Lennox Linton and the owner of a radio station broadcasting as Q95 (‘the Defendants”) for allegedly publishing certain defamatory words uttered by the opposition leader at a youth rally and broadcast via radio and the internet.

In their Defence, the Defendants pleaded justification, fair comment and qualified privileged – three of the available defences to defamation. 

Contending that the Defendants did not disclose any proper, viable or sustainable defences of justification, fair comment or qualified privilege, the Claimants applied to the court to strike out the defence.  The Claimants made that application after both sides had filed Witness Statements (the evidence that each witness intended to give at trial) and disclosed the documents they intended to use at trial.

On April 27th, 2017 Justice Bernie Stephenson Brooks ruled in favour of the Claimants, striking out the Defence on basis that the Defendants had no prospect of success at trial. She ordered that the matter proceed to assessment of damages. 

Judge facing cowardly attacks

Since delivering her Judgment, Justice Stephenson Brooks has been facing well-orchestrated cowardly attacks and threats from faceless, nameless individuals within Dominica and on social media. Those individuals made clear their dissatisfaction with her judgment and have circulated a poster on social media referring to her in derogatory terms and accusing her of bias.  She has been the target of threats via telephone and otherwise.

The OECS Bar forcefully condemns the cowardly attacks on Justice Brooks and the Judiciary and calls upon those responsible to desist forthwith. We call upon the authorities in Dominica to ensure that adequate measures are in place for her safety and security. We further call upon them to vigorously investigate the source of the attacks with a view to taking appropriate action.

Availability of Avenues to Appeal

By the very adversarial nature of our legal system, a winner and a loser emerge in most court actions. One party is usually left dissatisfied. But the very system provides the dissatisfied party with avenues of appeal: to the Court of Appeal and thereafter to the highest court, whether it be the United Kingdom-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) or the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). In the case of Dominica, in March 2015 the CCJ replaced the JCPC as the highest court.

Moreover, if there is dissatisfaction with a Judge, the system provides for complaints to be channeled to the Chief Justice and the Judicial & Legal Services Commission (JLSC). The answer does not lie in personal attacks against or threats directed to the Judge.

Protecting independence of the Judiciary

Twenty-eight years ago, in 1989, the OECS Bar Association was formed out of the dire need then to improve the terms and conditions of service for the members of the Judiciary. We became the voice of the Judges who were unable to speak for themselves and agitate on behalf of themselves. Since then, we have been advancing, protecting and promoting the independence of the judiciary and defending it from unwarranted attacks.

Today, in discharge of our continuing duty, we rise in defence of Justice Brooks and the Judiciary.   We urge Justice Brooks to stand resolute in the face of the attacks and to ensure that justice is dispensed in Dominica, fearlessly and dispassionately, in accordance with the principles of law and in keeping with the solemn oath of judicial office.

 

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Date: May 5th, 2017

Aims & Objectives

justice and the rule of law and to undertake any action which In its judgement may contribute to the protection and preservation of these and other fundamental conditions for a well ordered society.
and to take such action thereon as may be deemed expedient so as to promote, preserve, and protect its Interests and the interests of its members.
whenever desirable or appropriate; to develop, recommend and promulgate rules relating to professional conduct; to encourage and assist the establishment of procedures for resolving complaints against members of the profession and constituent members inter se; and to undertake conciliatory and adjudicatory functions in matters of professional discipline conferred upon it by consent, by Statute or by any competent authority.
and to defend the Bar in its relations with the Judiciary the Executive and the Legislature.
and to maintain cordial relate among members of the Bar and between the Bar and the Bench.
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