Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard,
says it is impossible for Chief Magistrate Juliet Holder-Allen
to feel slighted at not being promoted since she has flatly refused
such offers from the Judicial Services Commission.
The Chancellor was at the time responding to an article published
in yesterday’s Kaieteur News that implied that the Chief
Magistrate is aggrieved at the recent appointments of relatively
junior magistrates to the position of High Court Judge.
In an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, Ms Bernard noted
that to begin with, the statement is inaccurate since no junior
magistrate was recently appointed to the position of High Court
“No magistrate in this country has been promoted [directly]
recently to the High Court.”
Chancellor Bernard dismissed that the Chief Magistrate was never
offered any promotional prospects in her more than 18-year career.
According to the Chancellor, in 2001, there was a vacancy for
Land Court Judge and the three principal magistrates in the judicial
system at the time were offered the job. Among them was Juliet
Holder-Allen. She explained that this is a more senior position
and a stepping-stone to becoming a High Court Judge.
The other two were Magistrates, Elizabeth Hinds and recently sworn-in
land court judge, Rabindra Rooplall.
The Chancellor showed Kaieteur News a letter dated July 12, 2001
from Holder-Allen refusing to be considered for the position.
A part of this letter reads: “even
though I would consider the appointment as a land court judge
to be somewhat higher in status to the one that I presently occupy
within the magistracy, I cannot in good conscience make a bid
to occupy this position in preference to someone else who may
be interested in this particular branch of the law, and who may
be fully qualified and interested in being appointed to the position.
In this circumstance, I implore you, honorable members of the
commission that no consideration be given to me at this time until
all the persons, who have expressed an interest in the position
of land court judge, have been considered and eliminated.”
The Chancellor noted that, if there was a ploy against ensuring
the upward mobility of Ms Holder-Allen in the judicial system,
she would not have been offered the position which is a senior
Chancellor Bernard explained that the procedure in place, with
regard to the appointment of magistrates to High Court Judges,
is that they are first appointed as land court judges for some
length of time.
This, she explained, allows them an opportunity to get a feel
of the work involved in being a judge. It also allows the judicial
administration an opportunity to assess the capabilities of the
“The jump from magistrate to High Court Judge can be quite
overwhelming, because while the magistrate court deals strictly
with summary matters, the High Court is much more work, so it
is wise to have a transitional placement and the land court judge
provides that,” Ms Bernard said.
She made reference to the fact that a number of Judges went through
this process, among them, Justices Lennox Perry, Ivor Churaman
and Dawn Gregory-Barnes.
The Chancellor noted that for a magistrate to be appointed directly
to the position of High Court Judge, his/her work would have to
She said this was done in the case of Justice Claudette La Bennet
but stressed that each case is judged on its own merit.
“A magistrate is not just appointed to the position of judge
because they have long service. We assess their competence, relationship
in dealing with people, efficiency, timely delivery of justice
and their overall suitability to hold the position,” the
Ms Bernard expressed open dissatisfaction with the Chief Magistrate’s
manner of dealing with grievances.
“Simple things that can be settled internally with proper
communication, she runs to the media with…” the Chancellor
She recalled that a few years ago, the Chief Magistrate tendered
her resignation with immediate effect because of a simple mix
up over the dates for the commencement of a new salary structure.
“It was a simple matter that could have been sorted out
with a simple communication. I invited her to see me and we sorted
it out very simply.”
The very next day, after the resignation was tendered, Ms Holder-
Allen rescinded her resignation. Kaieteur News was shown a letter
to that effect.
Then just recently, the Chancellor recounted that the Chief Magistrate
told the media that Dr Roger Luncheon was withholding her salary.
According to the Chancellor of Judiciary, that again was an impulsive
action on the part of the Chief Magistrate, which could have easily
been resolved with proper internal communication.
“This impulsiveness…on the part of the Chief Magistrate
is becoming overbearing, and I think it is time I speak out, every
time she acts impulsively I pacify her, but this is now becoming
The Chancellor opined that this type of attitude does not auger
well for someone in the Chief Magistrate’s position.
Ms Bernard dismissed the claims that persons in the judicial system
may have political or personal motives not to promote the Chief
“Every appointment that she has gotten has been because
of me. As a matter of fact, I made sure that the first item of
business for the Judicial Services Commission after its resuscitation
last March, was the confirmation of Ms Holder-Allen in the position
of Chief Magistrate.”
Ms Bernard denied the reports that plans are afoot to have a senior
Magistrate assume the office of the Chief Magistrate.
“Utter nonsense; if we do that, what are we going to do
with her, fire her?”
In response, the Chief Magistrate noted that the position of Land
Court Judge is a pensionable one and opined that a fixed person
should be placed to work there.
She said no Magistrate should be forced to serve as a land court
judge before being promoted to the High Court Judge if they are
not interested in that type of work.
She told Kaieteur News in an invited comment that it is an injustice
to send every magistrate there since it is a specialised field
and expressed wonder as to when this new criteria was introduced
since several magistrates have skipped the appointment in the
Land Court and were appointed High Court Judges.
“The most important criteria for placing magistrates at
the land court should be interest in that regard and not a marching
ground for everyone,” Holder-Allen said.
She noted that she has experience in the criminal field and would
find the land issues boring. Ms Holder-Allen insisted that she
would be forced to work in the land court.”
“I think that the reason why myself and the learned Chancellor
cannot see eye to eye on certain issues is because I was trained
as a lawyer and she was not; she only has training as a solicitor
and maybe that difference in training hampers our ability to see
eye to eye,” the Chief Magistrate said.
[Editor's Note. This story appeared in Kaieteur News in July