Solicitor and MP seek to challenge Court House Yard parking ban

An MP and a solicitor, who are among those who have been banned or banned from parking in Court House Yard by the government, are trying to challenge that decision in court, calling it illegal, unreasonable and irrational.

They are also asking for an injunction to allow “an immediate return to the centuries-old practice” of parking at Court House Yard.

Attorney Jemalie John and Opposition Senator Shevern Lewis-John have petitioned the court to grant them permission to seek a judicial review of the Cabinet’s decision effective November 18, 2022 and that court parking House Yard would be limited to (i) persons employed in the Office of the High Court, (ii) persons employed in the House of Assembly, (iii) current Members of Parliament when Parliament is in session, (iv) legal advisers employed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions/ Public prosecutor.

The 17 February 2023 motion, prepared by Attorney Jomo Thomas, names the Prime Minister (Cabinet) as the first respondent and the Registrar of the High Court as the second respondent.

The applicants want the court to explain that the courtyard of the courthouse is part of the court’s precincts and that the power to regulate its use rests with the chief justice, not the cabinet.

John and Lewis-John are also demanding an explanation that the Cabinet’s decision, advised in a letter from the Chancellor, is “ultra vires and therefore illegal” or alternatively “procedurally inappropriate in that it violates the principles of natural justice.” ‘ as the decision was taken without giving those concerned the opportunity to be heard.

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“The decision to prohibit the first applicant (John), members of the private bar, from parking at the courthouse while allowing the ‘counsellor employed in the Office of the Director of Attorneys/National Attorneys’ to do so is unreasonable and irrational. “It says in the application.

“The decision to only park the second applicant (Lewis-John) and MPs in the Court House Yard when Parliament is underway is unreasonable and irrational given that the need for MPs to have access to the House of Assembly does not address the Limited period of time during which Parliament sits.

“In writing and issuing the letter dated November 18, 2022, the second respondent (the Registrar) performed the role of a representative of the Executive Branch (Cabinet), which exceeded her powers as Registrar,” the motion continued.

Thomas said the execution of the decision caused “irreparable harm” because “private bar members encounter obstacles in accessing court to represent their clients and juries encounter obstacles in arriving at court in a timely manner, causing the… court proceedings will be disrupted”.

According to the motion, the restriction has also “irreparably damaged Parliamentarians’ ability to adequately represent their constituents, as they now have difficulty entering the office of the House of Assembly when required to do so on days when Parliament is not in session . ”

Thomas said the applicants had “a well-arranged case and should be granted an injunction to allow an immediate return to the centuries-old practice of using the courtyard of the courthouse, thereby contributing to the efficient and effective administration of justice and the making of laws at St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

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On November 17, 2022, when Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at the opening of two vegetable markets in Kingstown, said it was unfair that lawyers were given free parking in the courthouse yard every day.

He said the “disorder in the courthouse courtyard” was a “security issue” that needed to be addressed.

“I have a message for all of you, the only people parked there are people who work in the courthouse, not attorneys. Find your own parking spot, I’ll lock you out.”

The following day, the Chancellor informed members of the Bar Association of the cabinet’s decision in an email sent to 153 email addresses.