By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
COURT of Appeal judges yesterday said they took no pleasure in finding a veteran attorney and Queen’s Counsel guilty of two counts of contempt of court concerning his words and actions during an extradition appeal that he contended were not contemptuous.
Maurice Glinton, QC, was fined $15,000 for the contempt charge. The court’s alternative punishment for the contempt conviction is 14 days imprisonment at the Department of Correctional Services for failure to pay within 14 days of conviction.
“That counsel of Mr (Maurice) Glinton’s seniority would put the court in this position is regrettable,” Court of Appeal President Justice Anita Allen said.
“But as judges of the court, we were compelled to commence and continue these proceedings to protect the authority and dignity of the court and to ensure the fair and proper administration of justice.”
The contempt issue arose on September 28 when Mr Glinton refused to continue representing three men fighting extradition to the United States as long as Justice Abdulai Conteh presided over the matter despite meeting the constitutional age of retirement.
“I do not want to hear such a childish proposition,” Mr Glinton said on September 28 to Justice Allen, when informed that Justice Conteh, 70, had received a legal extension allowing him to remain on the bench.
For his failure to appear before the court on October 9 for his initial contempt hearing, the court sentenced Mr Glinton to four days imprisonment “which we consider to have already been served by your detention on the warrant of arrest and so that contempt is purged.”
Mr Glinton’s lawyer Wayne Munroe, QC, told reporters yesterday that his client intends to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
“In effect, our submission was the behaviour may be considered offensive but as the court set out in its summary of its judgment, Mr Glinton at that time expressed that he was defending his client (and) the Constitution,” Mr Munroe said.
“He’s subsequently filed a constitutional motion in the Supreme Court to have adjudicated there, the issue of entitlement of one of the judges to sit and we look forward to receiving the detailed reasons, getting access to the transcripts to consider an appeal to the Privy Council on this issue. It is a matter that Mr Glinton feels very strongly about and he’s indicated that clearly.”
“As the court said, he expressed regret at the language used. He didn’t apologise as they noted and he has instructed that he wishes to appeal the matter onward to the final court of appeal of this country which is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council,” Mr Munroe concluded.
In contempt proceedings held a week ago, Mr Munroe spent five hours before Justices Allen, Abdulai Conteh and Neville Adderley disputing the context and subsequent legal ramifications concerning Mr Glinton’s actions.
The appellate panel yesterday noted that Mr Glinton’s conduct “taken individually” could be perceived solely as insolent behaviour and not contempt of court.
“However when considered collectively, it is our view that Mr Glinton’s conduct shifts from mere insolent, disrespectful behaviour and hardens into contempt of court,” Justice Allen said.
“Since September 28, we have individually reflected on the events of that day and not one member of the panel has been able to recall a darker day for the administration of justice,” the appellate judges said in their written ruling.
“Mr Glinton’s expressed justification that day was that he was standing up for his client’s rights and defending the Constitution. Yet, not only did he refuse to place himself on the record, he refused to answer questions put to him by the bench about his inquiry and about the authority commended to the court.”
“Even when his inquiry was answered by the court, he flatly refused to continue the matter when invited by the court to do so. This conduct, in the court’s view, is contrary to Mr Glinton’s expressed intention. Moreover, Mr Glinton’s abrupt withdrawal as counsel, in the middle of the scheduled hearing of his client’s appeals, walking past them in the box and leaving them without legal representation, further undermines his attempt to justify his conduct on that basis.”
The detailed ruling of the court is available of the Court of Appeal’s website http://www.courtofappeal.org.bs/.