Deborah Patrick-Gardner v Jacqueline Mendez and Another

CourtSupreme Court (Jamaica)
JudgeSykes J
Judgment Date08 July 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] JMSC Civ 121
Date08 July 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL DIVISION CLAIM NO. 2016HCV02234

[2016] JMSC Civ 121


Sykes J.


Deborah Patrick-Gardner
Jacqueline Mendez
First Respondent


The Public Service Commission
Second Respondent

Hugh Wildman and Barbara Hines for the applicant

Nicole Foster-Pusey QC, Solicitor General, and Monique Harrison for both respondents instructed by the Director of State Proceedings


The context

February 24, 2016 was the day appointed by the Jamaica Gazette for amendment to the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act to come into effect. The amendment established an entity known as the Court Administration Division (“CAD”). The amendment did other things such as adding Registrars and Deputy Registrars but those other things are irrelevant to the present proceedings.


The statute states expressly that the CAD “shall be under the direction and control of the Chief Justice.” The CAD is to be headed by a person styled the Director of Court Administration (“DCA”) and that person “shall be responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the work and staff of the Division.” The CDA is permitted to employ persons on “terms and conditions as may be approved by and with the authority of the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Public Service Commission.”


According to the memorandum of objects and reasons of the Bill a decision was taken to establish the CAD “which will supersede and replace the Court Management Services which was initially established as an administrative arrangement, and which shall be responsible for the provision of general administration and management services in respect of all the courts of Jamaica.”


What all this means is that before the statute was passed there was an administrative entity known as the Court Management Service (“CMS”) headed by a Principal Executive Officer (“PEO”). Mrs Patrick-Gardner was the first person appointed as PEO for CMS by letter dated September 28, 2011. She appears to be the last as well. As will be seen below a decision was taken to retire Mrs Patrick-Gardner. This decision and its implementation have ignited this application.


For the respondents to this application, Mrs Jacqueline Mendez, Acting Chief Personnel Officer (“CPO”), assigned to the Public Service Commission (“PSC”), swore in her affidavit that the duties which were carried out by the PEO would now be carried out by the DCA once the Act came into force and someone was appointed to that post. When this decision was made there was a ticklish question — what to do about Mrs Patrick-Gardner?


Mrs Mendez informs us that the PSC took the view that Mrs Patrick-Gardner ought to be retired from the public service on the ground of re-organisation in accordance with section 6 (1) (iv) of the Pensions Act. It is this decision and its implementation that have led to this application for leave to apply for judicial review.

Mrs Patrick-Gardner's complaint

Mrs Patrick-Gardner states that after her appointment as PEO the Chief Justice suggested to her that she should pursue legal training in order to be able to discharge her functions better. She acted upon this suggestion and enrolled in the Bachelor of Laws programme at the University of the West Indies. She took up this course in September 2013.


In order for her to complete this course of training she was granted study leave for 36 months — two years with pay and one year without pay. By September 2015 she completed the degree. Apparently she was a direct entrant which means that she had a prior degree which led the Faculty of Law to conclude that she was able to complete the programme in two years instead of the usual three. She did exceptionally well by taking a first class honours.


She states that on September 25, 2015 she reported for work at her office at CMS but found that her temporary successor was still in physical occupation of the office. Mrs Mendez's affidavit completes this portion of the narrative. Mrs Mendez states that Mrs Patrick-Gardner, by letter dated September 9, 2015, advised the then CPO, Dr Lois Parkes, that she had completed her studies early and had resumed duties on September 4, 2015. Mrs Patrick-Gardner proposed to Dr Parkes that she would proceed on recreational leave effective September 4, 2015. She also referred to an application for further paid leave to do the Certificate of Legal Education at the Norman Manley Law School.


Mrs Mendez states that by letter dated September 24, 2015, Mrs Patrick-Gardner was told that twenty four month's leave was approved for her to pursue the course at the Norman Manley Law School but it would be without pay. The PSC, it appears, was not be expecting Mrs Patrick Gardner to turn up for work after the approval of her leave to attend the Norman Manley Law School.


The PSC's expectation were dashed when Mrs Patrick-Gardner, by letter dated September 25, 2015, to the CPO advised that she had resumed duties but was unable to gain access to her office by the person who had been appointed to act in the post during Mrs Patrick Gardner's study leave to read for Bachelor of Laws degree.


Three days later, Mrs Patrick-Gardner wrote yet another letter. By letter dated September 28, 2015, Mrs Patrick-Gardner wrote to the PSC complaining that she has not applied for unpaid study leave but had requested “paid study leave.” She also stated that she would not be able to proceed on unpaid study leave. There were other issues raised which need not be addressed on this application.


The PSC responded by sending two letter to Mrs Patrick-Gardner both dated September 28, 2015. The first one contained some unexpected and perhaps unanticipated news. She was told her that on the recommendation of the Chief Justice she was re-deployed to the Ministry of Justice with effect from September 29, 2015 until further order. This letter provided grist for Mr Wildman's mill.


The second letter told her that:

  • (a) she had been initially granted three year's study leave which meant that she was not expected back until September 2016;

  • (b) she had applied for additional paid study leave to commence in September 2015 and the final decision was not taken on that application until September 24, 2015 which was the normal time frame for such decisions to be made;

  • (c) arrangements would not have been put in place in anticipation of her resumption on Friday, September 25, 2015; and

  • (d) a change in leadership at CMS was not appropriate at that point in time because CMS was involved in programmes vital for the reform of justice in Jamaica.


It is not altogether surprising that Mrs Patrick-Gardner began to have misgivings about the recent developments. She was now in receipt of two letters from the PSC. One informing her that the Chief Justice had re-commended that she be redeployed to the Ministry of Justice and another explaining that she was not expected back at work so soon and it was thought that a change in leadership at the CMS at that time was not desirable.


On her arrival at the Ministry of Justice on September 29, 2015, Mrs Patrick- Gardner says two things happened. First she was placed in a post (SEG — 5) which she claims was two levels below her substantive appointment as PEO. Second, she was advised that she would be reporting to an officer who was her junior. It is not clear what her remuneration was at that time. From this two things are being alleged. The first is that she was in fact demoted. Second all this took place without any hearing of any kind. It is not hard to see why she would be anxious about these developments.


She was not happy with these turn of events and brought her discontent to the attention of Dr Parkes who it is said undertook to raise these concerns with the PSC. There was a change in CPO's and Mrs Mendez took over that post. Mrs Patrick-Gardner and Mrs Mendez met on January 18, 2016, and the matters of concern to Mrs Patrick-Gardner were discussed.


As should be apparent by now, Mrs Patrick-Gardner was and is an avid writer of letters. Mrs Patrick-Gardner wrote two letters to the Mrs Mendez dated January 8 and 25, 2016 outlining her concerns, that is to say, one letter before the January 18 meeting and one after.


Mrs Mendez, in a letter dated February 15, 2016, confirmed receiving letters dated January 8 and 25, 2016 from Mrs Patrick-Gardner and went on to say that the PSC had been made aware of her concerns and its decision would be communicated in due course.


What is clear from this is that at no time was anyone suggesting that Mrs Patrick-Gardner should be separated from her job whether by retirement or otherwise. What the PSC was ostensibly addressing were (a) her de facto removal from CMS; (b) her de facto demotion without a hearing of any kind and (c) her reporting to an officer two rungs below Mrs Patrick-Gardner's appointed post.


On the same February 15, 2016 when Mrs Mendez was assuring Mrs Patrick-Gardner that the PSC would be addressing her concerns, the legislature enacted an amendment to the Judicature (Supreme Court) Act which received the Governor General's assent and by February 24, 2016 it came into force.


Mrs Mendez's affidavit does not say when the PSC shifted position from addressing Mrs Patrick-Gardner's concerns to one of recommending that she be retired on the ground of re-organisation. The affidavit is silent on whether other alternatives were explored. Let us recall that Mrs Patrick-Gardner is asserting that she undertook the study of law because it was recommended to her that she should have this knowledge in order to enhance her ability to perform as PEO of CMS. She not only completed the degree but took a first. It does seem...

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1 cases
  • Dale Austin v The Solicitor General
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court (Jamaica)
    • 4 January 2018
    ...are amenable to judicial review. Learned Counsel cited this court's decision in Deborah Patrick-Gardner v Mendez and another [2016] JMSC Civ 121 where a recommendation was made by the PSC to retire Mrs Patrick-Gardner. This court granted leave to Mrs Patrick-Gardner to apply for judicial re......

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