Paul Chen-Young v Eagle Merchant Bank Jamaica Ltd

JurisdictionJamaica
JudgeBrooks JA,Morrison P,Phillips JA
Judgment Date26 April 2018
Neutral CitationJM 2018 CA 66
Docket NumberSUPREME COURT CIVIL APPEAL NO 39/2006
Year2018
CourtCourt of Appeal (Jamaica)

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL

Before:

THE HON Mr Justice Morrison P

THE HON Miss Justice Phillips JA

THE HON Mr Justice Brooks JA

SUPREME COURT CIVIL APPEAL NO 39/2006

MOTION NO 12/2017

Between
Paul Chen-Young
1 st Applicant

and

Ajax Investments Limited
2 nd Applicant

and

Domville Limited
3 rd Applicant
and
Eagle Merchant Bank Jamaica Limited
1 st Respondent

and

Crown Eagle Life Insurance Company Limited
2 nd Respondent

and

The Attorney General for Jamaica
Interested Party

Ransford Braham QC and Abraham Dabdoub instructed by Dabdoub, Dabdoub & Co for the appellants

Michael Hylton QC and Sundiata Gibbs instructed by Hylton Powell for the respondents

Mrs Nicole Foster-Pusey QC, Solicitor General, and Miss Carla Thomas instructed by the Director of State Proceedings for the interested party

Morrison P
Introduction
1

Section 103(1) of the Constitution of Jamaica (‘the Constitution’) establishes a Court of Appeal for Jamaica (‘the court’), with “such jurisdiction and powers as may be conferred upon it by this Constitution or by any other law”.

2

Section 106(1) of the Constitution provides that a judge of the court, as also of the Supreme Court 1, holds office until he (or she) attains the age of 70 years (‘the retirement age’).

3

But section 106(2) provides that, with the permission of the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, a judge of the court who attains the retirement age may “continue in office for such further period after attaining that age as may be necessary to enable him to deliver judgment or to do any other thing in relation to proceedings that were commenced before him before he attained that age”.

4

Section 106(3) provides that nothing done by a judge of the court “shall be invalid by reason only that he has attained the [retirement age]”.

5

On several dates between March and November 2013, a panel of the court comprising Panton P, Dukharan and McIntosh JJA (‘the judges’) heard the applicants' appeal against a judgment of R Anderson J (‘the trial judge’) given in the Supreme

Court on 4 May 2006. On 6 November 2013, after a hearing lasting 18 days, the court reserved judgment on the appeal
6

Between May 2015 and July 2016, each of the judges retired upon reaching their respective retirement ages. There is no evidence that the Governor-General gave permission to any of them to continue in office for any purpose pursuant to section 106(2) of the Constitution.

7

On 1 December 2017, a panel of the court comprising Phillips, Brooks and Sinclair-Haynes JJA delivered the decision of the judges on the appeal (‘the impugned judgment’) to counsel for the parties in open court. By the impugned judgment 2, the appeal was allowed, the decision of the trial judge was set aside, a new trial was ordered before another judge of the Supreme Court and the respondents were ordered to pay one half of the applicants' costs in this court and in the court below.

8

By an amended notice of motion filed on 14 December 2017 (‘the motion’), the applicants seek a declaration from the court that, the judges having retired before giving a decision on the appeal, and not having received permission from the Governor-General to continue in office beyond their retirement ages for the purpose of doing so, the impugned judgment is “null and void and of no legal effect”. Contending that this court has jurisdiction to make them, the applicants accordingly seek orders that (i) “the hearing of [the appeal] which ended on November [6], 2013 be vacated and be heard

de novo”; (ii) a date be fixed for the rehearing of the appeal; and (iii) the costs of the vacated hearing and of the motion be paid by the Attorney-General for Jamaica
9

The 1 st applicant also seeks orders that (i) a freezing order issued against him by the trial judge on 6 May 2006 (‘the freezing order’) be discharged; and (ii) provision be made for continuation of payment of his living expenses of US$5,000.00 per month, as ordered by the trial judge on 15 June 2006, from November 2013 until the date of this court's order.

10

In support of the motion, the applicants place principal reliance on the constitutional provisions relating to the retirement of judges of the court which I have summarised above. However, they also contend that, in all the circumstances set out above, and in the light of the time that has passed since the completion of the hearing of the appeal, there has been a breach of their constitutional right “to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court or authority established by law” 3.

11

Neither the respondents nor the interested party have proffered any submissions, either strongly in support of or in opposition to, the applicants' basic premise, which is that, the judges having retired before purporting to deliver it, the impugned judgment is null and void and of no legal effect. However, the respondents strongly resist the 1 st applicant's application for orders discharging the freezing order

and providing for payment of his living expenses. The interested party equally strongly disputes the applicants' entitlement to an order for payment by the Attorney-General of the costs of the vacated hearing and of the motion. In addition, the interested party contends that this court is not in a position to determine whether there has been a breach of the applicants' right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time; rather, the interested party submits that, pursuant to section 19 of the Constitution, the appropriate forum for such a determination is the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court
12

The issues which arise on the motion may therefore be summarised as follows:

  • 1. Whether the court has the jurisdiction to vacate the 2013 hearing and to order a de novo hearing in the circumstances that have arisen (the jurisdiction issue).

  • 2. What is the status of the impugned judgment (the status of the impugned judgment issue)?

  • 3. Whether this court is the appropriate forum in which to determine whether the applicants' right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time has been breached (the fair hearing within a reasonable time issue).

  • 4. Whether the freezing order against the 1 st applicant should be discharged by this court (the discharge of the freezing order issue).

  • 5. Whether this court should make provision for payment of his living expenses to the 1 st applicant (the living expenses issue).

  • 6. Whether the Attorney-General should be ordered to pay the applicants' costs of the hearing of the appeal thrown away and the costs of the motion (the costs issue).

13

Since preparing a first draft of this judgment, I have had the great advantage of studying in draft the judgment prepared in this matter by Brooks JA. As regards the issues relating to the discharge of the freezing order, provision for living expenses and costs (issues 4, 5 and 6), I find myself so fully in agreement with Brooks JA's reasoning and conclusions that I am happy to endorse them without adding anything of my own. I also agree with Brooks JA's conclusions on the issues relating to jurisdiction, the status of the impugned judgment and the applicants' claim that there has been a breach of their right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time (issues 1, 2 and 3). However, given the fundamental importance of these issues, I think it may be useful if I were to state my views on them in my own words.

The jurisdiction issue
14

The applicants submit that, in the light of the prolonged delay in the delivery of a judgment on the appeal and the retirement of the judges, it is appropriate that the court should vacate the hearing and set the matter down for a rehearing by the court. In their written submissions, the applicants support their contention that the court has jurisdiction to make the order which they seek in three ways.

15

Firstly, the applicants place reliance on (i) the Constitution, which establishes the court 4; (ii) the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act (‘the Act’), which confers jurisdiction on the court 5; and (iii) the Court of Appeal Rules 2002 (‘the CAR’), which describe the powers of the court 6. In addition, the applicants rely on the Civil Procedure Rules 2002 (‘the CPR’), to the extent that any of its provisions are expressly incorporated into the CAR (notably rules 1.1 and 26.1(2)(v) of the CPR, which state the overriding objective of the rules and the court's general powers of management).

16

Secondly, the applicants submit that, even if the jurisdiction for which they contend is not expressly or impliedly conferred on the court by any of these provisions, the court nevertheless has such jurisdiction and/or authority by virtue of its inherent jurisdiction as a superior court of record. In this regard, the applicants rely on a number of authoritative statements, from Halsbury's Laws of England (‘Halsbury's’) 7 and the Supreme Court of Canada in Endean v British Columbia 8 (defining what the notion of the inherent jurisdiction of a court connotes); and from the Courts of Appeal of England and Wales and Belize in Taylor and another v Lawrence and another 9 and RBTT Trust Limited v Cedric Flowers 10 respectively (exploring the extent of the inherent jurisdiction of those courts to reopen and rehear proceedings in the particular circumstances of those cases).

17

And thirdly, the applicants rely on the principle that, until a judgment or order has been perfected, a court has the right to review and reconsider what has been done ( Re Harrison's Share Under A Settlement Harrison v Harrison and Others; Re Ropner's Settlement Trusts Ropner v Ropner and Others 11). The applicants submit that, although the appeal in this case has been heard, it has not yet been validly determined and the court cannot therefore be treated as functus officio.

18

In his oral submissions before us, Mr Braham QC for the...

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