Chief Justice (ag) recuses self in Zana Frank case

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Chief Justice (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards

ACTING Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards has recused herself from the case involving the Deputy Deeds Registrar Zana Frank and the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams.This is according to the Attorney General. On Tuesday he told reporters that the matter was expected to come up on Monday but Justice Cummings-Edwards recused herself on the basis that she was among interviewees when Frank attended an interview at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

As such, the case has been transferred to Justice Brassington Reynolds.

In an affidavit in answer filed in the High Court, the Legal Affairs Minister denied aversions made by Deputy Deeds Registrar that suggested he gave directions for the JSC to appoint Penelope Whyte to the post of Deputy Registrar of Deeds (ag).

Frank earlier this month moved to the High Court to have the directive preventing her from functioning removed. The Deputy Deeds Registrar alleged that the Attorney General attempted to block the decision of the JSC to appoint her, but instead influenced the appointment of Penelope Whyte as the acting Deputy Registrar, though she is not an attorney.

But Williams has maintained that Frank is unsuitable for the post. In his affidavit of response, dated August 26, he has asked for her application for the Writs of Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition to be discharged.

According to the affidavit, Registrar of Deeds, Azeena Baksh, by virtue of a letter dated December 1, and addressed to Williams, indicated that only a Deputy Registrar can act on her behalf when she proceeds on vacation. Baksh, according to the affidavit, suggested a “virtual shutdown” of the authority if she were to proceed on leave and not have a Deputy Registrar in place.

Williams submitted that the suggestion by Baksh was “erroneous, since by virtue of Section 13 (2) the Assistant Registrar of Deeds could perform the functions of the Registrar of Deeds, subject to her instructions.”

In November 2015, Penelope Whyte, who is said to have 15 years’ experience in the Deeds Registry and 29 years in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, had applied to the board for the post of Assistant Registrar of Deeds.

Additionally, by virtue of a letter dated November 16, 2015, Registry Supervisor of the Deeds Registry Aretha Quinn wrote the Secretary of the Board complaining about the trend of sidelining persons for unknown reasons and the need for employees to be treated fairly based on their experience, qualifications and in accordance with workers’ rights.

As a result of the letters, the board at its meeting on December 10, 2015, discussed the content and supported the Minister of Legal Affairs proposal to appoint Whyte the Assistant Registrar of Deeds on the grounds that the holder of the post must have an LLB Degree and two years experience in conveyancing or 10 years experience in the authority.