Lawyer asks judge to step aside at hearing

National, Normal

The National – Friday, June 17, 2011

A LAWYER seeking to stop a Commission of Inquiry report from being made public has asked that a judge assigned to a judicial review of the case disqualify herself from hearing it.
Private lawyer Paul Paraka had taken out the injunction late last year to stop the  Commission report into the Finance Department being made public.
When the case was called on Wednesday for a judicial review directional hearing before acting judge Justice Royale Thompson, Paraka, through lawyer Harvey Nii, made known  his intention to seek her disqualification from presiding over the matter.
Nii made a brief submission in court claiming a  “issue of apprehension of bias”.
In it, he submitted that Thompson had, before becoming a judge and while practising as a private lawyer, represented the opposing party in other court matters.
Nii submitted that this had raised “apprehension of bias” concerns on the case listed as OS 89/11 of Zachary Gelu and Paul Paraka against Maurice Sheehan (chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department) and others.
After hearing the submission by Paraka, Justice Thompson adjourned the matter to June 23.
But yesterday, the National Court registry re-scheduled the matter to June 24 because there was a meeting of judges scheduled for June 23.
Thompson will then hear submissions proper to be made by both parties on the issue of “apprehension of bias” before deciding on whether to preside over the matter.
The case had initially been heard by former judge Justice Mark Sevua before he resigned early this year after a JLSC decision not to renew his term.
Sevua had yet to hand down his ruling on the matter which he said was in its final stages. 
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia delegated Sevua’s outstanding court matters to Justice Don Sawong to delegate or hear.
The case was then delegated to acting judge Thompson.