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Challenge to Attorney General's Senatorial Appointment wraps up

Claimant Shawn Richards (center) chats with Counsel for Respondents Ambassador Delano Bart Q.C. (left) and Dr. Henry Browne Q.C.

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN):  Arguments in the case challenging the constitutionality of the Attorney General Jason Hamilton being appointed a Senator in the National Assembly wrapped up in the Basseterre Court on Monday.

The arguments seemed to come down to ones of procedure, with the Claimants contending that the sequence of appointments violated the Constitution, while the respondents argued that the composition of the Parliament with the Attorney General serving as a fourth Senator was lawful.

Senior Counsel for the Claimants Douglas Mendes S.C. argued Monday that the appointment of the Attorney General as a Minister of Government and Senator breached the Constitution which says that a Minister must chosen from among the Members of Parliament, and which provides for three Senators in the National Assembly.

According to the Constitution if a Senator is appointed Attorney General the number of Senators can be increased by one.  Mr. Mendes argued Monday that that provision allowed for the increase if an existing Member was appointed Attorney General.

He said the Prime Minister had the option of either appointing an existing Senator as Attorney General or disappointing one of his three Senators, and appointing Mr. Hamilton as a Senator, which would then have allowed for the addition of a fourth Senator.

The Senior Counsel asserted that as the Attorney General was not a Member of Parliament and there were already three Senators in the House, his appointment as an Minister and Senator was unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal.

He went on to argue that the subsequent passage of the Increase in Senators Bills should also be deemed unlawful as it would not have passed without the vote of the newly appointed Attorney General.

Lawyers for the respondents challenging the position of the claimants, argued that the Attorney General’s Act of 2000 allowed for the Attorney General to be appointed a Minister, and appointing him a Senator did not breach the constitution, as it provided for a fourth Senator in the event that one was the Attorney General.

Legal Counsel Dr. Henry Browne Q.C. who was holding papers for the Governor General, speaking to WINN FM Monday afternoon said that the Claimants’ arguments did “not wash.”

Ms Constance Mitcham a member of the legal team for the Claimants, who said that Mr. Hamilton’s Appointment as a Senator was “bad in law.”

Both sides were filing and receiving submissions as late as Monday, with the hearing slated for 1:00 in the afternoon.  They have been given until Wednesday to file any final written submissions they deem necessary.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, now a Government Backbencher, and Leader of the People’s Action Movement, Opposition MP Shawn Richards, jointly filed the case days after Mr. Hamilton’s appointment as a Senator.  

Mr. Condor and Mr. Richards are represented by a legal team lead by Mr. Mendes.  Other members are Ms Mitcham, McClure Taylor, Opposition Senator Vincent “Juicy” Byron, Lindsay Grant, Tishana John, Rivi Warner and Natasha Gray.  

The office of the Attorney General is being represented by Mr. Sylvester Anthony, and in his private capacity he is being represented by his father Glenford Hamilton.  The Prime Minister is represented by Ambassador Delano Bart Q.C.  The Speaker of the House was initially represented by Dr. Browne, but the matters pertaining to him were struck from the submissions.  Dr. Browne has been holding papers for the Governor General's Counsel, Anthony Astaphan S.C.

The current Parliament has eleven elected seats, one Opposition Senator, and now three Government Senators, one of whom is the Attorney General.  The Increase in Senators Bill allows for the appointment of three additional Senators:  two to the Government side and one to the Opposition.  

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