Donovan Foote seeks judicial review of bench warrant issued against him
Disbarred attorney-at-law Donovan Foote has been granted leave by the Supreme Court to apply for judicial review to quash the decision of former Senior Parish Court Judge Icolyn Reid (now a Puisne Judge) issuing a bench warrant against him.
Foote is contending that his constitutional rights were breached when the judge ordered him on April 3, 2018 to sign an order binding him over in the sum of $50,000 to return to the Westmoreland Parish Court on April 23, 2018.
Foote said in his affidavit that on March 5, 2018, he was brought before the court on a warrant that was wrongfully issued and executed upon him on the instructions of the judge. He said he was not in breach of any court order binding him over or extending his bail to attend court for any offence.
When he appeared in court, the judge directed the clerk of the court to put him in the dock and plead him. He went into the dock and the clerk started to ask him whether he was guilty or not guilty but could not complete the process of pleading because the clerk told the judge he had “ no papers” outlining the charges.
Foote then told the court that he had received a message from his secretary that he should attend court on March 1, 2018 but he instructed his secretary to inform the court that he could not be present because he was attending the swearing-in ceremony of Justice Bryan Sykes as Chief Justice on that day.
The judge then adjourned the court for a short while and on return asked Foote why he was not at court and he repeated that he was at the swearing-in ceremony. The judge then said that Foote’s secretary had advised her in open court that he was attending the ceremony but that explanation did not satisfy her so she issued a bench warrant.
Foote said the judge ordered the police to take him downstairs and give him bail in his own surety of $100,000 for him to return to court on March 20, 2018. Foote said he took steps to have the matter adjourned to 3 p.m. on March 20, 2018 and even sent a letter that he was appearing in a court of higher jurisdiction that day. When he turned up at 3 p.m. he was informed that the court had adjourned at 2:50 p.m. and the judge had issued a warrant and escheated the bond. He then asked the clerk if he had brought the contents of his letter to the attention of the judge, and the clerk said he was “not working” with him.
On April 3, 2018 the police executed a warrant on Foote for contempt of court and Foote said, despite his objection, he was given bail in his own surety to return to court on April 23, 2018. Foote claimed in court documents that the judge’s actions were done maliciously and without reasonable cause and he wants his name to be cleared in the parish court. He said he had to pay the amounts in the bail bonds.
OBJECTIONS ABOUT COMPLAINT
Foote took the matter to the Supreme Court and a stay was granted in the matter in the parish court. After the matter was stayed by Senior Puisne Judge Carol Lawrence Beswick (now retired), Reid reported Foote to the General Legal Council but the matter has not yet been completed as Foote has raised objections about the complaint.
Supreme Court Judge Andrea Pettigrew-Collins granted leave on Tuesday for Foote to go to the Judicial Review Court after hearing submissions from King’s Counsel Douglas Leys. In his submissions, Leys said that Foote ought to be allowed to pursue judicial review alongside a claim for redress for breach of his constitutional rights.
The judge and the Attorney General were named as respondents and were represented by Faith Hall, who was instructed by the Director of State Proceedings.
Hall argued that the Attorney General was not a proper party to the proceedings and the judge agreed and removed the Attorney General as a party.
The first hearing of the fixed date claim form for judicial review is set for July 10. The judge in granting the application said “this court is of the view that an applicant may seek judicial review of a decision which he also alleges breached his constitutional rights and thus the fact that the applicant has filed a claim alleging that his constitutional rights have been breached does not bar him from at the same time seeking judicial review in respect of the same conduct”.
Foote was disbarred in 2019 by the GLC, after he was found guilty of professional misconduct, but he has filed an appeal in the United Kingdom Privy Council.