Injunction still in place
The controversial injunction handed down by Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles prohibiting MPs from disclosing emails belonging to members of the environmental group Save The Bays remains in place and May 12 and 13 have been set to hear the substantive constitutional motion brought in relation to the issue.
Although the attorney general moved to have that injunction set aside, the parties agreed yesterday to proceed to the substantive hearing.
The applicants in the matter are the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (Save The Bays); Zachary Bacon, the brother of hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon, a resident of Lyford Cay, and lawyer Fred Smith.
They are seeking a declaration that they have a right to privacy under Article 23 of the constitution and that it is an entrenched fundamental right which trumps parliamentary privilege.
They are asking the judge for a permanent injunction restraining any further “breaches” and an order against Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell and Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald to disclose the source of the emails.
STB wants an order mandating the MPs to provide all of the documents to the
organization, and mandating the destruction of all of copies and give a deposition under oath as to who they may have digitally forwarded the emails to so that it may trace and delete all of the group’s confidential information that may be in the hands of unauthorized parties.
After the judge granted the injunction on April 21, Mitchell and Fitzgerald released a statement.
Calling it a purported injunction, they said, “We have read in the press a report about an injunction to restrain the freedom of speech of parliamentarians.
“We want to assure our constituents that we will not be deterred. We will continue to speak freely on their behalf. Nothing Fred Smith QC can do will stop us.
“This is a breach of our privileges as parliamentarians. The matter calls for Parliament to resist any encroachment on its rights.”
On Monday, Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major condemned the inunction as “a breach of parliamentary privilege and utterly disdainful on many levels”.
Major branded the move a “preemptive onslaught” against Parliament’s independence.
Yesterday, Smith appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs and Loren Klein represented the attorney general in the matter, which has sparked great interest, particularly among constitutional scholars, other members of the legal fraternity and those in the political arena.
The parties agreed to avoid procedural skirmishes and move to the main event — whether there should be a permanent injunction against purported breaches.
Some observers opine that the matter could lead to a constitutional crisis as Parliament has already made it clear that it would not recognize any injunction dictating to MPs how they ought to conduct themselves in Parliament.
“Parliament has its own checks and balances,” the speaker said on Monday.
“It has rules. It has the chair. It has committees. It has private members.
“It is a diverse group of men and women and it has elections every five years.”
He said the court in its wisdom ought to be careful not to violate the tenets between branches of government.
“As chair, I am unaware of any jurisdiction anywhere in the Commonwealth where the court could curtail the actions of Parliament.”
The matter stems from Fitzgerald reading STB emails in Parliament on May 17. He has threatened to reveal more information which he claims supports his statement that Save The Bays is not really an environmental organization but is more concerned with seeking to destabilize the Christie administration.
“Save the Bays should stand by for more to come,” Fitzgerald and Mitchell said in their joint statement last week.