Minister wins costs for election battle

| 23/03/2015 | 12 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs

(CNS): Tara Rivers will be sending a hefty bill to the husband of her election rival after a Grand Court decision giving the education and employment minister the right to seek costs for the 2013 election petition. Although Chief Justice Anthony Smellie had initially hoped the parties would not press for costs, given the public interest in the unsuccessful challenge, following Rivers’ application he agreed to grant the undisclosed costs earlier this month.

In a move that could deter future challenges to those who may not be qualified, Gordon Hewitt, who challenged Rivers’ right to be returned to office, will be paying what were described as “significant costs.”

Hewitt, whose wife, Velma Powery-Hewitt, came in fifth during the May 2013 election after running on the UDP ticket in the district of West Bay, filed the petition on the basis that Rivers has an American passport and was living and working overseas during the seven years prior to the election date.

However, although other candidates gave up their US passports and one was prevented from running in the first place, the chief justice found that Rivers having a US passport as a result of her being born in that country did not mean she had sworn an allegiance to another nation. The chief justice also agreed that Rivers’ time working at a law firm in London during the seven years prior to the 2013 election was educational and that she had, in any event, retained her main residence in Cayman.

With the petition heard and lost in August 2013, Rivers was confirmed in her post but the judge indicated he felt the case was an important one and it had been in the public interest to settle the questions that had been raised. He had, therefore, reserved his position on costs at the time and encouraged the parties involved, which included the attorney general and the returning officer, not to pursue costs against Hewitt.

In his judgment awarding cost to Rivers, who earns more than $100,000 per annum, the chief justice noted that the challenge had not been frivolous or unreasonable. The petition was presented against the backdrop of Richard Christian’s disqualification in Bodden Town based on legal advice from the attorney general because he had a US passport.

Although the country’s top judge indicated that the challenge to Rivers’ election failed, it had still addressed “important constitutional issues”. He said he hoped the parties would not seek costs as he had concerns about the impact that would have on future well-meaning but unsuccessful challenges.

Nevertheless, as there was a legal right for Rivers to have the failed petitioner pay her costs, the judge made the order. Although the request for indemnity costs was denied, Hewitt will still have to cover the cost of Rivers’ QC, Jeffery Jowell, as well as the US constitutional expert and the local attorney’s fees.

Steve McField, who represented Hewitt, had argued that the chief justice did not have jurisdiction to do so as he had closed the case in August 2013 with no costs being awarded. However, the top judge said he had reserved the issue of costs so no final order was ever made.

See the judgment: Hewitt v Rivers et al

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Category: Elections, Politics

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So in other words, the c4c getting their money back.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love it a US citizen running your country
    I hope she files her taxes they are due in another 3 weeks

  3. Anonymous says:

    Will the REAL culprit please stand up.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is a much clearer report than the one carried in the Compass and does explain the issues very well. Thank you CNS. For example, it explains the delay in this judgment (the Chief Justice was hoping that the parties would not press recovery of costs). It also explained why this case was not in fact a frivolous law suit — it has settled some important constitutional questions viz a viz the election law.

      If the Compass report had covered those bases, then the commentators on the Compass story could have spared themselves the trouble of writing to the effect that this had been a frivolous law suit by Hewitt. Clearly it was not, which was why the Chief Justice had hoped, he indicated, that the parties would not press for costs.

      Whether we agree with the outcome or not, it was clearly not a frivolous matter and will make a difference going forward having established some precedents in an important area of local election law.

      And, by the way, score one more for quality of CNS reporting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    She better enjoy it – last win for a LONG time for her!

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh yeah! It’s pay back time. Don’t worry about those crazy people, we are moving ahead for a better tomorrow. “Cayman” Alliance all the way.

  5. Anonymous says:

    and the lawyers get richer and richer and richer..

  6. Anonymous says:

    This minister knows she shouldnt even be in the LA this and the previous ruling by chief justice was so flawed on all levels. The entire cayman islands knows it. What a joke this place is

    • Anonymous says:

      Speak for yourself please. THIS part of Cayman doesn’t know it. Be careful, you might end up paying the minister damages.

      • Sammi blue says:

        What a travesty of justice. ms. Rivers knows that she was not eligible to run for election in Cayman Islands legislature. She did and she won unfairly. The Courts gave her remedy but that does mean they were correct in their judgement. One would think that she would show some semblance of graciousness. I wonder how she sleeps at night. Honestly is still the best policy. What comes around goes around.

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