SOURCE: DAILY OBSERVER
As the head of the Magistrate’s Court in Antigua and Barbuda, Joanne Walsh has dedicated more than two decades of her life to upholding justice – but now her own conduct is being called into question.
Ten disciplinary charges have been filed against Walsh by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC). The JLSC is the institution under the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order – Section 87— that exercises disciplinary control over legal officers within its jurisdiction.
The body filed the charges after completing an investigation into complaints against the Chief Magistrate. Those charges have yet to be made public but reports reaching Observer indicate that the tribunal hearing is set to begin next month. A three-member panel of judges will oversee the hearing.
One of Walsh’s lawyers Kenny Kentish has told Observer that Walsh will “defend her charges”. Walsh herself did not wish to comment on the matter nor did the Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin.
There have been several complaints over the last three years about the magistrate’s conduct in office and her attitude towards staff.
In October 2022, Hildred Simpson, Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, attempted to initiate an investigation against her while Walsh acted as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). That case was thrown out of court because the High Court accepted that the PS had no authority to initiate the probe.
In April that same year, social media personality Washington Bramble wrote to the JLSC, alleging that Walsh had committed acts of misconduct. The Commission assigned the High Court’s Deputy Registrar to be the investigating officer in the matter.
Prior to Bramble’s complaint, in 2020, St Peters MP Asot Michael accused the magistrate of “corruption and skullduggery” but later apologised, labelling his remarks as “inappropriate”. The MP had accused Walsh of exceeding her jurisdiction when she issued a bench warrant for his arrest due to his failure to turn up for a civil court hearing before her.
Efforts to reach Prime Minister Gaston Browne for comment on the potential implications for the judiciary were unsuccessful.