High Court rules claim of reputational damage by D.Gisele Isaac will go to trial; Attorney-General and M. Browne are defendants

The High Court of Justice has ruled that a claim filed by D.Gisele Isaac against Michael Browne, former Minister of Education, and the Cabinet, represented by Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, will stand and has ordered a trial.

The claim – among several others – arose out of Isaac’s controversial suspension and subsequent constructive dismissal from her position as Executive Secretary of the Board of Education, by the Cabinet, in August 2014, and an investigative report compiled and published on her tenure at the statutory body.

In a ruling delivered on Monday, December 12, Justice Jan Drysdale struck out five of the relief measures Isaac sought, concluding that they had been rendered moot because of her success in her Industrial Court case, with an award of compensation.  That matter was concluded late last year.

However, Isaac had also sought a declaration “that the publication of the report of the investigation, without affording [her] an opportunity to be heard is contrary to natural justice, and was made with reckless disregard of the Claimant’s rights and reputation.”

She also sought “damages for diminution of reputation.”

On these measures, the Judge ruled that “this claim that [Isaac’s] reputation was diminished and damages for the same shall proceed to trial.”

Earlier this year, when the matter came before Justice Drysdale, the Defendants’ lawyer, Dr. David Dorsett, argued that the case should be dismissed.  

He claimed that it had since become an academic matter between both parties in light of Isaac’s success at the Industrial Court, and there was no “public interest” in questioning the Education Minister’s actions.

However, Isaac’s attorney, Justin Simon, K.C., counter-argued that it remained a live issue for determination – and, among other things, the Board of Education Act required judicial interpretation and clarification in respect of the Minister’s powers.

This matter goes back eight years, having been filed in the High Court since December 2014.   

After the Court gave leave for Isaac to bring a case against Benjamin and Browne, the two Defendants appealed the decision and lost, twice, at the Court of Appeal and subsequently took the matter to the Privy Council in London.

The final appellate court upheld the lower courts’ decisions in May 2018, but the matter languished in the High Court until late 2019 when a trial date of March 20, 2020, was set.  

However, the Court was closed that month on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the matter was not revived until the following year.

In 2021, the High Court ordered the parties to mediation, which proved to be a non-starter, and so the matter went before Justice Drysdale in early 2022.