Cyprus Mail

Judge in trouble after contested ruling

By Angelos Anastasiou

A DISTRICT court ruling in a civil suit concerning inheritance rights was overruled on appeal because the presiding judge improperly admitted testimony after closing arguments had been heard and without informing the litigants, the Supreme Court ruled last week.

The case was first brought to court shortly after Archimedes Paraskevaides’ death in 1990, when his partner unsuccessfully sued to be listed as one of his inheritors, along with the two children she had had with the deceased.

Two failed appeals later, in 2008, Paraskevaides’ wife and four children filed to replace the two administrators of his estate, one representing their own interests and the other those of his partner and the two children, on grounds of having unnecessarily delayed the allocation of his estate.

A year later, the court found neither “wilful neglect” nor “misconduct” on the administrators’ part, citing the legal tangles with Paraskevaides’ partner as the main reason for the delay in allocating his assets, and ruled that replacing them with one of the four children Paraskevaides had had with his wife would infringe on the rights of his partner and children.

The family did not accept the ruling and appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds that the court failed to exhibit impartialness, resulting in a breach of the plaintiffs’ right to a fair trial.

In its decision dated March 20, the Supreme Court found that District Court judge Michalis Papamichael had admitted testimony by a witness after the conclusion of the trial and before returning his verdict – in which he cited the offending testimony – without allowing the plaintiffs to comment on it.

“How can the court accept testimony after closing arguments were heard, without the presence of both litigants, and without allowing them the chance to comment on such testimony?” the Supreme Court wondered.

“We consider the course of action employed by the judge not only improper but deplorable.”

Acknowledging that the appellants’ right to a fair trial had, in fact, been violated, the court ordered a retrial.

According to daily Politis, which carried the story in its front page on Monday, this was not the first time that Papamichael had had one of his rulings overturned under similar circumstances.

Specifically, the paper cited a “serious criminal case” concerning the death of a teenager due to alleged medical negligence.

“Based on the aforementioned principles, we believe that the judge’s behaviour in accepting to meet privately with a key prosecution witness during the hearing […] as well as allowing the deceased boy’s father to show him a diagram without disclosing the fact to the litigants immediately, was reprehensible and caused the loss of the required impartiality in conducting a fair trial,” the Supreme Court had said at the time.

But despite overturning Papamichael’s decision, Politis said, the case was not reopened due to the time period lapsed between the alleged crimes and the appeal ruling.

“In plain words, the judge’s reprehensible stance resulted in no one answering for the death of a teenager in hospital,” Politis said.

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