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Apr 23, 2015

Educators’ Appeal Dismissed by the CCJ

Magali Marin

On Wednesday, while all attention was on the outcome of the Maya Land Rights case, the Caribbean Court of Justice also handed down a decision in the case of Juanita Lucas and Celia Carillo versus the Chief Education Officer and the Minister of Education.  The judgment of Justices Nelson, Hayton, Anderson, Saunders and Wit was a split decision following an appeal which arose out of administrative issues at the Escuela Secundaria Technica de Mejico in Belize, where Lucas and Carillo served as principal and vice principal, respectively.  The problem dated back to 2008 when they were both suspended by the Chief Education Officer pending the outcome of an investigation.  In setting aside the appeal, the CCJ emphasized that the suspensions were not to punish the appellants but rather to allow for a proper inquiry to be conducted into the goings-on at the school.

 

Magali Marin, Attorney for Juanita Lucas and Celia Carillo

“At the Supreme Court, Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Carillo had challenged their unlawful suspensions and the illegal investigation and the report that led up to their suspensions and they were successful in the Supreme Court.  The investigative report and the suspensions were quashed.  But Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Carillo also sought constitutional redress; they were not successful at the Supreme Court with seeking further redress under the constitution.  They then appealed to the Court of Appeal seeking constitutional redress and the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal and the appellants then appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice.  It must be understood that the Court of Appeal did not uphold the suspensions.  The suspensions have been quashed.  What the essence, the issues that were before the Caribbean Court of Justice was in addition to them succeeding with quashing the investigative report and their suspensions is whether they were entitled to additional relief under the constitution because they allege that their right to work and their right to protection of the law were in addition to the relief they sought and had been infringed.  Now, the Caribbean Court of Justice in a split decision, three ruling in favor of the government and two finding favor with Mrs. Carillo and Mrs. Lucas’ appeal found that the appellants had not made out a case that their constitutional rights had been infringed.  But they did not uphold any suspensions; they did not uphold any illegal investigation and investigative report.  The minority decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice forcefully said that Mrs. Lucas and Mrs. Carillo’s fundamental rights to protection of the law were infringed.  In fact there was one of the judges, he went so far, he said that their constitutional rights were seriously violated and that in addition to an award of damages and a declaratory order, he would have ordered that the Ministry of Education apologizes to these women for the unlawful manner in which the investigation, the unlawful and unfair manner in which the investigations were conducted.”

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