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Jun 16, 2015

G.O.B. Vs the Bar – Judgment Reserved

Michael Young

Almost never has the Court of Appeal been put in such a dicey position as they were this week in respect of a case concerning the overturning of constitutional amendments limiting time of judges on the Court to sit where their instruments of appointment are open-ended. On Monday, the Court reserved its decision on an appeal made by the Government against the Bar Association of Belize. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 2008, sought to close the gap for judges whose instruments did not specify how long they were to sit on the Court of Appeal. But the Bar argued that the move was unconstitutional and represented an attempt by the Executive and Legislature to interfere in the affairs of the Judiciary, and more specifically directly affected two interested parties in the case: former President of the Court Elliott Mottley and appeal judge Dennis Morrison. In April of 2013, then-Supreme Court Justice, Oswell Legall, ruled for the Bar, citing the ‘basic structure’ doctrine to declare unconstitutional the Barrow administration’s closing open-ended appointments to the Court to one year in the case of both judges and further declaring that the age limit for appointment of judges to the court should be seventy  five. The Government of Belize vehemently disagreed and vowed to vigorously appeal the case. Senior Counsel Michael Young represented the Government.


Michael Young, Attorney for G.O.B.

“Essentially, our position was that and is that the basic structure in relation to the appointment of the Justices of the Court Appeal was set from Indepdence 1981 when Constitution of Indepdence was promulgated. The amendments which were comprised in the Sixth amendment of the Constitution were for the particular circumstance, where Judges of the Court Appeal were appointed without a specific period of the duration of the office being inserted into the instrument of appointment. There were cases in which this was done and it raises questions as to whether the appointments were defective and that in itself could have some very serious consequences and thus the legislature plugged the loop hole by providing that in such cases the appointments would be deemed to be for a certain term. The Bar Association, obviously, took certain negative positions in relation to that because they say that two of the Justices were terminated by those amendments. Our position was, on the contrary, the offices and tenure of those judges were secured and strengthened even in respect to the matter of security of tenure and Indepdence and impartiality of the court. So, we made our arguments before the court, they made their arguments and the court has reserved this decision.”

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1 Response for “G.O.B. Vs the Bar – Judgment Reserved”

  1. CEO says:

    As soon as the Executive no longer controls the judiciary the better off our country will be.

    Judges on the supreme court bench should be left their for life if they choose to stay or at least until they are seventy five as was proposed. It makes sense. The Executive and the Legislative branches should never have any say in how long judges stay on the bench!

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