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Jan 10, 2017

C.C.J. Hears Final Appeal in Bar Vs G.O.B. over Judges’ Tenure

The Caribbean Court of Justice today heard arguments in the Bar Association’s final stand against the Government. It regards 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. 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, particularly in the case of three former judges attached to the Court and its current president, Justice Manuel Sosa. The Supreme Court ruled in the Bar’s favour in April of 2013; but the Court of Appeal reversed the decision in October of 2015. With video provided by the CCJ’s media unit, we bring you the arguments of Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay for the Bar Association and Denys Barrow for the Attorney General.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for the Bar Association of Belize

“What we are here to say, and Your Honor, you have crystallized the point: because of the absence of that machinery, it still means that the Court of Appeal must be independent and impartial; and when you look to the Constitution – as guardians of the Constitution, as persons who are here to defend and promote the rule of law – it is for this Court to construe (Section) 101 (1) in such a way to make it consistent with 6 (7).”

 

Rolston Nelson, Judge, Caribbean Court of Justice

“But you’re not attacking 101? You are not attacking anything in 101?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“The provisos.”

 

Rolston Nelson

“Oh, the provisos? I mean the amendments.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Yes.”

 

Rolston Nelson

“But 101 (1) allows you to do everything that you want…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And that’s where with respect, Your Honor – that’s where with respect, we say no. we say that you cannot do anything you want in order to remain consistent with 6 (7).”

 

Adrian Saunders, Judge, Caribbean Court of Justice

“So you are asking us to do two things; strike down the amendments, and interpret 101 to suggest that it doesn’t mean literally what it says: that there is a minimum period that judges must be given? You want us to go that far?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I want you to go that far, subject to of course there are temporary judges, and in the Misick case there’s an ad hoc appointment where you are appointed to do a case – so we take those out. Substantive appointments of judges must be made for a duration that is sufficiently long, that objectively considered, shows then, gives an appearance to a reasonable bystander that that judge – that court – is independent and impartial.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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