C.C.J. Has Recommendations for Government on Tenure of Judges
From the senate to the courts…Belize’s highest court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, has ordered changes to the appointment of judges to the Court of Appeal. Today, the CCJ dismissed a claim by the Bar Association of Belize against the Attorney General concerning an amendment to the Constitution on the appointment and tenure of judges, better known as the Sixth Amendment. But the judges made strong recommendations for changes to the appointment and tenure of Justices of the Court of Appeal, two of whom were appointed to one-year terms under the amendment. Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck dissects the judgment, delivered via teleconference in brief by C.C.J. Judge Rolston Nelson.
Judge Rolston Nelson, Caribbean Court of Justice
“The appeal is dismissed. The Belize Constitution Sixth Amendment Act 2008, number thirteen stands and each party will bear its own cost of this appeal. Copies of the judgment should be made available to members of the media; copies should be made available at the Registry for consultation by members of the public and copies of the judgement and judgment summary will be available on the court’s website before the end of the day.”
Andrew Marshalleck, Represented Bar Association of Belize
“The C.C.J. has found that the change in the law in and of itself does not contravene the Constitution, so the appeal was dismissed on that basis. But they accepted and perceived that although the law itself did not contravene the Constitution, the way appointments were being made ran the serious risk of contravening the Constitution. And so they made some recommendations to some rather sweeping reform to the way those appointments to the Court of Appeal are to be made in the future. These are of course recommendations to the government and so the Bar Association calls on our parliamentarians—government and Opposition—because these changes require constitutional changes to give effect to the recommendations of the CCJ. The recommendations are three-fold. The first and most important is that appoints should be made at the instance not of the Executive. Right now appointments are made by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The recommendation is for appointments to hereafter be made by an independent commission, such as the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, which now makes appointments for the Supreme Court. So the suggestion is to establish a commission along those lines to effect appointments to the Court of Appeal. The second recommendation is these fixed term contracts for judges should be done away with; that judges should be appointed until retirement age. And in respect to those non-resident judges—who sometimes we refer to them as itinerant; they come and they go—they should also be appointed until retirement age. But then they can be invited to sit as and when needed. So they hold their appointment, but they only come and go as and when the president needs them. And the third recommendation is that these one-year appointments cease until these other recommendations are put in place.”