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Jul 25, 2017

A.G. says C.J. will clear up outstanding court judgments

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has come under fire recently from the Bar Association of Belize for failing to deliver in a timely manner, judgments on at least twenty-nine pending cases.  It’s a dilemma that the presiding justice of the Supreme Court has found himself in before, one that does not sit well with the local collective of lawyers.  On Friday, the bar held its annual general meeting during which the apparent delinquency in handing down decisions was discussed.  While a resolution on the matter was essentially postponed in favor of a ninety-day period during which CJ Benjamin will attempt to dispense with a majority of those unresolved cases, the issue is still of utmost concern.  In the past, there have been matters, including the constitutional challenge to Section Fifty-three of Belize’s Criminal Code, that have languished in the high court.  Arguments in that case concluded in 2013, but it wasn’t until August tenth, 2016, a little over three years later, that a judgment was finally rendered.  For all intents and purposes, the bar is justified in its concern since its membership, most of whom are in private practice, represents many of these clients.  Earlier today, News Five spoke with Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, who shared his position on the CJ’s predicament.

 

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

Michael Peyrefitte

“The first response was one of surprise.  It’s not a new issue, it’s been an issue and it’s a legitimate issue if you have the lawyers being pressed by their clients to have the courts render decisions for them.  I know that previously the Chief Justice had committed to clearing that up, but I guess up until this point there are still around thirty cases that he has to write decisions for.  I am also encouraged by what I heard this morning because I had heard a couple days ago that there was a demand for the resignation of the Chief Justice and what I am hearing today is that they are not requiring him to do that type of action but rather they are expecting and hoping for him to write those judgments and clear them up in about ninety days time, like about three months or something to that [effect].  It is reassuring to know that they would call off that pressure, but at the same time I would want to know for sure, and I’ve spoken to the Chief Justice since I came back this morning, because then I want to be assured that those judgments would not be completed just for the sake of them being completed.  The judgments have to be thorough and they have to be sound, so it’s not just a matter of doing them but doing them properly.  And if you take that mathematically, it’s one every three days which I think is tough to do and tough to maintain over a ninety-day period, even though the court session is about to come to a close for the holidays.  The Chief Justice is fully aware that he has to make good on those judgments.  He’s fully aware and he sees the concerns as legitimate, the ones who have legitimate concerns and that he has committed to ensuring that at the very least a majority of those judgments are completed in the ninety-day period.”

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