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Oct 16, 2017

Franz Parke Appointed Despite Storm Clouds of Controversy

Franz Parke

As the October session of the Court of Appeal opened today in Belize City, in Belmopan, attorney Franz Parke was sworn in as the new justice to the court. The ceremony was without fanfare and just as well because there has been strong opposition to the appointment on the grounds that Parke is not qualified to sit on the Appeals Court. The Bar Association, the Belize National Teachers’ Union and other social partners as well as the Opposition have all given it a thumbs down, but the appointment proceeded nonetheless. While admitting that he was a classmate, the Prime Minister has maintained otherwise. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Franz Parke, Court of Appeal Judge

“I, Franz Parke, do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Belize and will uphold the constitution and the law and that I will conscientiously, impartially and to the best of my ability, discharge my duties as a justice of appeal and do right to all manner of people without fear or favor, affection or ill will.  So help me God.”

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The investiture of Jamaican/American attorney Franz Parke, as a justice on the Court of Appeal bench, took place this morning at the Belize House in Belmopan.  The brief swearing-in ceremony was devoid of the usual fanfare; no members of family, no friends or government officials.  His appointment as a judge in the appellate jurisdiction flies in the face of strong objections from the Bar Association of Belize, the Leader of the Opposition and the Belize National Teachers Union.  It is also the subject of a legal challenge mounted by P.U.P. Party Leader John Briceño on October eleventh.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition [File: October 12th, 2017]

“We have been very clear for some time that we believe that Mr. Parke does not meet the qualifications to be a justice of the Court of Appeal.  His résumé is very uninspiring.  We have seen that he has almost no experience in the Caribbean.  He has left the Caribbean since 1980 to live in the United States, so he has no prior experience for us to be able to name him as that.  We don’t believe that he meets the criteria that the Caribbean Court of Justice has set up.  The Bar Association has pointed out that they cannot support his appointment.”

 

Neither does Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay.  The former President of the Bar Association has also threatened legal action should Parke preside over any cases involving the venerable attorney.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney-at-law [File: Sept. 19th, 2017]

“If Mr. Parke appears in the Court of Appeal on anything that I am involved for any client, I am going to object and I am going to commence proceedings challenging him sitting on that court.  Why?  Marleni, stop and think about what we are talking about.  If you had a case in Belize today and you lost it in the Supreme Court and you wanted to appeal, would you pick up the phone and call Mr. Parke in Florida and say, listen, I have a case in Belize.  I know you don’t know any law in Belize.  I know you have not practiced for over twenty years in the Caribbean.  I know you are an expert on the law of Florida, but I have a Belize law case, would you come and represent me in Belize? I am sure you wouldn’t.”

 

Prime Minister Barrow, whose ultimate decision it was to proceed with the appointment, is of an entirely different opinion.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: Sept. 28th, 2017]

“I genuinely do not see the fact that the bulk of Mr. Parke’s practicing experience has been in the United States, more time practicing in the United States than in the Caribbean, I do not see that as a disqualification.  And when I look at the constitution, what is required is that this person should have been entitled to practice in our jurisdiction for a certain number of years and he was so entitled from 1975.  I’m sorry to say that it’s as long ago as that that I graduated and therefore he graduated.  So I am convinced.  He had come already and had done one session as a temporary judge, I had no complaints from the president of the court or from any other member of the court, and I am convinced that Franz, as bright as he is and with all the experience that he has, will make a fine Justice of Appeal.”

 

B.N.T.U., for its part, has also expressed its discontent with the appointment of Parke, who is seen as unsuitable for the post of Court of Appeal judge.

 

Elena Smith

Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“That may be somewhat saying to us, you know, you have your say, we’ll have our way, kind of a response.  But if that is so then it’s unfortunate because the matter of Mr. Parke being sworn in and Mr. Parke being a judge now in this country is not a matter that is going to affect B.N.T.U. or B.N.T.U. members only, it’s a matter that will affect this entire nation.  And we are aware of the importance of our judicial system and so I don’t believe, and we don’t believe at B.N.T.U. is that we should take these appointments lightly.  We must ensure that persons who are going to be serving in these capacities are of the highest caliber.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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