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Dec 4, 2017

Franz Parke Resigns as Supreme Court Case Looms

Franz Parke

There is major news of a judicial nature tonight. Just over two months after being sworn in, and one week before trial on a fixed date claim form concerning his appointment, Justice of the Court of Appeal Franz Parke has resigned. Justice Parke tendered his letter of immediate resignation to Governor General Sir Colville Young this morning, indicating that he would step down “to spare the court any exposure that a trial on the issue of his tenure would create.” Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, who first challenged the appointment, has chosen to withdraw his claim before the courts.  News Five’s Aaron Humes takes a look back at the events leading up to Parke’s departure and what’s next.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The resignation of Justice of the Court of Appeal Franz Parke, announced today, is unique in the annals of Belizean history. From the moment his name was first announced to join the appellate court, his credentials were questioned, as he has not practiced in the Caribbean since 1980, despite graduating from law school with Prime Minister Dean Barrow in 1975. But the former classmate declared it was enough for him.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: September 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.”

 

The Opposition, with support from the Bar Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Unions and the N.G.O. community, argued otherwise and instituted a legal challenge that was scheduled for trial next Monday, December eleventh. That Parke has now decided to throw in the towel, Briceño said, was the right thing, but it should not have reached this point.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“We should never have reached to a point where we are challenging the Prime Minister’s appointments to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. But saying that, I want to welcome the news that Justice Franz Parke has tendered his resignation as a Justice of the Court of Appeal. I think he did the right thing.   In a democracy, it is very important for us to always feel that the Judiciary is independent, and that there is no undue influence on the part of anybody, be it the Government of the Opposition. And in a time when we are finding ourselves in a really sad situation in our country, when the Government, through the Prime Minister of Belize, has decided that he is going to completely disregard a ruling from the highest court in the land, it raises concerns.”

 

The P.U.P., in a press release stated that it was, “grateful that Mr. Parke, in the end, demonstrated the moral fortitude, respect and regard for the Court and the country which, unfortunately, Mr. Barrow did not.”  And because he did, Briceño has instructed attorneys to withdraw his legal challenge since the objective has been achieved without the need for trial. When the case was first called up, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay discussed what might happen if the ruling went against Parke.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for John Briceño [File: October 30th, 2017]

“If the court were to hold that the decision of the Prime Minister to advise the Governor General to appoint Mister Parke is unconstitutional, then it follows that his appointment is unconstitutional, and any matter on which he has sat would be affected by that unconstitutionality. As you know, Mr. Parke was well aware that this matter was pending and the Government was well aware that this matter was pending, and they proceeded, nonetheless, to make the appointment. So if there is a consequence, they knowingly proceeded with a challenge pending in the wings.”

 

It appears that rather than test that consequence, the Jamaican-American fell on his sword. So what happens next? Another appointment is needed before the Court of Appeal resumes in March, and the Opposition Leader, who must be consulted, has some ideas.

 

John Briceño

“What the Prime Minister needs to do is to quickly start to look for making another appointment, but someone that can meet the qualifications that is expected of a Justice at the level of the Court of Appeal.  This matter of writing you a letter and saying by writing you a letter I have consulted and I can do as I wish is no longer going to work. Because if we feel that again he’s trying to ram down somebody that’s friendly to him and could potentially be answerable to him, we will object, and we will then go again to our social partners as we did with this case and get the support and if necessary go and challenge it in court.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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