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Nov 16, 1999

Attorney General holds legal summit

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Within days of taking office, the Attorney General Godfrey Smith launched his three-year plan for reforming Belize’s judiciary. Today he took the first steps towards bringing the nation’s lawyers, judges and magistrates closer to his vision. At a legal summit entitled, “The Bench and Bar in the New Millennium” members of the legal profession explored a diverse range of topics from the implications of globalization on Belizean law to using the Internet and computer software for research and tracking cases. Besides local panelists, legal experts from the Caribbean and specialists from United States Library of Congress Law Library made presentations today at the Radisson Fort George Hotel. The Attorney General says although the focus may have been on the big issues, the day to day operations, and frustrations, in Belize’s courts will get the attention they deserve.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney General

“I hope I didn’t send the wrong signal by harping too much on internationalization while neglecting local circumstances. Obviously that is not the intention; that is not what’s going to happen. In the document we attempt to settle the Bar Association and myself, practitioners, an achievable way forward to speed up matters in our courts — in the Magistrate’s Court and the Supreme Court. In conjunction with that obviously we need to be aware of what is happening in the legal world around us to ensure there is smooth transition when those international trends start affecting domestic law.”

He also said Belize will honor its commitment to the World Trade Organization to implement a copyright law by the year 2000.

Godfrey Smith

“On my desk as we speak are drafts of the new copyright legislation, trademark legislation and patent legislation. As you know there was a copyright legislation, I think, drafted from as early as 1992. We took that and we took the guidelines required by WTO and WIPO, World Intellectual Property Organization, as well as the CARICOM model and came up with what is hopefully a good working draft for Belize. Our intention is that it would be tabled before the end of the year with other pieces of legislation required for the introduction of a vibrant intellectual property regime in Belize.

In terms of whether as lawyers and judges and stakeholders in the legal system we will all be perfectly familiar with and ready to go out starting on January one, 2000, I doubt it. But obviously the thing to do is to have the legislation in place and then to start operating in practice obviously there will be an urgent need on the part of judges and lawyers to familiarize themselves with it and be able to competently and professionally deal with the new area of law.”

Professor Albert Fiadjoe of the University of the West Indies is Wednesday night’s guest lecturer. He will discuss alternative dispute resolution.

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