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Aug 19, 1998

New Chief Justice to be appointed before election

While the assault on Ralph Fonseca was Dean Barrow’s number one task at this morning’s press conference, his other bit of news was of far greater importance. On the eve of elections it seems that Belize will be getting a new Chief Justice. Patrick Jones reports on the elevation of Manuel Sosa and other moves.

Attorney General Dean Barrow says the reshuffling of the benches in the high courts, was triggered by the retirement of the resident Appeals Court Justice Horace Young at the end of the month. That, coupled with the failing health of Chief Justice George Singh, opened the window of opportunity to pump fresh blood into the system.

Dean Barrow, Attorney General

“So the idea then would be then that the current Chief Justice would be elevated to become a resident Justice of the Court of Appeal. That would then mean that his position as Chief Justice would be opened up and the proposal would be to appoint Mr. Justice Manuel Sosa to become the next Chief Justice of Belize.”

Barrow says that because of his age and standing in legal circles, the new C.J. designate would be the best candidate to oversee the country’s judicial system over the long run.

Dean Barrow

“Mr. Sosa is sufficiently young for us to make that appointment now with tenure and I’m saying that this Belize is going to be to the satisfaction of all concerned that the Chief Justice who I believe is recognized by everyone as being of the foremost judicial mind who has conducted himself over the last few months while he has been a Puisne Judge with a judicial temperament that has earned him accolades. I believe it will be to the satisfaction of everyone that such a person, a Belizean national, young enough, distinguished enough is being elevated now and can serve as a tenure Chief Justice.”

At the same time, Senior Puisne Judge, George Meerabux will continue to sit on the Supreme Court, while at the same time he will be available for part-time assignments in the Court of Appeals.

Dean Barrow

“As a kind of adjunct justice of appeal who would hear applications to the single judge of the Court of Appeal in the event that Mr. Justice Singh, who would be the full time justice on the Court of Appeal, were not to be able. As things now stand for example an application was to be heard, Mr. Justice Young, who is the resident Justice of Appeal, was out of the country. In those circumstances the Court of Appeal Act and the law would provide that any Supreme Court judge would act as a single judge of the Court of Appeal to hear these interlocutory applications.”

That arrangement Barrow says, will be on a commission basis and should not be for more than three years. The necessary paper work to effect the changes which the Attorney General announced at his mid-morning press conference, should be completed by election day, and the appointments are to become effective September first. Patrick Jones for News Five.

In response to a question from a journalist, Barrow expressed his personal support for Belize joining the jurisdiction of the new Caribbean Court of Appeal, which would replace the Privy Council as the court of final jurisdiction. He pointed out, however, that such a move would require an amendment to the Constitution.

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