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Jan 22, 2002

Judge recuses himself…then changes mind

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But the fireworks were just getting started. Blackman made it clear that the remarks made by the Attorney General were more than just personally offensive. The justice proceeded to state that he was considering recusing himself from the case and wanted to hear from counsel. Not wasting a minute, Solicitor General Elson Kaseke, appearing for the Attorney General, immediately supported the idea, saying he planned to ask the judge to do that anyway given specific comments he had made on Friday. But before he could continue, Blackman stopped him, saying that he had already decided that if either counsel wanted him recused he would do so. Wilfred Elrington, sensing trouble, quickly voiced opposition, declaring that if the judge left the case so would he, and this would be an injustice to his client because no other lawyers would take the case, especially in light of the Attorney General’s speech. By now, the tension was so high the judge decided to call a timeout and adjourned for approximately ten minutes.

By the time he took the bench again, the mood had definitely shifted. Kaseke, with several case precedents in hand, attempted to show why Blackman should not hear the rest of the trial. Kaseke was trying to show that Blackman had pre-judged the case in favour of Meerabux on at least one of his major points, and that was reason enough to force him to walk away from the case. But Blackman wasn’t having any of it and despite his earlier declaration and stringent objections from Kaseke and his team, decided to continue with the case. An obviously upset Kaseke declined to be interviewed by the media, but Meerabux’s attorneys say they see no reason why Blackman should leave the scene.

Wilfred Elrington

“We were very surprised that he was thinking about recusing himself because we saw no reason why he should. We did not think that the statements by the Attorney General were directed at him personally. We have found him to be a very good judge and so we were very surprised when he suggested that he wanted to recuse himself and we had to do some very quick thinking to try to discourage from that point of view.”

As to why he himself would have excused himself from the case, Elrington tells News 5 that this issue has dragged on long enough.

Wilfred Elrington

“I have been going to bed with this case for too long now, I am tired of it, I want it to end. There is no way that I was prepared to start all over again. And that is what would have happened had the judge recused himself. We would have had to begin de novo and I am not prepared for that. I am not as young as I used to be, I can’t spend all day, all my time in these courts, dealing with matters of this nature.”

Whatever one may think about the Attorney General’s motives, one thing is clear; when it comes to the removal of a sitting justice, nobody in Belize can claim much experience…and decisions made now may be cited as precedents in the future.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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