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Jan 17, 2023

The 2023 Legal Year Opens for the Senior Courts of Belize

The Senior Courts of Belize kicked off a new judicial calendar in a pre-recorded ceremony that was aired this morning. It was the first ceremony presided over by Chief Justice Louise Esther Blenman that succeeded an ecumenical service here in Belize City. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The 2023 legal year commenced today with the customary formalities that accompany such an occasion.  Albeit launched virtually, certain aspects of the ceremony have been preserved, including the inspection of the guard of honor which was conducted by Chief Justice Louise Esther Blenman.  The presiding officer of the Senior Courts of Belize, in her inaugural address, spoke about the chronic backlog of cases in the judiciary.


Louise Esther Blenman

Louise Esther Blenman, Chief Justice, Senior Courts of Belize

“In Belize, as in several other Caribbean countries, there are serious backlogs in both the civil and the criminal divisions of our court.  Even though some improvements have been made on the civil side, the backlog remains a matter of grave concern.  At the beginning of 2022, there was a severe shortage of judges and this compounded the problem.  Indeed, there were four vacancies.  Thankfully, through the unswerving and tireless efforts of the honorable Attorney General Magali Marin-Young, Senior Counsel, the office of the Commonwealth Secretariat facilitated the Judicial and Legal Services employment of four judges.”


In the latter part of 2022, the judiciary suffered a major setback in the wake of Hurricane Lisa.  In acknowledging these obstacles, Attorney General Magali Marin-Young also said that there’s a lot for the judiciary to catch up on this year.


Magali Marin-Young

Magali Marin-Young, Attorney General

“Despite the austerity measures that the government had to implement in 2021, and despite the challenges of 2022 with hurricane damage to our court infrastructure, we managed to implement major legal reforms which we anticipate will assist with the more efficient dispensation of justice.  We do, however, have much work to do to improve our court infrastructure, some of which were programmed to be done in 2022 but had to be delayed for various reasons.”


Bringing about the Senior Courts was the most important achievement with respect to the branch of central government that is concerned with dispensing justice.


Louise Esther Blenman

“On the seventh of November, 2022, there was a significant and comprehensive legislative reform by the promulgation of the Senior Courts Act.  This far-reaching legislative reform was specifically aimed at improving the administration of justice.  Indeed, it is of significance that the court structure was modernized and enhanced by the creation and establishment of the Senior Courts which consist of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.”


From the perspective of the legal fraternity, there is a call by the president of the Bar Association of Belize, for monies to be set aside for the judiciary to truly be able to function autonomously.


Andrew Marshalleck

Andrew Marshalleck, President, Bar Association

“We must recognize and advocate for the establishment of a judicial fund, separate and apart from the consolidated revenue fund, with its own secure sources of revenues and confer necessary power, authority and responsibility on the judiciary to seek appropriations directly from the National Assembly and to manage its own budget.  Judicial independence and efficiency requires nothing less.  We must collectively pledge to pursue the development of such a fund.”


Looking ahead to this year, it was announced during today’s address that the family court, as well as the legal aid and Vital Statistics Unit will be relocating to the Charles Bartlett Hyde or Complex Building by the end of this year.


Magali Marin-Young

“We had hoped to relocate the family court to the Charles Barlett [Hyde] Building in 2022, but we had setbacks with the retrofitting of that building in that the Belize Tax Service did not fully vacate its offices until mid-year 2022 and the Elections and Boundaries Department did not vacate that building until the latter part of 2022.  Nonetheless, the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and housing has assured me that repairs are to commence in January 2023 and the family court, legal aid and vital statistics are to be relocated before the end of 2023.”


Taken together, the establishment of the Senior Courts should see a more effective means of dispensing justice.


Louise Esther Blenman

“The expectation is that all of this would result in improvement in the delivery of timely, efficient and effective justice in Belize.  The Government of Belize must be commended for its visionary legislative changes.  The cumulative effect of which will contribute to the enhancement of the administration of justice to better serve the people of Belize.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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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