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Jan 18, 2010

B.T.L. foots the bill for special Court of Appeal sitting

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay

The Supreme Court opened today and simultaneously taking place, is an unprecedented special sitting of the Court of Appeal to hear the appeal by Belize Telemedia Limited against the CJ’s injunction preventing it from interrupting Smart’s services. It is an unusual occurrence taking place more infrequently than a solar eclipse. For the first time in twenty-five years, the Court of Appeal is meeting outside its regular schedule; the first sitting should have been in March, with two others in October and December.  What makes the sitting both unusual and newsworthy is that it is the newly nationalized BTL that is reputedly footing the bill for the court to hear its appeal. Attorney Lois Young made the request for the case to be expedited but Young is not in the country. So filling in for her is Rodwell Williams, a partner in a law firm Barrow and Williams. Lawyers contacted by News Five point out that there was no need for the Court of Appeal judges to come at the insistence of Young since the matter was being given a hearing early in February and BTL could not be prejudiced in any way. They also point out that there is no provision in the Court of Appeal Rules for a special sitting outside of the three scheduled sittings.

The case goes back to a December tenth ruling by Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh in favor of SMART.  SMART’s attorney, Eamon Courtney, successfully sought an injunction to prevent any further of abuse of power that could put ninety thousand of SMART’s customers at risk.  The C.J. instructed Telemedia to reinstall SMART’s equipment. That ruling also included allowing SMART to access E1 lines, essentially reverting everything to the status quo on August twenty third, before Telemedia was nationalized and tension arose between the two companies.  Courtenay argued that there wasn’t enough time to prepare arguments and that the court should have been provided with good reason why the hearing had to be moved up. Telemedia’s attorney responded by saying that the change of the hearing date was an administrative matter, not one that the judiciary could have decided upon. Justice Elliot Motley quashed Courtney’s reservations and continued to hear arguments from Rodwell Williams and Deanne Barrow. The hearing was still underway when last we checked at the courts.

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