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Bar Association gives Chief Justice ultimatum

The Belize Bar Association has given the Chief Justice an ultimatum. CJ Kenneth Benjamin must deliver 28 judgments by December 17, 2017 or resign. If he fails to do both, the Bar is prepared to file a complaint with the Judicial and Legal Services Commission seeking his removal. Members of the Bar Association met on Friday in Belize City where the three resolutions were passed. According to President of the Bar, Attorney Priscilla Banner, the Bar Association considers that the Chief Justice’s quote, “failure to discharge his constitutional duty to afford litigants a fair hearing within a reasonable time, constitutes misbehavior in office”. End of quote. The Chief Justice has provided a schedule as to when he will deliver his judgments. So is the Bar Association preempting the CJ? Banner explained why the decision was taken on Friday.

The Bar Association has been meeting with the honorable Chief Justice since 2014, both in formal and informal meetings attempting to deal with judgments that were delayed. Recall that the judgments are delayed. The ones that are on the list are for the period up to 2015 and those judgments as up to today’s date are outstanding for between two to five years. So it’s not that the Bar Association has waited for those judgments to be outstanding between two to five years. At the point we met in 2014 there were judgments outstanding for two years which even the Caribbean Court of Justice has said it’s excessive, it’s a delay. Sorry the Caribbean Court of Justice has said three years is excessive. The Privy Council had said that three to six months is reasonable but once you go beyond that you have to think about the litigants who are entitled to have their matters dealt with in a reasonable amount of time so I’m going back to your direct question that provides a schedule. But we also received a schedule in June 2016 and that schedule concerned the very twenty eight judgments that are now outstanding and that schedule said that those judgments would be delivered two per week and the reason that the bar very heavily had to decide this matter and not with any fanfare, it was a very heavy thing to do but the reason the bar felt that it was necessary is because that schedule, even not with the specific dates it has been provided before.

The 28 judgments have been outstanding for the period between two to five years.