The complaint of delayed judgments is not the only issue facing the Chief Justice. In the latter part of October, an application was filed in the courts opposing the removal of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Lyn Vidal from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. The removal took place in January 2018 leaving the DPP who is the President of the Belize Bar Association out of the loop as it relates to the business of the judiciary. It doesn’t bode well for transparency as explained to us by Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck. According to Marshalleck, despite the application, no response has been had to date.
Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney at Law: “Let’s be clear the Chief Justice is named in the suit because he is the chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. That commission is comprised of the Chief Justice, the Solicitor General, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and the President of the Bar. We seek to challenge certain decisions taken on that commission but because the commission itself does not enjoy separate legal personality then you have to name the members who took the decisions. So the Chief Justice is being sued as Chairman of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. Just to make the capacity clearer no there hasn’t been any further developments. Where we are is that the claim form has been filed, it needs a date inserted and it needs to be assigned to a judge for hearing and then it will be returned to us and then it will be served on all the parties for attendance on that first hearing. So we’re at a position where it was filed the third week in October it still hasn’t come back to us as yet so I imagine it’s awaiting the appointment of a date for hearing and the selection of a judge before whom it is to be heard.”
Marshalleck went on to speak on the transparency or lack thereof of the Judicial Commission with the exclusion of the President of the Bar. We say transparency because the commission is tasked with assessing employment and payments for those in the judiciary among other duties.
Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney at Law: “The Judicial and Legal Services Commissions is governed by the provisions of the constitution. The constitution itself provides for who is to sit on the commission, it provides that the Chief Justice shall be the Chairman, that the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, the Solicitor General and the DPP are to sit as members. It also has a section that goes on to disqualify certain people from sitting but the disqualifications are subject to, subordinate to the qualifying conditions and the language in the qualifying provision in indeed mandatory that the president of the Bar must sit. Let me raise the question rhetorically for you, the Chief Justice is a public officer so too is the Solicitor General, how come this disqualifying provision doesn’t apply to them? Why is it that only the DPP gets shown the door ?”
Love News asked Marshalleck what would be the next step as it relates to decisions made without the input of the Belize Bar Association over the last 22 months since Vidal was removed.
Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney at Law: “A common reaction to that question is to point to the quorum requirements for the meetings say well ‘the meeting is still at quorum so decisions of the meeting are still valid.’ The difficulty I have with that is that it’s not a case that the president of the Bar was invited to the meeting and chose not to show up so that a quorum can go on, she wasn’t invited at all when she stood ready and willing to participate in these decisions. Now you might also say ‘what difference would that have made because there’s still three other members and there’s only one vote.’ Well it’s not that the constitution requires that she win her vote, that her input has value in the decisions making process and when you take away that input what you have is a different dynamic within the commission and different types of decisions coming out and I think that may well be fatal when you look at the mandatory provisions of the constitution and the fact that she’s a significant part of a very small commission.”
Love News is following this story and will update you accordingly.