March 30, 2010

Professor Anderson to replace Justice Duke Pollard

Jamaican appointed Judge in CCJ

Source: Kaieteur News
MARCH 30, 2010

…as Justice Duke Pollard retires

By Oscar Ramjeet

The Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) has appointed a Jamaican as the newest judge in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

He is Professor Charles Anderson, an academic who replaces Guyanese Justice Duke Pollard, who goes into retirement on June 10 next, when the new judge will assume duties.

Justice Anderson is the first Jamaican to be appointed to the regional court. The omission of a judge from Jamaica, the most populated in the Anglophone Caribbean, has been criticized, especially since that country contributes 27 per cent of the costs to run and administer the Court.

Former Attorney General of Jamaica, Dr. Osward Harding, who is now the President of the Senate, had indicated to me two years ago that several highly qualified Jamaicans, including a few outstanding Senior Counsel were overlooked five years ago.

Now that that a Jamaican has been appointed as a Judge, one wonders if this will accelerate the powers to be in Kingston to join the Appellate Division of the Court.

Justice Pollard’s appointment in the regional court was criticised in some quarters since he was never in active law practice, never served as an advocate either as Counsel or prosecutor and never sat as a judge. He has been an academic throughout his legal career and was involved in preparatory work for the establishment of the CCJ.

The tenure of CCJ judges is 72 years, but Pollard was given a three-year extension two and a half years ago.

Since Justice Anderson’s appointment was criticised, legal practitioners want to know why the RJLSC chose a law professor rather than an experienced judge.

Justice Anderson holds a law degree from the University of the West Indies and a Doctorate in Philosophy (Phd) in international law from the University of Cambridge. For most of his career, he has been a member of the Law Faculty of UWI.

He was appointed lecturer in 1994, senior lecturer in 1999 and was made professor in 2006. He spent a year as a Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield between ‘1994 and 1995, and a year as senior lecturer on fellowship at the University of Western Australia in 1996. He is currently the executive director of the Caribbean Law Institute Centre (CLIC).

Professor Anderson and Professor Simeon Mc Intosh were involved during the past two years travelling around the Caribbean participating in seminars promoting the CCJ, and urging governments to join the Appellate Division of the Regional Court.

The lone female judge in the Court, Desiree Bernard, who was Chief Justice and former Chancellor of Guyana will reach the age of retirement in March next year, and already there are discussions in the legal circle whether she will be given an extension, and if not, whether another female will be appointed to replace the distinguished Guyanese.

Justice Bernard had many firsts in her homeland - the first female judge, first female Court of Appeal Judge, first female Chief Justice, first female Chancellor of Guyana and first female Head of the Judiciary in the Caribbean.

She is also the first Solicitor to be appointed a Judge, the reason being that the legal profession in Guyana was fused in 1979 and Justice Bernard, a practising Solicitor, automatically became an Attorney at Law since both Solicitors and Barristers were known as Attorneys as of November 1979.

Justice Bernard was appointed a High Court Judge in 1980. I recall writing a piece in the local newspapers under the headline “High time for a female Judge in Guyana” and I suggested her appointment although she was from the practising Bar, and the following week she was named.
Belize will soon be on board as the third jurisdiction to join, and I look forward for Dominica, and Jamaica to do so soon rather than later. I am also hopeful that Trinidad and Tobago will consider joining now that there is a new opposition leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar, a West Indian trained attorney who served as Attorney General under the Basdeo Panday administration.

March 22, 2010

Commentary: Delay in joining CCJ is amazing
Published on Monday, March 22, 2010 By Oscar Ramjeet
Source: Caribbean Net New

As Belize is about to join the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court, one of the seven judges and the Court Registrar visited the country and held discussions with local judges and explained the Rules and Procedure of the regional court with practising lawyers.

Their visit coincided with a farewell sitting for Appellate Court Judge, Jamaican-born Boyd Carey.

Justice Adrian Saunders, who was involved in drafting the Rules of the CCJ and Registrar, Dawn Pierre, explained to more than three dozen lawyers at a workshop on Saturday, the rules and procedures to be followed in filing appeals to the regional court.

Belize is the third CARICOM country to get rid of the Privy Council as the final Court, and the first to do so since its establishment, when only two countries, Guyana and Barbados, went on board. It baffles me why the other member states are hesitant and/or reluctant to do so, especially countries like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, which were in the forefront in the setting up of the Court. However, I have been reliably informed that Dominica is in the process of making preparations to join, but that country is now experiencing parliamentary setback since the opposition party is boycotting parliament, claiming irregularities at the last general elections.

Jamaica as well as St Lucia are also considering joining in the near future. The Patrick Manning administration in Trinidad and Tobago is all in favour of the regional court, but in order for that country to join it must get the support of the Opposition, since it requires two thirds of the vote, and the then opposition leader, Basdeo Panday, was not in favour of the move. However, now that there is a new leader of the opposition UNC, in Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is a West Indian- trained attorney, it is likely there will be a change in that regard.

The CCJ has been established since February 14, 2001, by an agreement signed by a dozen regional governments on February 15, 2003, but the inauguration took place nearly five years ago on April 15, 2005.

The Court has not heard many cases in its Appellate jurisdiction since only two of the 12 countries have accepted the CCJ as the final appellate court, and this is very unfortunate since the Port of Spain based Court has the best court facilities on the planet. I was privileged to visiting the Court and was impressed with what I have seen - besides the well equipped libraries, spacious conference room, robing room etc. I was elated with the court room appearance, with the most modern telephonic and fascinating equipment. The facilities include: A document Reader/Visual Presenter: Ability to use laptop computers, DVF/VCR: Audio/Video Digital Recording (microphones situated throughout the courtroom) ; wireless internet access, and audio/video transcripts.

International jurists who have visited the CCJ and read its judgments generally have a high opinion of the court. One of them, Francis Jacobs, a Privy Councillor and former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, said that the CCJ is of a high calibre and would be able to take account of local values and develop a modern Caribbean jurisprudence in an international context. He also took a swipe at some Caribbean leaders when he said, "It is regrettable that political difficulties have obstructed acceptance of its Appellate jurisdiction and that the outdated jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council survives for many of those states.

One of the most respected Caribbean jurists, Dominican born Telford Georges, said before his death that he regarded it as a "compromise of sovereignty" for us to remain wedded "to a court which is part of the former colonial hierarchy, a court in the appointment of whose members we have absolutely no say."

I sincerely hope that steps will soon be taken by those countries that have not yet joined will do so as soon as possible.

March 21, 2010

The Caribbean Court of Justice and the Legal Profession:

Promoting a Caribbean Jurisprudence

Author: Justice Adrian Saunders

Published in: Commonwealth Law Bulletin Vol 33 Is. 4 December 2007


The author submits that the main purpose in the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is to promote the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence, based on the Commonwealth Caribbean's common historic, political, economic and cultural experiences and mutual history.

The article examines the role of final appellate courts, noting that judges of such courts must often choose between alternatives which are perfectly capable of being defended as rational, reasonable and consistent with 'the law'. Factors such as life experiences, socialisation, and backgrounds all play a role in determining the choices that are ultimately made. This is why, the author underscores that 'it is so important to have a diverse Bench, to have Judges from different backgrounds'.

For judges to come close to steering the right course they must have an understanding of the society that gives rise to the legal disputes. They must be grounded in that society. In this respect, the author argues, it is remarkable that the evolution of certain landmark judgments relating to human rights, particularly capital punishment, have been rendered by British judges, sitting and residing in England.

The article, which draws on a wealth of jurisprudence, proceeds to examine the original jurisdiction of the CCJ and the role of the Bar in defending the integrity of the Court and the justice system as well as in enhancing the quality of judgments.

Finally, it emphasises the need to promote Caribbean jurisprudence and access to local judgments. In this regard, it is lamented that many truly outstanding judgments of Caribbean judges do not receive the recognition they should because, if there is an appeal, they become almost automatically buried beneath the judgments of the higher court.

* This is an adaptation of an address given to the Eastern Caribbean Bar Association on 21 September 2007, in Grenada

March 20, 2010

Guyana prosecutors now allowed to appeal verdicts
Source: Associated Press
Published : 2010-03-20
Legislators have approved a bill that will for the first time let prosecutors appeal verdicts and allow police to immediately re-arrest suspects in this South American country.

Prosecutors can appeal all the way to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice _ the highest judicial body for much of the region _ but opposition leaders and attorneys said they will challenge the bill.

"Given the pace at which our courts work, this could mean a virtual lifetime in prison for some offenders who win their cases," opposition lawmakers Khemraj Ramjattan said Friday.

The state can now appeal jury acquittals for murder, treason, sexual offenses, piracy, carjacking and drug trafficking cases, among others. Ramjattan said attorneys are researching whether such actions are allowed in other former British colonies.

Legislators who approved the bill late Thursday said the state wants the right to appeal decisions in cases where there might have been trial irregularities, misdirection from a judge or suppression of evidence.

March 02, 2010

Belize Senate approves Caribbean Court of Justice
Source: Belize News
Published : 26/02/2010

The Senate on Tuesday passed the Belize Constitution 7th Amendment Bill in order to abolish the Privy Council as Belize’s final court of appeal.
The constitutional amendment would also enable Prime Minister Dean Barrow, the head of Cabinet, to appoint an Attorney General from outside both houses of Parliament – the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Opposition People’s United Party did not support the amendment; however, the vote was carried by the senators for the ruling United Democratic Party, the churches and the business community.
During the voting one of the ruling party’s senators Eddie Webster called for a division, so that individual votes could be recorded. It was revealed that 8 out of 12 senators had voted ‘yes,’ while 2 voted ‘no’ (PUP Senators Carolyn Trench-Sandiford and Corona Villafranco), and 2 abstained (Paul Perriott for the trade unions and the PUP’s Lisa Shoman, SC). The Belize Constitution 7th Amendment Bill is now ready to be signed into law by the Governor-General.
However, the Senate decided to hold the accompanying amendments to the CCJ Bill, which will remain in committee for further clarifications, according to the Leader of Government Business Douglas Singh. The Privy Council Appeals Act is also being repealed.
PUP Senator Lisa Shoman said that the removal of Section 4 of the 7th Amendment Bill, which would have enabled persons with dual nationality to join Parliament, was “a triumph of people power.”
“It means that people power is alive, is well and is effective,” she commented.
The more welcomed aspect of the bill is the removal of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom as Belize’s final appellate court. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will assume that jurisdiction.
The CCJ, a judicial tribunal for the Caribbean, was established on February 14, 2001, under the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice, which was appended to today’s amendments.
Of note is that Belize was among the original signatories to that agreement to establish the court, which was inaugurated in April 2005 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.
Senator Godwin Hulse, representing the business community, commented that the normal practice in other jurisdictions when governments make such changes to the Constitution is for a white paper to be circulated.
Shoman concurred that “...having a white paper and allowing wide debate, while things can still be changed, is important.” She noted that Belize had previously had only 5 amendments to the Constitution in the 27 years after the Law came into being, in the year of Independence.
Hulse noted that, as things now stand, the Prime Minister can draw up to four ministers from the Senate.
We note that the former administration of Said Musa had availed itself of that option, appointing, for example, Foreign Affairs ministers from the pool of their Senate appointees.
The Barrow administration has given ministerial posts to only elected politicians of the House of Representatives, and no Senators have, over the first two years of the administration, been endowed with ministerial posts.
The more contentious part of the Belize Constitution 7th Amendment Bill is the Attorney General appointment.
Senator Hulse raised the key issue of accountability: The changes in the Attorney General appointment, noted Hulse, would mean that he or she would fall outside the requirement for filings of assets and holdings under the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act.
Hulse noted that the Government doesn’t yet have a structure in place for members of Cabinet who are not members of either house of Parliament to be put on the spot by colleagues in “questions to ministers,” a routine segment of House meetings. The 6th amendment to the Belize Constitution, now on hold, should have come before, because it would enable the Senate to summon the Attorney General to answer questions of concern, he explained.
“It is clear that accountability and answerability of any member of Cabinet is something that is not only to be desired, but to be demanded and expected by the people of Belize,” added Senator Shoman.
“While it is in the vein of beginning to select ministers from outside [Parliament], it should have been part of a comprehensive package,” commented Senator Hulse.
Hulse also pointed to statements made at Friday’s House Meeting by the present Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, indicating that he welcomes being relieved of that part of his portfolio, which also includes foreign affairs and foreign trade.
The Senator noted that “...if he didn’t have experience in foreign affairs or foreign trade, the one place he has experience in is the legal profession which is what the Attorney General is, because he is a former judge of the Supreme Court, former Magistrate, Crown Counsel, Senior Counsel, and Senior Attorney. That would be the one job that he would want to retain or, for that matter, that the government would seek for him to retain which would be the Attorney General.”
Hulse asserted: “I still think that the amendment is devoid of an explanation from government as to why it is so important and urgent.”
According to Senator Singh, the Prime Minister has committed that he won’t have the 6th Amendment Bill to the Belize Constitution signed into law until all legal issues are addressed.
Apart from approving the amendments to the Belize Constitution, the Senate also approved a loan motion for $3.48 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for a Rural Belize River Valley water project. The loan, said Singh, is to be repaid in 18 equal quarterly payments starting 10 years after date of signing, and it accrues 2.5% interest per annum, to be paid quarterly on outstanding balance. There is no commitment fee, and the loan is to be fully disbursed by 2011, added Singh.
Senator Godwin Hulse, representing the private sector, said that the program had been budgeted by the government for 10 consecutive years, and it is gratifying to see that it will finally happen.
“This is the kind of loan we should have for development projects,” expressed Senator Hulse.
The Leader of Government Business laid on the table a paper on the Village Council Election Regulations 2009, regulations that would remove the administration of the village council elections from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Local Government and give it to the Elections and Boundaries Commission, as well as to make provisions for the administration of these upcoming elections.
Singh said that the regulations had already been published in the Government’s Gazette by the Ministry and was only being laid before the Senate for their information. Therefore, no amendments could be made at that point, said Singh.
At Tuesday’s Senate meeting, the senators also approved the re-appointment of two Supreme Court justices past the retirement age of 65. Oswell Legall’s re-appointment has been approved for three years, beginning June 7, 2010. (Legall, a native of Guyana, joined the Belize judiciary in January, 2009.)
The Senate also approved another short appointment for Supreme Court Justice Troadio Gonzalez, from March 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010. (Gonzalez’s term ends this month.)
Also approved were the Refrigeration and Technician Licensing Bill, for the licensing of refrigeration and air-conditioning technicians; and the International Foundation Bill, for the establishment, operation and regulation of international foundations.