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Committee set up to review judges’ selection

Published: 
Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Law Association has appointed a seven-member committee chaired by Justice Désirée Bernard, a former judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice and Chancellor of the Court of Appeal of Guyana, to look at the issue of judicial appointments. It has been given three months to report on its findings.

President of the Law Association Douglas Mendes SC in a statement said the committee’s terms of reference is to examine the constitutional and other arrangements pertaining to the selection and appointment of judges of the High Court and the Court of Appeal on and/or current practices and/or procedures and/or selection criteria, with a view to ensuring due process, transparency and accountability while maintaining the dignity of judicial officers and the independence of the judiciary.

On May 5, in the height of concerns about the process for appointments to the judiciary following the elevation of then Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar and her subsequent resignation, Mendes had announced the intention of the association to establish a committee to examine the system and practice of appointments of High Court judges and to make appropriate recommendations.

Yesterday’s statement said the committee would consult with stakeholders as well as members of the public as part of its mandate and to receive and consider their written and oral submissions.

The committee has been given three months to report to the Council of the Law Association, “or such further period as the council may allow.”

Members of the Committee are Dr Terence Farrell, economist and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank; David Abdulah, economist and former vice president of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union; Rajiv Persad, attorney and vice president of the Law Association; Tracy Robinson, senior lecturer in constitutional law, University of the West Indies, Mona campus; and attorneys Vanessa Gopaul and Rishi Dass.

Abdulah told the T&T Guardian that the appointment of the committee was “timely, given the fact that there has been so much disquiet about the process for the appointment of judges.”

He said the Law Association wanted to come up with ideas and proposals and he was asked to sit because they wanted persons who were not lawyers to be involved.

The JLSC is the body charged with making appointments of judges, magistrates and other legal officers of the State.

In its May 5 statement the Law Association expressed concern that there appeared not to be any established mechanism which would ensure that before elevation, a magistrate would complete all part-heard matters which could not properly be passed on to another magistrate.