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BELMOPAN – The President of the Belize Bar Association (BBA), Cheryl-Lyn Vidal, has filed a claim against Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, following her removal as a member of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC).
Attorney Andrew Marshalleck, who filed the legal motion last month, said Vidal, who is also the Director of Public Prosecutions, is challenging her exclusion from the JLSC that comprises the chair of the Public Services Commission, the president of the Bar Association and the Solicitor General.
He is arguing that in the absence of the bar representative, the appointments of other judicial officers have been questionable since it appears that there is an incestuous relationship between the executive and the judiciary.
“The claim concerns the right of the president of the bar to be a member of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. The Judicial and Legal Services Commission is the commission charged by the constitution with responsibility to make and govern judicial appointments.
“We’re talking high court judges, we’re talking magistrates, we’re talking registry staff. All of those appointments come under the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, even the DPP’s appointment.”
Marshalleck said the constitution provides that the JLSC be comprised of the Chief Justice, who also sits as chairman, the chairman of the Public Services Commission, the Solicitor General and the President of the Bar; a four person commission.
“Well since about a year-and-a-half ago, after Mrs Cheryl-Lyn Vidal became president of the bar, the chairman took issue with her sitting on the commission because he took the view that as Director of Public Prosecutions, she was a public officer and was disqualified from sitting on the commission.
“We’ve reviewed the legal position and find that argument simply untenable and so we challenged. Since a year-and-a-half ago, he’s refused to let us sit in the meetings. They invited her to the first meeting and then asked her to withdraw after some time and told her that she wasn’t qualified.”
Marshalleck said an opinion was later had from the Solicitor General, who is also a member of the committee, to support the view that she is disqualified.
“So since that time the bar hasn’t had any representation on these judicial appointments which are handled by the commission,” he added.
The attorney said since filing the matter on October 22nd, 2019 and despite repeated requests, he has not yet received a response.
“I’m hoping that it was not put before the Chief Justice for him to decide which of his judges get to decide the claim,” he added. (CMC)