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Attorney General disputes Bar assertions over judicial appointments

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Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2020. 10:51 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Displeased by the freeze-out of their president from the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC); the talk about renewing Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin’s contract while he still has outstanding judgments to deliver; and the process of replacing other retiring justices, the Bar Association of Belize has for the first time ever decided to boycott the ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court.

The Bar’s press release on Friday specifies, “The Executive and certain senior members of the Bar have taken the position that we will not participate in Monday’s proceedings. We have not asked the general membership not to attend. Any member who is comfortable with the status quo, or who feels that attendance does not necessarily mean an endorsement of the state of affairs, can attend.”

So while the usual parade from the church to Treasury Lane and Regent Street may be thinner, the Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte who heads the public Bar says that while their first two criticisms may be valid, the last is not.

The Bar already has a lawsuit going in the first instance and plans one in the second.

Peyrefitte called it “unfair” to be accused of being slack in handling court turnover. “I can say with certainty that the Chief Justice tirelessly on an almost daily basis tries to recruit local senior counsel to sit on the bench and to fill gaps so that we can have the judiciary running smoothly. The bar association is talking about absenting themselves from the opening of the Supreme Court. Ask senior [members] of the bar why they don’t want to make the sacrifice, serve your country and sit on the bench? But they have time and time again refused. We have sent our regional, international advertisements inviting people to express an interest in becoming a judge in Belize. We sent those out from December. The deadline for all applications is January 20th. We have 2 senior attorneys in the country who have expressed an interest in becoming judges and we have currently applications from Barbados to Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom for people expressing an interest to become judges in Belize.”

However, he concedes that the Bar has its right to act as it pleases, and offered himself as a bridge between the Bar and the Bench.

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