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Court rules Bar President removal from judicial commission ‘unconstitutional’ but does not overturn decisions

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Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2020. 4:33 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Supreme Court called the actions of its former Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, in side-lining Director of Public Prosecutions and President of the Bar Association of Belize Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, SC, ‘unconstitutional.’

But in her Friday ruling, Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana declined further relief claimed, including the declaration that Vidal’s unlawful exclusion from the meetings of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission invalidated the decisions of the Commission, according to Bar Attorney and Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck.

To do so, the Acting Chief Justice ruled, would be to “create chaos in the administration of justice,” as worded by Marshalleck. Plus, the Association had taken too long to address its concerns with the court.

The then-Chief Justice had defended his decision on the basis that the roles of the DPP, chief prosecutor, and president of the Bar were conflicting. The Acting Chief Justice heard the case earlier this year.

Marshalleck noted to reporters that Vidal’s tenure as Bar President had ended earlier this year and now-former Chief Justice Benjamin was retired, but the case was still live – and caused senior Bar members to avoid this year’s ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court.

Effectively, Marshalleck is left to wonder while he waits for the written judgment whether the court seems to be condoning breaches of Constitutional rights – that is, it is okay to breach these rights so long as the other side does not react quickly enough or that the natural order could be overturned. He will consult as to the possibility of an appeal to the Court of Appeal within 21 days of the perfection of the judgment.

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