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Attorney General confirms appointments of judges

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Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2020. 2:28 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Before the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the Government was facing a critical shortage of judges in the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Courtney Abel were set to retire upon reaching retirement age, and Justice Shona Griffith departed for a position in Barbados. Two unnamed judges were also said to be approaching retirement.

While the court has slowed down some in the wake of the pandemic and restrictions on movement attached, it has not been idle, and will shortly welcome two new members and the reappointment of a third.

With the concurrence of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Opposition Leader John Briceño and the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Governor-General is expected to appoint Senior Counsel Lisa Shoman and University of the West Indies professor Westmin James to seats on the court for a term of one year each.

Shoman, recently elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank Administrative Tribunal based in Washington, has been practising law for more than 30 years. She has served as a prosecutor, Senator and Minister for Foreign Affairs and specialized in advocacy on human rights issues.

Shoman and James acted for the Government last year in advancing a referendum on taking the unfounded Guatemalan claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which was carried by the majority. Previously they worked together to help activist Caleb Orozco overturn the unofficial disallowance of homosexuality in society under the Criminal Code.

Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte on Wednesday also briefly confirmed the reappointment of Justice Antoinette Moore who presided over the Danny Mason murder trial. Sentencing for Mason and his fellow convicts have been delayed, reportedly due to issues with Justice Moore’s contract.

The Attorney General told us that the court’s complement is “doing very good at this point and we have every confidence that they’ve been put in place to administer justice how they see fit.”

The Court is being led by the “very capable” Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, who may or may not be confirmed permanently according to Peyrefitte.

The National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB), on Wednesday, objected to Shoman and James’ appointments, asking the Governor-General not to sign off but they have already been completed. The other members of the court are, in the criminal division, Justices Herbert Lord, Collin Williams and Marilyn Williams (the latter are no relation), and in the civil division, Justice Sonya Young.

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