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Supreme Court Opening: Bar Association President renews complaints on judgments

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2022. 10:59 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Iliana Swift, President of the Bar Association of Belize, has said the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to the Judiciary “to re-assess and test the utility of our institutions and practices; to keep only those that are used and useful to society; simply put, it refocuses us on what is important.”

And upon further review, she added, some of the new measures introduced with the pandemic should remain even when in-person hearings are safely reintroduced.

An example is in the Court of Appeal, which traditionally meets three times per year for three weeks, causing some delay in hearings. With virtual hearings now a reality, Swift urged that the Court of Appeal meet year-round and that the Supreme Court reserve in-person hearings for necessities of cross-examination and other urgent purposes.

And as for what comes out of these hearings, in addition to the complaints about the delivery of timely judgments, there is a question of quality, according to Swift: “It has unfortunately become quite common for parties to receive judgments, with little to no reason and merely a repetition of the arguments made by Council, and a statement as to which side’s argument was accepted. Parties to litigation, and most importantly, the unsuccessful party, should know why a judge arrived at a specific decision, as is consistent with the rules of natural justice.”

In all, Swift observed, “At the end of 2020, the legal system was in a dire state, with a lack of judges at all three levels, antiquated laws, and severely deficient registries. The Bar has been encouraged by steps taken by the Attorney General to breathe life back into the legal system, with the recruitment of judges and implementation of new laws, and e-governance that improves services at the registries.” But there is still much more to be done, including the improvement of the various registries and re-staffing of the Judiciary and Magistracy to ensure swifter, safer justice.

 

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