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Cabinet begins process of restructuring Judiciary; single High Court will replace Supreme Court, Court of Appeals

Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2022. 12:55 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A press briefing has been scheduled for Friday by the office of the Attorney General to further explain the forthcoming Senior Courts Bill, which proposes to effectively amalgamate the Supreme Court of Judicature and Court of Appeals.

The Bill itself amalgamates and replaces the separate legislation for each court, with further amendments as listed:

to restructure the court’s administration system by making the office of the Chief Justice the administrative leader for both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal;

to introduce new officeholders such as Senior Judges in the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Supreme Court, the Chief Registrar, Masters, and Judicial Assistants;

to introduce specialized divisions in the Supreme Court, such as a Constitutional and Public Law Division, Family and Trust Law Division, Commercial Law Division, and such other divisions as the Chief Justice from time to time may find necessary;

to remove marital fault grounds for divorce proceedings and to provide for gender-neutral provisions in relation to divorce and matrimonial proceedings.

The Executive says these changes “are being introduced to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and consistency in the upper courts of the judicial system of Belize.”

Cabinet has also approved a separate bill to introduce Constitutional amendments to provide for the additional judicial office holders; provide for the office of the Chief Justice to be the administrative leader of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, and rename the amalgamated Supreme Court and Court of Appeal to the High Court. The office of the President of the Court of Appeal is being retained but shall be subject administratively to the office of the Chief Justice.

Questions include whether the Family Court, currently managed as part of the Magistracy, will form the basis of the proposed Family and Trust Law Division, or be retained as an originating court with appeals to that division being introduced; matters of appeals from the current structural ladder (Family Court/Magistrate’s Court to Supreme Court to Court of Appeal to Caribbean Court of Justice); what happens to current cases; how the court will be structured in each district; consequential promotions, and most importantly, resources, as the Judiciary’s budget has been cut in successive years and represents less than a tenth of a point of the national budget as of 2022.

We’ll have more from Friday’s briefing.


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