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Government defends Chief Justice appointment: ‘No Belizean applied for the post’

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Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2022. 4:17 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: Following concerns raised over the Government of Belize’s decision to appoint Guyanese national Madame Justice Louise Blenman, as Belize’s new Chief Justice later this year, the government has defended its decision noting that no Belizean applied for the post.

In a statement issued this afternoon, GOB explained that the Office of the Prime Minister advertised the post locally and regionally, via the Supreme Court website and Commonwealth Secretariat.

“The office of the Prime Minister received eight applications, none which were by any Belizean applicant,” GOB said. The Prime Minister had through the Attorney General asked the Bar Association to appoint an interview panel of senior members of the Bar to conduct interviews. The interview panel then conducted interviews of eight applicants and a report on the interviews and the vetting of the applications was prepared for the Prime Minister, for him to make his decision.”

The statement further explains that Justice Blenman was highly favored among the eight applicants, as she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the post. Academically, Justice Blenman graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1986 with a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B.) with Upper Second Class Honours. She later obtained the Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad in 1988. She was called to the Bar in Guyana, in 1988 and then obtained the Master of Law Degree (LL.M.) with merit from the University of London.

GOB noted that she has served in a variety of senior legal and judicial positions in the region in St. Lucian, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla. She currently sits as a Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Court that serves nine states and territories and is renowned for her prolific judgment writing, many of which have been affirmed by the Privy Council.

GOB stressed that the next phase of the process is to engage Leader of the Opposition Moses Shyne Barrow in consultation over her appointment, and then the Prime Minister to advise Her Excellency the Governor-General, Dame Froyla Tzalam, on the appointment of the future Chief Justice.

“The current Acting Chief Justice is to remain Acting Chief Justice until the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice, and she is to thereafter be elevated to the Court of Appeal as a Justice of Appeal of that court. Under the Senior Courts Bill that was recently tabled in the National Assembly earlier this month, the restructured office of Chief Justice is expected to be the judicial leader for both the Supreme Court of Belize and the Court of Appeal,” GOB added.

Earlier today, Opposition Leader Moses Shyne Barrow made a statement condemning GOB for not officially appointing acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana to the post.

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