Categorized | National News

CJ Appears Before Constitution Reform Commission-Sir Michael Says Prerequisite For Judges “Restrictive”

Provisions regarding the appointment of judges to the bench of the Court of Appeal (COA) should be re-examined, hinted Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett Thursday as he addressed members of the Constitution Reform Commission.

The chief justice, who delivered opening remarks to members of the commission ahead of entering in to a closed-door session at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, called the provision by the founding fathers “inexplicable.”

The provision states that only a judge with prior judicial experience can be appointed to the high court.

Sir Michael questioned the logic behind the provision and noted that it has prevented qualified persons from being elevated to the high court’s bench.

“I have not found that provision in any other jurisdiction and I am a bit surprised that they [the founding fathers] would have put such a restriction on a justice of the COA because it excluded a lot of persons who would be eligible – who would otherwise serve as suitable justices of the COA,” Sir Michael said.”While the requirement of prior judicial experience is laudable, I’m surprised that they would have required it as a constitutional prerequisite.”

There have been two attempts to change the country’s constitution, however, neither recommendations from the Constitution Reform Commissions in 1981 nor 2002 were ever adopted.

The chief justice, who served as the deputy chairman of the Constitution Reform Commission in 2002, said that he did not believe the previous failed attempts indicated that the current commission would meet a similar fate.

He also noted that while none of the previous commissions’ recommendations were adopted, he did not believe the failure was due to the public being uniformed about the issues.

“I think the circumstances in 2002 and the circumstances in 1981 are radically different from the circumstances that prevail in 2012/2013,” Sir Michael said. “I have never been persuaded by the argument that the public did not have sufficient information to make an intelligent decision in either 1981 or 2002 – but that’s matter for the historians to look at.”

Among the issues expected to be reviewed by the commission are ending gender-based discrimination; examining whether The Bahamas should remain a constitutional monarchy or evolve into a republic; removing the Privy Council as the country’s final court of appeal and fixed election dates and fixed terms limits for prime ministers and members of parliament.

Once the government has reviewed the recommendations of the commission, the issues will be brought to the electorate to decide through a referendum.

The commission is expected to complete its review and present its recommendations to the government by March 2013.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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