Categorized | Featured, National News

Acting Chief Justice Laments “Tenuous Position”

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Pomp and pageantry of the opening of the legal year aside, Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins, used the occasion to lament that not having a substantive Chief Justice presents a tremendous challenge for the judiciary,  as no long-term plans can be made. 

This year’s Opening of the Legal Year was the second time that the Fraternity opened with an Acting Chief Justice sitting in the chair. 

Last year’s opening saw the late Justice Stephen Isaacs preside over the ceremony in an Acting Chief Justice capacity.  

Acting Chief  Justice Watkins  on Wednesday, said the “tenuous position” presented a challenge to set an agenda for the year. 

“The late Chief  Justice Isaacs became chief justice in July of 2018, sadly he passed away, just a few weeks later. 

“The fact that there was no appointment of a Chief  Justice for a period of eight months, last year, together with the untimely passing of the former Chief Justice Isaacs, and the fact that the judiciary is still without a substantive Chief Justice has been a tremendous challenge, as it is difficult for the judiciary to make any long term plans for the future,” Mrs. Watkins said. 

Mrs. Watkins was appointed to the Acting Chief Justice position on September 3, 2018.

“The undisputable fact is that while it may be so that I am sitting in this chair as Acting Chief Justice at this moment, I am not certain as to whether I will be sitting in this chair later on today. 

“I am not certain as to whether I will be sitting in this chair tomorrow morning.

“As the result of the tenuous position in which I find myself, it may be a futile exercise to make any long-term plans for the judiciary, as the saying goes, ‘I live or I work from day to day’,” Mrs. Watkins said.  

The shortage of staffing of both judges and clerks is also a major concern for Mrs. Watkins. 

President of the Bahamas Bar Association, Kahlil Parker, also complained  that a substantive Chief Justice is needed, stating that “the proliferation of acting judicial appointments  has a deleterious effect on both the perceived and the actual independence of the judiciary, which compromises its ability to function as a check and balance against the other two branches of our government.


“The Bahamas Bar Association will not silently abide the invisible tether which your and the other acting appointments represent, and represented, upon our Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. 

“While it appears that some may not appreciate why this is important, they ought reasonably to be guided by those of us who do understand,” Mr. Parker said. 

Prior to the appointment of the late Chief Justice Isaacs, in July last year, the last substantive Chief Justice was Sir Hartman Longley, who was appointed in 2015, he was later appointed and sworn in as the President of the Court of Appeal in December 2017.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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