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Unconstitutional! - Justice minister takes issue with JLP Manifesto's proposal to change how judges are appointed

Published:Friday | February 19, 2016 | 2:04 PMAndre Poyser

Minister of Justice Mark Golding has described as unconstitutional, a proposal by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to subject appointments of the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal and the Judicial Services Commission to parliamentary approval.

The proposal was made by the JLP in its Manifesto released yesterday.

Speaking yesterday at a People's National Party (PNP) press conference, Golding said the current process of appointing judges and members of the Judicial Services Commission works well for Jamaica and does not need to be changed.

"There is no need for it, we have a system in our constitution that has served us well for how our judges are appointed. There is a judicial services commission which is staffed with senior or retired judges from Jamaica and around the Commonwealth, and the whole process is done on merit," he explained.

He noted that the current method of appointment is entrenched in the constitution, which would need to be amended.

"Those provisions are in the constitution to ensure the independence of our judiciary and to protect them from political interference, those provisions have worked well over the years, there has been no call to change them."

SEPARATION OF POWER

Golding is of the view that allowing Parliament to appoint judges would politicise the process and result in unnecessary delays in the appointment of judges. He also argued that the JLP's proposal would compromise the independence of the judiciary and would amount to a disregard of the principle of separation of powers.

"Once you get into a situation where your chief justice and the president of the Court of Appeal has to come to Parliament to be approved by politicians you are compromising judicial independence and you are subjecting our most eminent jurist to the vagaries of the kind of conversations and the kind of dialogue that is inherent in Parliament of people who are not discrete in what they say, who are not often compelled in their own minds to speak the truth and will make all sorts of wild allegations," he said.

According to Golding, the proposal does not have any benefit and is only a mere election spectacle by the JLP.

"We believe that it is important that our judges not be persons who have any particular political affiliation, who are not subjected to what politicians want to say about them, so that when cases come before the court involving the state they will give fair and balanced judgments," he said.