Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Jamaican Bar Association wants process of selecting Chief Justice reviewed

Published:Saturday | November 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Zaila McCalla, the current chief justice, is due to retire at the end of January next year.

The Jamaican Bar Association (JAMBAR) has cautioned that the search for the nation's next chief judge should begin with the post being widely advertised.

Zaila McCalla, the current chief justice, is due to retire at the end of January next year. However, the president of JAMBAR, Jacqueline Cummings, said that her association has noted that no advertisement inviting candidates to apply for the position has been published. Cummings said that given the fact that the judiciary constitutes one of three arms of government that has an impact on the life of the citizens daily, it is "of paramount importance" that the process of judicial appointments accords with best practices.

Such best practices, she indicated, are outlined in the Commonwealth Principles, which stipulate, among other things, that judicial appointments at all levels "should be designed to guarantee the quality and independence of mind of those selected".

Cummings acknowledged that under the Jamaican Constitution, the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, after consultation with the leader of the opposition, but argued that the Commonwealth Principles can be applied without departing from this provision.

"Against that background, the process of appointing a new chief justice should start with advertising the post and receiving as broad a field of candidates as possible. Further, the appointment of any judge, let alone the chief judge, must be merit-based and consistent with the current demand for transformation of the judicial system," she argued.

Cummings urged Prime Minister Andrew Holness to show his commitment to the hallowed principle of judicial independence, starting with the appointment of McCalla's successor.