Tue | Jan 28, 2020

Unfair to judges

Published:Saturday | December 7, 2019 | 12:21 AM


That the Constitution of Jamaica provides that judges may be removed for misbehaviour, consistent with the Constitutions of Commonwealth countries when it was written, is far from satisfactory without defining ‘misbehaviour’, giving examples such as unequivocal incompetence expressed in Latin (quamdiu se bene gesserint) and manifest corruption.

Turning to removal of the prime minister, Section 71(2) states:

The office of prime minister shall become vacant:

If the House of Representatives by a resolution which has received the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members thereof has resolved that the appointment of the Prime Minister ought to be revoked, the Governor-General shall, subject to the provisions of subsection (3) of this section, by instrument under the Broad Seal, revoke his appointment.

This is unlike the US Constitution that states that the President may be impeached (removed from office) for having committed named offenses, which is desirable here, not only to accord with the fundamental principle of our jurisprudence that one should not be punished except one has committed a definite breach of the law.

In this context, removal for misbehaviour as in the case of judges being a breach of the Constitution (the supreme law of the land) would be no departure from the principle that no one should be punished except one commits a definite breach of the law.


Judges’ function is essentially judicial and so judges are expected to carry themselves well at all times when they are acting qua judge and expected to dispense justice in accordance with the Judicial Oath.

The Judicial Oath states:

I … do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Jamaica, that I will be uphold and defend the Constitution of Jamaica and that I will administer justice to all persons alike in accordance with the laws and usages of Jamaica without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God.

There is nothing in the prime minister’s oath that he will administer justice to all persons alike, which is not surprising, factoring the doctrine of separation of powers that makes the judiciary the independent arm of government to dispense justice.