Did the Judicial Service Commission advertise vacancies in the judiciary before making its recommendations to the President?
“Justice is not a cloistered virtue: She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny of respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men.” The now famous words of Lord Atkin in the case of Ambard v AG for Trinidad and Tobago 1936 AC 322 and 334.
And might I respectfully now add neither should the appointment of judges.
During the past week there have been very audible murmurs and musings in the corridors of the High Court, about the recommendations of the barely constituted Judicial Service Commission, to His Excellency for the appointment of new members of the judiciary at the puisne and appellate levels.
We at the Bar are totally unaware of the advertisements for these vacancies or the methodology deployed in the identification and subsequent selection of the candidates.
The fact that the Commission, which comprised solely of acting ex officio members, could not have had the benefit of the contributions of the two other constitutionally mandatory members, can only add to the unfortunate mystery and speculation about their recommendations.
The insulation of judges from speculation about the methodology deployed in their selection and identification for appointment to the bench, is a critical component of the foundation of the rule of law.
The highest court in our Republic, the Caribbean Court of Justice advertises when vacancies exist. I believe that this practice is followed in several jurisdictions in the Caribbean and wider Commonwealth.
One of the more prominent recent musings, related to a recommendation for the direct import to the Court of Appeal from overseas of a practitioner whose contribution to the bar and jurisprudence in his home jurisdiction had escaped my active research for the past week. This, coupled with the issue of whether the recommendation enjoyed the unanimous support of the members of the barely constituted Commission did not bolster one’s confidence in the Commission’s actions.
There are no doubt eminently qualified members of our profession both at the private commercial bar and in the government services whose competencies seemed to have been overlooked.
I am personally aware, having appeared on the opposing side, of the exceedingly favourable comments made by their Honours of the bench of Caribbean Court of Justice of the exceptionally high quality of the submissions made by an eminently qualified member of our profession. Her appointment to the bench must have escaped the attention of the Commission at their recently concluded deliberations.
I am also aware of the outstanding work of at least one senior member of prominent commercial chambers in the city whose direct import to the Court of Appeal would enjoy the full confidence and support of the bench and bar.
Of course one might well ask what of the promotion of those members of the High Court bench whose obvious contributions apparently did not compare favourably with those of the recommended import.
In our efforts to rebuild or enhance the quality of jurisprudence in the Republic we should spare no effort to ensure that we have the benefit of a strong, robust, independent and appropriately qualified judiciary at all levels.
Perhaps we may wish to consider the methodologies and standards employed by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission in the identification and selection of candidates for appointment to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
C A Nigel Hughes