Four candidates have been submitted to President David Granger to fill the vacancies that exist for puisne judges, acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards confirmed on Wednesday, while well-placed sources said that Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and former Guyana Association of Women Lawyers president Simone Morris-Ramlall are among them.
Approached shortly after the swearing-in of acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC and Justice Dawn Gregory as Appellate judges at State House on Wednesday, Justice Cummings-Edwards said that recommendations have been made. “To date we have four,” she said, before adding that the names have already been submitted to Granger.
Asked to identify the four, the acting Chancellor responded “in due course.”
However, Stabroek News was reliably informed by knowledgeable sources that the four names submitted to Granger are those of McLennan, Morris-Ramlall, State Solicitor/Public Trust Damone Younge and attorney Sandil Kissoon.
Stabroek News was told that they will be sworn in later this month since some of them have cases to complete before they could take up their respective posts.
Younge and Kissoon were on the list submitted to Granger by the previously constituted Judicial Service Commission (JSC) last May. Puisne Judges Gregory and Rishi Persaud had also been recommended to serve as appellate judges by the same JSC panel.
Asked about Justice Persaud’s nomination on Wednesday, Justice Cumming-Edwards told Stabroek News that he is still being considered for the post of appellate judge. She explained that previously, Justice Persaud could not be interviewed since his father, Justice Prem Persaud was a member of the JSC and he had to recuse himself.
She indicated that additional members of the JSC were scheduled to be sworn in shortly and, therefore, Justice Persaud’s interview “will be held shortly.”
Granger had told reporters in March, shortly after swearing in the Chancellor and Chief Justice, that he had asked Justice Cummings-Edwards to advise him in relation to the vacancies in the judiciary.
The president, when asked on that occasion about the concerns about the shortage of judges in the judiciary, had said, “I am confident that the new Chancellor is aware of the shortages and as quickly as the JSC could meet and submit to me, I would move ahead. I have no interest in perpetuating a situation in where there are insufficient judges. The backlog is being built up and the swearing in of the Chancellor and Chief justice is a step in the right direction,” he asserted. “So I expect that as soon as the JSC makes its recommendations I will be able to give approval and move ahead. I think the crisis …will resolve itself in a few days or weeks,” he added.
The president informed that he had received some names for appointments from the previous JSC but had withheld approval pending the review and advice of the new Chancellor. “I withheld approval because I sent the recommendations to the present Chancellor, who has agreed to look at them and resubmit a list to me. As soon as I get that list, I will be able to act. So I did decline. I saw the list, and I received some information, and on the [basis] of that information, I sent it to the present Chancellor and I am awaiting her advice,” Granger said.
For her part, Cummings-Edwards said that addressing the shortage of judges was key on her agenda.
Article 128(1) of the Constitution provides that judges, other than the Chancellor and Chief Justice, are appointed by the president, “who shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.” Article 128(2) also provides that “the President shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and appoint a person to act in the office of Justice of Appeal or Puisne Judge, as the case may be.”
Attorneys who spoke with Stabroek News have criticised former acting Chancellor Carl Singh for failing to bring the judiciary up to strength during his tenure.