While the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) is empowered by law to make certain recommendations for appointments to the judiciary, the current recruitment process is being brought into question.
At present, the JSC uses a process of appointment to the bench by way of invitation. The approach is “traditional,” given that it was adopted from the age of the British colonisers. This practice of invitation has since been abandoned by the British for a system that promotes transparency and open competitiveness.
With recent calls by the administration towards establishing a system of transparency, the JSC has shown indications of opening up the process by encouraging candidates to apply outside of the invitation process.
However, there are some who view the JSC’s belated action as coming too late, especially with the impending appointments of more Judges to satisfy crucial vacancies within the Judiciary.
Legal practitioners and retired judicial officers are among those raising contentions about the procedure of invitation.
Putting the issue into perspective, sources have noted that it would be impossible for the judiciary to deal fairly with those who apply. Some have opined that the invitation method “sort of prequalifies” those invited to apply for the position over those who actually apply.
Furthermore, sources held that candidates are not encouraged to apply, as they will be placed at a disadvantage to those invited for the position.
“If someone is invited for a job, that person’s application is automatically given priority over any other applications. The (Commission) is already programmed to accept the invited applicant over the other.”
Additionally, sources believe that the JSC has a limited scope in terms of attracting applicants of merit.
“As it stands, it is still unclear how exactly the JSC comes up with the names of these candidates.
“The JSC cannot safely say that it has selected the best suitable candidates. Guyana has hundreds of practicing attorneys…Is the Commission able to evaluate every single lawyer practicing in and around the country? And what of those in other territories (overseas)?
“How can the Commission really say it has the selected the best suitable candidates? The only way of knowing this is by putting the vacancies out there and giving people a fair shot at applying for the positions.”
Moving forward, officials stressed that the current style of recruiting and selecting judicial officials can be tailored to bear similarities of regional territories in which the practice is towards upholding fairness and transparency.
In the past, members of the Coalition Government had voiced concerns over the process employed to recommend persons to sit at the helm of the Judiciary.
While in opposition, the party had expressed discontent over what was referred to as secret nominations/handpicking of Judges to satisfy vacancies within the Judiciary.
Instead of selection “by invitation,” the coalition had called on the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) to adopt a system which relies on publicly advertised notices of vacancies and open competitiveness so as to attract the best possible candidates to fill the vacancies.
Recently, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams noted objections about the method for nominating Judges. Williams raised questions about the interviews and criteria for judicial recommendations, and stated that the absence of transparency can only mean that merit (appointing the best person for the job) is not necessarily the basis of judicial recommendations.
It had been noted that the absence of calls for expressions of interest (advertisements), breathes a system of partiality in the selection of judicial appointees.
“The process should not be a closed one, because it limits the scope of ensuring that those holding judicial offices are selected solely on the basis of merit,” the AG posited.
He further stated that it has always been the desire of the coalition to have the process of selection conducted in an open manner, so as to allow those holding the offices of Judges to undergo fair and open competition.
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