While there have been calls, locally, for the establishment of a judicial selection process of transparency and inclusivity, the issue has been a subject of debates in Commonwealth nations across the globe.
With transparency as a hallmark of good governance, many Commonwealth nations have upped the ante in this regard.
Several states have attempted to minimize or eventually eradicate opaqueness in the judicial selection process.
Some have adopted, and in some cases debated, methods of reforming the framework for the appointment of judges as a matter of strengthening the independence of the Judiciary towards improving diversity and fostering public confidence in the courts.
In addition to the establishment of an independent commission to overlook the selection process, many States have as part of the recruitment procedure a transparent selection procedure, in a departure from the opaque practices of the past; something that was changed by the British with the enactment of the Judicial Appointments Commission established by the UK’s Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
With the impending appointments of judges to fill crucial positions within the judiciary locally, questions have been raised over the lack of transparency employed by the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) in the recruitment process.
While little or nothing is known about the guidelines employed by the JSC in the process of recommending candidates for positions at the bench, members of the current administration had expressed discontent over what was referred to as secret nominations/handpicking of Judges to satisfy vacancies within the Judiciary.
The JSC had traditionally relied on a system of selection “by invitation.”
But members of the coalition have called on the 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.
Given the calls for transparency, Kaieteur News examined the process used by a number of nations that have transitioned towards this cause. Information published by various international media outlets have recorded that Commonwealth nations such as Kenya, South Africa, Canada, and closer to home, Trinidad and Tobago, are among those that have taken a leap towards transparency.
In Canada, to deliver on this commitment, an independent and non-partisan advisory board has been created. It recommends qualified, functionally bilingual candidates who reflect a diversity of backgrounds and experiences for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Qualified lawyers and persons holding judicial office from across Canada who wish to be considered for a vacancy within the judiciary must apply to the Independent Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments through the Office of Commissioner of the federal Judicial Affairs.
Much like Canada, the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) in Kenya is responsible for short listing candidates through a transparent public process. The commission publishes the names of short-listed candidates and interviews them in public. This enables civil society to raise concerns about the track record of individual candidates as well as monitoring the selection process and holding the commission accountable for its treatment of those who are interviewed. Individual transparency of this kind is seen as a measure to strengthen public confidence in divided societies.
The South African judicial system is one where all appointments apart from the chief justice, deputy chief justice, and president of the higher court are made by the judicial service commission through a public interview process.
Meanwhile, with much debate still surrounding the process of selection in Trinidad and Tobago, prospective candidates for the appointment to judgeship are required to sit an exam to objectively assess their intellectual and analytical ability and undergo a psychometric assessment from an independent service provider to judge their emotional balance and decisiveness. They are also required to submit reference letters from competent persons who are able to assess their suitability for the job based on the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC)’s criteria.
Every candidate would have been subjected to a rigorous interview.
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