Amidst reports that he has been tipped to fill the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary locally, Guyana- born Belizean Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin is facing criticisms overseas over lengthy delays in delivering judgments.
According to a Belizean news site (Amandala) Benjamin recently came under the scrutiny of the Belize Bar Association for alleged misconduct and delays in delivering timely judgments.
The news outlet reported that last September the Belizean Bar passed a resolution calling on Benjamin to deliver delayed judgments for 32 cases that he has heard, but on which he has not yet issued a ruling.
According to recent reports, the Chief Justice had at least one case in which the judgment has been delayed for three years.
The Belizean Bar had essentially issued no confidence in the CJ and threatened to file for his removal from office. The Belizean CJ is currently under pressure to complete the cases by the 2018 legal year.
By earlier this month, he had written 20 of the judgments. There were a dozen outstanding judgments.
According to the news site, Justice Benjamin‘s cases, some of which date as far back as 2010 and will not be completed by the end of the legal year next month.
The issue has some implications locally as Benjamin has been found to be favoured for the position of Chancellor; here, a position with high administrative demands. Concerns are being raised, too, over his questionable track record. Guyana already has its fair share of problems with undelivered judgments and case backlog.
In a recent comment on the matter, Attorney-at- law and newspaper Columnist, Ralph Ramkarran, noted that Benjamin is “no doubt…qualified to hold the post.” Ramkarran a former Speaker of the National Assembly, however stated, that it is likely that if selected, the prospective Chancellor will have a number of hurdles to overcome.
“The first would be the inevitable fallout from displacing a popular Chancellor (Ag), (Yonette)Cummings-Edwards, whose confirmation was anticipated supportively by the entire legal profession,” he said adding that Cummings- Edwards and Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George- Wiltshire may be reverting to their original posts as Appeal Judges until one was selected for appointment as Guyana’s substantive CJ.
Added to that, Ramkarran said that the second challenge Chief Justice Benjamin will likely face is whether the Leader of the Opposition will consent to his appointment.”
Emphasising that the process and subsequent appointment were immensely important, the lawyer called for the Opposition Leader to be given access to all of the information about the process and recommendation of Benjamin.
“They cannot properly do so unless both have had an equal opportunity to make an informed decision.”
Ramkarran nevertheless concluded that the matter is still for the President of Guyana to decide.
Benjamin, the current Chief Justice of Belize, served as a magistrate in Guyana before he went on to serve as Assistant Judge Advocate for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). From 1988, he continued his work as a judge in Antigua and later as Chief Magistrate of Antigua. Following that, he was named as a judge of the High Court of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. As a Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Court, Benjamin served in Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands.
Benjamin’s position as ECSC High Court Judge also took him to Grenada where he was succeeded by Justice Francis Cumberbatch.
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