Being Belizean did not assure Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana the position of Chief Justice, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, the president of the Bar Association, told The Reporter this week.
Marshalleck explained that the government did the right thing in advertising the post, a process in which the Bar was involved and ultimately led to the government choosing Guyanese national and Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Justice Louise Blenman as Belize's first fully serving female Chief Justice.
Marshalleck stressed that all vacant posts should be advertised to allow for qualified individuals to fill them. “Nationality is not a requirement for the post," Marshalleck said. "In fact, if you look at the list of Chief Justices, it's rare that you find a Belizean."
He also noted that Justice Arana—as the Government of Belize (GOB) had explained via a statement—was not among the eight applicants who offered themselves up for the office.
Marshalleck stressed that Belize needs someone who will deliver timely judgments, citing the old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. He noted that the Bar Association had to take action against several former Chief Justices including Dr. Abdulai Conteh, and Samual Awich over the late delivery of judgments.
"It goes back further than Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. We've had this problem [of late judgments] perennially for the past 30 years," Marshalleck said, also admitting that the issue might go back even longer.
Marshalleck also pointed out that even Acting Chief Justice Arana has judgments that have been pending for two years. In its statement defending the future appointment of Justice Blenman, GOB praised her academic qualification and wide range of judicial experience as key factors for her selection.
Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow was among the first to publicly condemn the decision, stressing that elevating Arana to officially assuming the post would have been good for national morale.