The prime minister’s failure to name a substantive chief justice (CJ) is “constitutionally unacceptable and disappointing”, Bahamas Bar Association (BBA) President Kahlil Parker said yesterday.
Parker said the prime minister must act fast or face the consequences from the legal community.
“It is a situation of great regret on my part and disappointment that we’ve had this long [and] protracted period of uncertainty at the top of the judiciary,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“Let it not be thought by the public that the judiciary is subjugated to the whims of the executive. It is a third branch of our government in its own right and we are enduring this period.
“But we hope to have this question definitely resolved shortly.”
When asked what will happened if it isn’t resolved soon, Parker replied, “People get ready. There’s a change a coming.
“At the end of the day, we have to deal with these issues and we will continue to agitate and advocate for that change.”
Supreme Court Justice Vera Watkins currently serves as acting chief justice.
During the Opening of the Legal Year in January, Watkins lamented the challenges the judiciary faces without a substantive chief justice.
“The fact that there was no appointment of a chief justice for a period of eight months last year, together with the untimely passing of the former Chief Justice [Stephen] Isaacs, and the fact that the judiciary is still without a substantive chief justice, has been a tremendous challenge, as it is difficult for the judiciary to make any long-term plans for the future,” Watkins said.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has faced significant criticism over the delay in naming a chief justice following the death of former Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs last August. Isaacs died after serving in the position for only two weeks.
Parker said, “It is constitutionally unacceptable for there to be this absence of a confirmed and substantive chief justice.
“…The reality is we need to make sure that people do not believe that we can allow there to be too much debate as to who is the chief justice.
“If there’s a reason, explain it to the public, explain it to the bar and we will engage with that.
“The reality is it is imperative. Just as we have a prime minister, [and] just as we have a speaker of the House of Assembly, we need a chief justice. So that is, in and of itself, an issue and it is a continuing issue.
“So while we are smiling, while we are celebrating the successes in some regards, we do lament the fact that we are still waiting.”
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis confirmed last week that a decision has been made on the appointment.
He was unable to confirm who was chosen to fill the role. The Nassau Guardian understands that the new CJ will be prominent attorney Brian Moree.
Parker said the association awaits the official statement from the government.
“Right now we have the very capable Vera senior justice Watkins as our acting chief justice and we are doing just fine.”