Process for judicial appointments must be ‘fair and open’, BBA states
Bahamas Bar Association (BBA) President Kahlil Parker yesterday criticized the consultation process surrounding the appointments of Chief Justice Brian Moree and Court of Appeal President Sir Michael Barnett, and warned that any further appointments made without a “fair and open” consultation process will not enjoy the confidence of the BBA.
In a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, dated June 29, 2020, Parker said after repeated calls from the Bar for the establishment of an open, fair and transparent process of judicial appointment, the requests have been given no priority, nor have they been treated with urgency demanded by the circumstances.
“Be advised that any further judicial appointments made in the absence of proper consultation and a published system of open, fair and meritocratic competition will not enjoy the confidence of the Bahamas Bar Association,” Parker said.
“Any appointee who purports to take the judicial oath in circumstances where their appointment was not secured in an open, fair, meritocratic and transparent way should not expect to be regarded as honorable.”
Moree was sworn in as chief justice in 2019. His appointment came nine months after the death of former Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs who served in that position for two weeks.
Sir Michael was sworn in as president of the Court of Appeal on February 25, 2020.
When contacted by The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Parker said repeated letters requesting a meeting with the prime minister went unanswered.
He added, “There ought to be no backdoor or secret pathway to the judiciary of The Bahamas. We insist upon a judiciary that reflects the best and brightest selected through an open process.
“While we acknowledge the constitutional authority of the Office of the Prime Minister as well as that of judicial and Legal Service Commission, the constitution merely provides the minimum procedural steps required to make these appointments.
“The constitution is a living document, necessarily alive to the need for decisions such as this to be made in an open, transparent, fair and meritocratic way. While it is open to those who benefit from, and whose power is preserved by, the status quo to insist that the prime minister need only satisfy the constitutional minimum, they do so to the detriment of the independence of our judiciary, which is a cornerstone of our democracy.”