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#416314 - 09/16/11 02:24 PM New Chief Justice Sworn In
Marty Offline
Belize's new Chief Justice, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin was sworn in today in Belmopan.

The oath was administered by Governor-General, Sir Colville Young.

The swearing in was witnessed by his brother Judges of the Supreme Court, The Attorney General, and others. Justice Benjamin ascended to the High Court bench of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in 1993 and has since sat in Antigua-Barbuda, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Grenada and St. Lucia. He last held the position of Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the High Court in St. Lucia.

He is married with two adult children and is an ardent cricket fan. He takes up his post as the head of the judiciary effective immediately.

And as he leaves, the former Acting Chief Justice, Samuel Awich named two new Senior Counsels in a final act. He elevated attorneys Michel Chebat and Solicitor General Cheryl Krusen to Senior Counsels.

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#417011 - 09/24/11 02:35 PM Re: New Chief Justice Sworn In [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
WELCOME CEREMONY FOR NEW CHIEF JUSTICE HELD

An official ceremony to welcome and install the new Chief Justice of Belize, Kenneth Benjamin, was held this morning at the Chief Justice courtroom in Belize City. In welcoming the new court official, Attorney General, B Q Pitts, had nothing but high praises for Chief Justice Benjamin. President of the Bar Association, Jacqueline Marshalleck, meantime, urged the new CJ to stay clear of the pitfalls of the political game in the line of duty and spoke of a disciplinary plan for attorneys who breach their roles as officers of the Court.

Jacqueline Marshalleck – President, Bar Association
“Perhaps one of your biggest challenge My Lord will be to successfully navigate the minefield of Belizean politics, no doubt a proper tool of navigation will be to ensure that you steer well clear of it but experience shows that politics in Belize has a way of spreading its tentacles to poison even the most unsuspecting victim. Your reputation as a man of integrity suggests to us that over the course of your 18 years as a high court judge you have deftly avoided such pitfalls and we pray that the experience gained will aid you in exercise of your duties here in Belize. It is extremely important to the profession and to this nation that we have a Chief Justice who is prepared to administer justice without fear or favour. One challenging area My Lord which will require your attention as well as ours is a procedure for disciplining attorneys who have breached the code of conduct set out in the Legal Profession Act. I am pleased that we have already started the dialogue on this issue because there are members of the public who have exhibited the patience of Job in waiting for the completion of their matters. I firmly believe that if this process is applied fairly, swiftly and effectively all practitioners will have greater respect for the code of conduct and correspondingly respect for the legal profession will also improve.”

In taking over the office of the highest court in Belize, Chief Justice Benjamin expounded on the concern brought up earlier by BAR President Marshalleck and that he has suggested that there be a Bench/BAR Committee to address such matters of concern.

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin
“I’m at liberty to state that I have invited the President to consider my proposal for a Bench Bar Committee to address issues of common interest for the improvement of the administration of justice. The Committee’s composition will shortly be determined and I wish to say that this Committee is intended to be the forum and advisory body in respect to matters impacting the delivery of justice; we can only do so on a consultative basis with mutual input. It is well known to practitioners that the Supreme Court Rules were brought into force in 2005. It is a body of subsidiary legislation that forms the foundation of the conduct of civil practice; it was the product of the industry and scholarship of the Rules Committee that was then chaired by the then Chief Justice Conteh. Alas the work of that Committee ceased after the year 2005 I am told. I have taken onboard a suggestion by one of my colleague judges that the critical assessment of the rules need to be undertaken, to this end it is my intention to resuscitate the Rules Committee with the new mandate to embark upon a review of the rules. It is my hope that the original members will make themselves available to once again serve on that Committee. The rule of law must permeate the system of Government in Belize as in any other elected democracy. In order to make the rule of law a reality it must be buttressed by a judiciary that is independent both from an individual perspective as well as from an institutional standpoint. The preservation of the rule of law is however not the exclusive province of the Bench, the Bar must equally be vigilant and fully accepting of its role as the guardian of the judiciary. I look forward to healthy, constructive interaction with the Bar as this course can only inure to the benefit of the litigating public.”

Outgoing Acting Chief Justice, Samuel Lungole Awich, gave an overview of the crime cases and other relevant issues during his tenure after former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh retired.

Acting Chief Justice Samuel Lungole Awich
“Currently crime, especially of violence has escalated. I understand it is the same in the rest of the Caribbean countries. This year the Police in Belize has already received over 80 reports of homicides and I was recently informed that in one of the countries in the Caribbean smaller than Belize the number was 84 as at the end of August so it will not be unfamiliar work that you will embark on My Lord.”

Meanwhile, Chief Magistrate Margaret Gabb McKenzie, retires in the coming weeks.

LOVEFM

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#417019 - 09/24/11 02:50 PM Re: New Chief Justice Sworn In [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

New Chief Justice

We've shown you photos of the swearing in of the new Chief Justice, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin - and today he addressed the court and the media in a special sitting in the Chief Justice's courtroom.

Benjamin was authoritative even as the Bar Association challenged him with issues that have been bedeviling the judiciary for some time:..

Jules Vasquez Reporting
The Bar made its satisfaction known with a chief justice in whose selection they participated.

Jacqueline Marshalleck, President of the Bar Association
"We celebrate the beginning of a new era of judicial stewardship under what we hope will be your extremely able and capable leadership. My Lord, all hope is founded not only on your considerable academic achievements and experience as jurists but also by references solicited by this association during this election process for a new Chief Justice. The references receipt made it quite clear to us that you have earn the respect of both your fellow jurists and that of the legal fraternity all over the Caribbean."

However the Bar still has issues - the president says the new chief faces substantial challenges - unaddressed, or ineffectively addressed by his predecessors:

Jacqueline Marshalleck, President of the Bar Association
"One such challenge my Lord is the improvement of the level of respect and stability between the bench and the bar. The issue of the delay in the delivery of judgments by certain justices contributed to the deteriorations between the bench and the bar and also resulted in the cancellation of the annual bench and bar summit. Perhaps one of your biggest challenges my Lord will be to successfully navigate the mind field of Belizean politics. No doubt a proper tool of navigation will be to ensure that you stay well clear of it. But experience shows that politics in Belize has a way of spreading its tentacles to poison even the most unsuspecting victim. Your reputation as a man of integrity suggests to us that over the course of your 18 years as a high court judge - you have deftly avoided such pitfalls and we pray that the experience gain will age you in exercise of your duties here in Belize."

Derek Courtenay, SC Inner-Bar
"It will be to ignore reality if we were to shut our eyes to the fact that there is widespread disquiet in the community about the way in which the justice system works. The most prominent manifestation is the dissatisfaction which is frequently express with how cases involving crimes of violence are handle. The perception is that too often criminals get away for no acceptable reason."

The new CJ - an experienced judicial administrator - made it clear that he will work with the Bar:

Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize
"The president of the bar association paid a call upon me that was in intended to be a courtesy call. However it develop into more than a courtesy call and ended up being an extended consultation which I expect will continue very soon. The exchange delves into matters `and subject areas of concern of the practicing legal fraternity. It cannot be gain said that notwithstanding the intensity of the discussions issues have been barely broach and much follow action is anticipated."

And more than just judicial politics, he's keenly aware of the calculus of public confidence:

Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize
"Having devoted the last 23 years in public service in the judicious fair, I've develop a quite awareness of the need to ensure that there is access to justice. Accordingly whatever actions are taken must ultimately be in furtherance of the main theme of access to justice."

The session ended with the bench and bar standing in a moment of silence for National Hero George Price.

Justice Benjamin ascended to the High Court bench of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in 1993 and has since sat in Antigua-Barbuda, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Grenada and St. Lucia. He last held the position of Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the High Court in St. Lucia.

Channel 7


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#417531 - 10/01/11 02:14 PM Re: New Chief Justice Sworn In [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
High hopes for new Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin

At a Special Sitting of the Supreme Court held in Belize City on Friday, September 23, 2011, members of the Bar expressed high hopes that the eminently qualified Chief Justice, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin, appointed on September 15, would help to restore not just strained relations between the Bench and the Bar, but also public confidence in the nation’s judiciary.

“In Belize, we scrupulously adhere to the rules of law, and in particular the separation of powers. Here in Belize judges enjoy tenure…, so long as the judge is not in breach of good judicial conduct. I am confident that you will carry on until such time when in accordance with the Constitution of Belize, you reach the constitutional retirement age [65] or sooner...” said Attorney General B.Q. Pitts, in honoring Benjamin at the Special Sitting.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Awich, who had held over the post of Chief Justice for the past year, following the departure of Dr. Abdulai Conteh, noted that, “Currently crimes, especially of violence, have escalated.... This year the police in Belize have already received over 80 reports of homicides, and I was recently informed that in one of the countries in the Caribbean smaller than Belize, the number was 84 as at the end of August; so it will not be an unfamiliar work that you will embark on, My Lord.”

The job of the Chief Justice extends far beyond hearing matters before the Court. According to the website of the Supreme Court, “The judiciary, which is one of the three separate arms of the State, is headed by the Chief Justice, who has overall responsibility for the administration of justice in Belize.”

“I feel humbled...and I pledge to apply every talent that God has bestowed upon me in the furtherance of the improvement of justice in Belize,” said Benjamin.

“Perhaps one of your biggest challenges, My Lord, will be to successfully navigate the minefield of Belizean politics,” said president of the Belize Bar Association, Jacqueline Marshalleck. “No doubt a proper tool of navigation would be to ensure that you steer well clear of it, but experience shows that politics in Belize has a way of spreading its tentacles to poison even unsuspecting victims,” she added.

Marshalleck said that Benjamin’s reputation and integrity indicate that throughout his 18 years as a High Court Judge, he has “deftly avoided such pitfalls.”

She urged that, “It is extremely important to the profession and to this nation, that we have a Chief Justice who is prepared to administer justice without fear or favor.”

Senior Counsel Derek Courtenay spoke for The Inner Bar (senior attorneys), noting that, “There is widespread disquiet in the community about the way in which the justice system works. The most prominent manifestation is the dissatisfaction, frequently expressed, with how cases involving crimes of violence are handled.”

He added that, “The increase in violent crime and the perceived failure of the justice system to ‘deliver justice’ has evoked a cynicism in the population.”

Courtenay noted that the public perception is that too often criminals get away for no acceptable reason.

“There is also disillusionment with the way that civil matters are dealt with,” Courtenay added. “Here the perception is that we have not conquered the problem of delay, and that the Civil Procedure Rules have not helped but instead have created new obstacles, slowing the process to trial.”

Courtenay pointed to other concerns over the state of Belize’s judiciary, including “the logjam in the courts and the interminable delays in dealing with cases brought before the magistrates and also at the Supreme Court level.”

He urged that, “In this regard, we are greatly encouraged that Your Lordship has had several years experience in the administration of Magistrate’s Courts in Antigua/Barbuda; further that you have most recently been engaged in the implementation in St. Lucia of the Criminal Procedure Rules of 2008, applying case management techniques in the disposition of criminal matters at the level of the High Court. It is to be hoped that our system will benefit from your experience in this field and that during your tenure it may prove possible to introduce the Belize Rules of Court for criminal matters.”

Justice Benjamin disclosed that since his arrival in Belize two weeks ago, he has met with some key professionals, including Attorney General B.Q. Pitts, senior staff of the Supreme Court Registry, including Registrar General, the Chief Magistrate designate, as well as officials of the Family Court.

This, said Benjamin, will help in the identification of key outstanding issues demanding attention in both the short- and long-term.

The consultations, he said, must continue if we are to make the delivery of justice improve over time.

He also noted that Marshalleck, as the president of the Bar, had paid a courtesy call on him, which turned, instead, into an extended consultation. Out of that meeting, CJ Benjamin is proposing the formation of a bench-bar committee, the composition of which, he said, will be shortly determined.

“The issue of delay in the delivery of judgments by certain justices contributed to the deterioration of relations between the Bench and the Bar and also resulted in the cancellation of the annual Bench and Bar Summit,” noted Marshalleck.

The bench-bar committee, said Benjamin, is intended to be the forum and advisory body on matters impacting the delivery of justice. He noted that the preservation of the rule of law is not the exclusive province of the Bench—the bar must also play its role.

CJ Benjamin also proposed the resurrection of the committee which saw the introduction of the Supreme Court Rules back in 2005.

“I have taken onboard a suggestion by one of my colleague judges that the critical assessment of the rules needs to be undertaken. To this end, it is my intention to resuscitate the Rules Committee with the new mandate to embark upon a review of the rules,” said Benjamin, proposing that the original members make themselves available to once again serve on the Committee.

At today’s Special Supreme Court Sitting, both Marshalleck and CJ Benjamin read notes of condolences on the passing of Belize’s first Prime Minister, and the premier who led Belize into political independence from Great Britain – Rt. Honourable George Cadle Price. Benjamin called for a moment of silence in Price’s honor before adjourning the sitting.

Amandala

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