Separate The Powers: Selecting our next Chief Justice
Kingston, Jamaica, November 29, 2017: Opposition Spokesman on Justice, Senator Donna Scott-Mottley supports the call by the Jamaica Bar Association for the establishment of a new merit based process for the selection of Jamaica’s Next Chief Justice.
In order to get the best and most appropriate person for this very important position, we are recommending that the post should be advertised in Jamaica and overseas.
In keeping with principle of judicial independence, it is expected that all applicants must meet the basic criteria of integrity, experience, and scholarship. It is of prime importance not only for the protection of the citizen but also for the retention of public confidence in the Justice System. Consequently, the process for the selection of Jamaica’s Chief Justice ought to be at an arm’s length from both the Executive and Legislative branches of government.
The Commonwealth Principles of Accountability and Transparency of the Relationship between the Three Branches of Government, compels the Government of Jamaica to adopt the suggestion that a new procedure for Jamaica’s next Chief Justice should be established immediately. This can be done without altering the Constitutional requirement that the Governor General shall appoint the Chief Justice upon the advice of the Prime Minister following consultation with Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Scott-Mottley points out that in other jurisdictions such as England and Wales, it was found necessary to ensure that the Executive did not possess the sole power to effect the appointment of the Chief Justice. In England and Wales, the appointment of the Lord Chief Justice is made by Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor. This decision is subject to the recommendation of a special independent panel chaired by the Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission and subject to England’s Constitutional Reform Act 2005 as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This Act prescribes the Selection Criteria & Procedure of the Judicial Appointments Commission.
In addition, (as per Section 10(3) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 of England & Wales) the selection exercise for the Lord Chief Justice is open to all applicants who satisfy the judicial appointment eligibility condition or those who were judges of England’s Supreme Court, Court of Appeal or High Court.
It is therefore proposed that the recommendations by the Jamaica Bar Association be immediately undertaken and that the following actions be executed by the Government of Jamaica:
- The Government of Jamaica should advertise the post of Chief Justice of Jamaica.
- The Government of Jamaica establish an Independent Judicial Appointments Commission to vet and make recommendations of three applicants for consideration to be appointed to the office of Chief Justice;
- That the vacancy for Chief Justice be advertised to the public for the submission of applications to the relevant body by January 15, 2018.