The scales of justice require balance, Your Honours

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I have read the full-page 'Declaration on Separation of Powers, Judicial Independence and Judicial Accountability' prepared by 97 judges from the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the Parish Courts of Jamaica, published in the newspapers listing their concerns.

Paragraph two states, “These concerns relate to the prime minister's explanation of the rationale for recommending an acting appointment instead of a permanent appointment to the post of chief justice.” Further, at paragraph 5, “It is however our considered view that the declaration of the prime minister, relative to the acting appointment unquestionably has serious implications for the fundamental principles of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.”

The conclusion at paragraph 18 is that the prime minister has sought to place the head of the judiciary under his supervision, direction and control. This conclusion is supported by what follows at paragraph 19, “Our concern is heightened as this is against the background of previous statements by other members of the executive that have crossed the line of separation of powers and have had the effect of undermining the independence of the judiciary.” The wise words of United States Judge Sandra Day O'Connor are quoted to justify the allegation that the prime minister was interfering with the independence of judiciary.

This damning accusation is made without stating the actual words used by the prime minister that are said to breach the sacred principles of the constitution. I would have expected that learned and wise judges would quote the actual facts for a fair and impartial jury to form their own conclusion, instead of simply stating their interpretation, and I hope it is not too late to correct the misdirection in order to avoid a miscarriage of justice.

I add my own quotation of what a learned judge said, “Justice is not a cloistered virtue.”

Frank Phipps QC, OJ




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