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J'can resigns as Belize judge after mounted opposition

Monday, December 04, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaican attorney Franz Parke, who was recently sworn in as a Court of Appeal judge in Belize amid controversy, resigned today.

The Office of the Prime Minister in Belize, in a release to the media, said his decision to resign immediately is an effort to spare the court any exposure that a trial on the issue of his tenure would create.

Belizean media reports in October said the Leader of the Opposition People's United Party, Johnny Briceño, filed a claim to have the Belize Supreme Court declare Parke's appointment null and void on the basis that it violates the Belize Constitution — the highest law of the land.

The opposition to Parke, the reports suggest, comes from two standpoints — his qualifications and his past.

Reports have surfaced which suggest that Parke has very limited knowledge of Caribbean law, although he has been an attorney in the US for over two decades.

Critics, including the Opposition party, have pointed out that the laws in the US and in the Caribbean are very different and argue that Parke does not meet basic requirements to hold the job.

However, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who is a former law-school classmate of Parke's, had dismissed concerns raised by the Bar Association over the appointment.

In terms of his past, media reports have described Parkes, as having a “questionable” past because of an inter-agency investigation that took place at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office in the US, which focused on Parke, a prosecutor at the time. The investigation reportedly never materialised and Parke left the attorney's office a year later and started private practice.

Despite Barrow's assertions, at least one prominent defence attorney declared that he would challenge Parke directly if any of his clients come before him in the Court of Appeal.

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