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Public debate commences on advertising CJ, Chancellor’s post

Legal minds are already commenting on the proposed advertisement of the senior judicial posts of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, with some sides for and others against.

In June Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that the government has plans to advertise for the senior posts which are usually designated by the Judicial Service Commission in consultation with the Opposition Leader.  

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall saw the suggestion as a means of undermining the persons currently acting in this capacity.

He stated in a letter that, “By an almost impenetrable network of provisions, doctrines and mechanisms, the constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary against every form of influence and pollution from every person or authority, especially, the executive branch of government.”

 “This is so because it is the judiciary which stands as the bulwark of the rights and freedoms of the citizens; it is the guardian of the constitution and it is through its vigilance that the rule of law prevails. More significantly, it is this institution that has the greatest constitutional duty to ensure that the executive acts in accordance with law and the constitution and does not abuse its powers and authority.”

The former AG said that in almost 50 years as an independent nation, “not once was an attempt ever made to recruit judges from outside of Guyana,” and he was not supportive of the move.

However, practicing lawyer, and constant letter writer, Jonas Mortimer Coddett has endorsed the move to advertise for the posts. He said the former AG went to great lengths to prove the president wrong in wanting to advertise the postions, even including the point that Guyana has a lot of competent lawyers to fill both positions and there is no need for the position to be advertised.

Other reasons raised are that the current Chancellor and the Chief Justice have been acting for a long time, and only the Chancellor’s position is vacant; and that the post occupants would expect to be officially appointed.

Coddett said that while he agreed that Guyana has had over the years many qualified lawyers who have filled vacancies in high positions overseas, such as late Chancellor Stoby, “the fault in his (Nandlall’s) reasoning lies in the fact that if the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice are not advertised then prominent Guyanese lawyers overseas would not know of the vacancies to be filled. This in itself is denying Guyanese an opportunity to come back to Guyana to make positive contributions.”

The lawyer submitted, too, that if advertising for the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice attracts non-Guyanese, that “in itself will assist in raising the standard of competence and efficiency required to fill these vacancies.”