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Review committee recommended Justice Benjamin for Judiciary Chancellorship; AG shrugs off backlog concerns

Chief Justice of Belize, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin. He is also a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda where he once served as Chief Magistrate.

Belize Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin was recommended by a presidential review committee to become the next Chancellor of the Judiciary of his native Guyana, Attorney General Basil Williams said Monday.

“I know that the person that was identified was Mr Kenneth Benjamin- that’s what I know” he said, adding “yes” when asked if it was on the basis of a recommendation by the panel.

The privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper reported Monday that Justice Benjamin was not ranked number one by the panel based on a points system that focused on experience, legal knowledge,  management skills, suitability and their personality and approach to legal problem solving among other areas.

Williams also shrugged off concerns about Justice Benjamin’s challenges in reducing the backlog of his written decisions.  “There is no jurisdiction, certainly not Guyana, that is not beset by these issues of backlog of cases,” he said. He said Guyana is yet to conclude more than 10,000 cases.

The Belize Bar Association had threatened to take steps for Benjamin to be removed from office if he had failed to submit a large number of the 32 written decisions.

Asked what makes Justice Patterson a good choice for the Chancellorship of the Judiciary, he deflected the question to President David Granger who had set up a three-member panel of ” exceptional luminaries” to review the applications for the posts of Chief Justice and Chancellor.

Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards (right) and Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire (left)

President David Granger is yet to receive the constitutionally required approval from Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo for the appointment of Justice Benjamin.  Jagdeo, at his request, has been given until February 7, 2018 to conduct background checks on Benjamin.

If the Opposition Leader gives the green light, legal experts say Benjamin will first have to apply to the Judicial Services Commission to become a High Court Judge in Guyana. If his application is approved and Benjamin is appointed a High Court judge, the President will then formally pick him to be the next Chancellor of the Judiciary.

Acting Chancellor, Yonette Cummings-Edwards has applied for the post of Chief Justice, but acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire has not applied for any post.

Justice Benjamin also served as Chief Magistrate in Antigua and Barbuda. He is a citizen of that twin-island Caribbean nation.