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Guyanese jurist tipped to become Belize’s next Chief Justice

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 June 2022, 23:13 by Denis Chabrol

Her Ladyship, the Hon. Justice Louise Esther Blenman

Highly respected Guyana-born Justice Louise Blenman is tipped to be the next Chief Justice of Belize, according to a government statement from that lone Central American Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state.

The Belize government says no Belizean  was among the eight applicants for the job that was advertised locally, regionally and through the Commonwealth Secretariat, in apparent response to scathing claims by the opposition that a Belizean was bypassed for the top judicial post.

At the request of Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceno, according to the government, the Belize Bar Association established an interview panel that picked Justice  Blenman, a Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, and recommended her to the Belizean leader. “The interview panel then conducted interviews of eight applicants and a report on the interviews and the vetting of the applications was prepared for the Prime Minister, for him to make his decision. In that report and based on her qualifications, experience and her interview, the Hon. Justice Louise Blenman, a Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, was recommended favorably to the Prime Minister,” the government said.

Justice Blenman has served in a variety of senior legal and judicial positions in the region in St. Lucian, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla. She currently sits as a Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Court that serves nine states and territories. She, therefore, brings a wealth of experience having sat as a High Court judge for 9 years and a Justice of Appeal for 10 years in the region, government noted.

Government said that subject to the consultation process, the next step will be for the Prime Minister to advise Her Excellency the Governor General, Dame Froyla Tzalam, on the appointment of the future Chief Justice.

According to the Belizean government, the current Acting Chief Justice is to remain Acting Chief Justice until the appointment of a person to the office of Chief Justice, and she will then be  “elevated” to the Court of Appeal as a Justice of Appeal of that court.

Ahead of planned consultations between Prime Minster Briceno and Opposition Leader Opposition Leader Moses Barrow, the latter has objected saying that the position should have gone to acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana.

“We find it an injustice and terrible failure in discharge of duty, that P.M. Briceño feels it necessary to appoint a Foreign National over our Nation’s equally, if not more so capable, indigenous Garifuna woman who has been acting with distinction as Chief Justice for the past two years and served with equal distinction as Justice of the Supreme Court for 14 years.”

Barrow added, “This decision is a setback for indigenous and equal rights; a setback for every hardworking Belizean that no matter how much they toil we have a Prime Minister and Government that thinks you lack talent with nowhere to go but under the subjugation of a foreign national,” the Belize Reporter online newspaper reported.

Under the Senior Courts Bill that was tabled in the National Assembly earlier this month, government said the restructured office of the Chief Justice is expected to be the judicial leader for both the Supreme Court of Belize and the Court of Appeal. “The Prime Minister believes that the Hon. Justice Louise Blenman’s candidacy, therefore, brings a wealth of experience having sat on both courts in the region,” government said.

“She is known for her dedication to the rule of law and public service, and most importantly, for her timely delivery of judgments that have been cited in the courts in Belize. She is renowned for her prolific judgement writing, many of which have been affirmed by the Privy Council,” government added.

Her Ladyship, Justice Esther Blenman is a Guyanese national, who graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1986 with a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B.) with Upper Second Class Honours. She later obtained the Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad in 1988. She was called to the Bar in Guyana, in 1988. Justice Blenman obtained a Master of Law Degree (LL.M.) with merit from the University of London.

For in excess of six years she served as the Chairperson of the Judicial Education Institute of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and is a fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute. She also served as the Chairman of the Sentencing Guidelines Committee. She also has a wealth of experience in mediation