Former AG says Judicial appointments a matter for JSC not President

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…dubs move an “unconstitutional endeavour”

The lead role taken on by President David Granger in the recruitment of the substantive positions of a Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice has been labelled unconstitutional.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Former Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall feels that the Head of State is too intimately involved in the process, considering that the Constitution provides for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to carry out this function.

“This is the first political head of state that is in search of a person to fill the position of the head of a Judiciary… It is the first time that a head of the Executive himself is seeking to recruit a judge,” he posited.

According to Nandlall, recruitment of judges is the Constitutional responsibility of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), and the President’s role is simply to appoint someone.

“As a result of the doctrine of separation of powers, the Judiciary and the recruitment of judicial officers are matters that are insulated specifically from the Executive, so as to prevent the Executive choosing who to appoint as judges. The rationale is obvious.”

The former Attorney General pointed out that the responsibilities of the aforementioned judges include the adjudication of cases involving allegations of constitutional violations by the Executive.

“In my respectful view, having regard to what is taking place in this Government, the entire Government seems to be blinded to what the rule of law prescribes, and what is Constitutionally permissible,” he added.

Nandlall views the President’s direct involvement in the recruitment process of the Chancellor of the Judiciary as a violation of the Constitution in the same way that the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was appointed, and the same way that the Police Service Commission was instructed to halt promotions.

He said this scenario is also no different from the Chairman of the Public Service Commission being removed from office and Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes instructing the PSC to halt the placement of public officials.

Acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxane George (left) and acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards (right) pose with President David Granger after their appointments

“The President is embarking on an unconstitutional endeavour. Whether the eventual nominees will finally be appointed will depend solely on an agreement being arrived at between the Leader of the Opposition and the President. I wouldn’t want to comment further,” he stated.

At his first media press conference in two years, held last week Thursday, President Granger hinted that the current acting Chancellor and Chief Justice may be bypassed with someone from overseas.

Describing the substantive appointments as a matter of concern to him, he related that as President, he revisited a formula for filling the positions that former President Donald Ramotar had rejected. That formula, according to Granger, was to advertise both locally and in the Caribbean.

He also revealed that the nominations were made and contact has been made with the person who has been nominated. That person has since accepted the offer. Granger also revealed that the person chosen for either of the top judicial posts is currently in Guyana.

Just recently, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Dennis Byron, zeroed in on the trend of persons being appointed to top positions in Guyana’s Judiciary, but being forced to act for years while their confirmation remains in limbo. He has urged the Government to act swiftly on this.

President Granger had appointed Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards in May of this year as acting Chancellor of Judiciary. Prior to that position, she acted as the Chief Justice from December 2015.

She was never confirmed to the substantive position. Cummings-Edwards replaced Justice Carl Singh, who retired after acting as Chancellor since 2005. On the other hand, the current Acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxanne George, was also appointed to her position on the same day as Cummings-Edwards.

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