Govt to address shortage of Judges when Parliament reconvenes

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

With the Judiciary long decrying the shortage of Judges across the country, the Guyana Government is looking to address this issue as soon as Parliament comes out of recess next month.

This commitment was made by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, on Thursday at the recommissioning of the Mibikuri Magistrate’s Court in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).

According to Nandlall, the shortage of Judges in the country is unacceptable.

“I want to assure you that as soon as Parliament resumes, the process to activate the Judicial Service Commission [JSC] will move swiftly. In fact, all the preparatory works have been done,” he noted.

The National Assembly is currently in recess, which ends on October 10. The appointment of judges is done by the JSC, which has not been reconstituted since 2017.

The JSC plays a critical role in the appointment of new Magistrates and Judges and in its absence, this appointment process is significantly hampered.

Article 198 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states that the members the Judicial Service Commission must comprise the Chancellor of the Judiciary, who will be appointed as Chairman; the Chief Justice; the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and any other members appointed to the Commission.

Nandlall disclosed on Thursday that only the nominee to fill the post of Chairperson of the Public Service Commission is outstanding. Nevertheless, he posited that efforts would be made to ensure that the JSC was reconstituted in order to carry out its mandate, including the appointment of Judges.

“I am aware that whatever has to be done in Parliament has already been streamlined and soon as the National Assembly resumes… that process will be expedited and it is the Judicial Service Commission that holds that important constitutional function of expediting applications for the appointment of Judges who are to be appointed by His Excellency, the President,” the AG noted.

As of March, this year, the Judiciary had a complement of a mere 13 Judges to preside over the three High Courts across Guyana. In fact, right in Region Six, the Berbice High Court has been without a land court judge for more than a decade.

Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards had lamented back in March that this was inadequate. At the time, she was addressing a gathering at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, where AG Nandlall was in attendance.

“The pace at which cases are being filed and managed today under the new rules have us all crying out for more Judges… The Attorney General is present and I know he is taking heed of our cries. We have need for more than the 11 + 2 Judges that currently obtains in the Supreme Court,” the Chancellor appealed, while adding “we also need more Magistrates”.

Prior to this, Nandlall had responded to a previous outcry by the Judiciary over the limited number of Judges and committed to have the situation addressed.

“The process to [appoint] and remove Judges from office is one that is outlined in the Constitution. It begins with the Judicial Service Commission and a process emanates – the Judicial Service Commission has to initiate it,” he had stated during an edition of his weekly programme – Issues In The News – back in November.

Meanwhile, only earlier this month, President Dr Irfaan Ali disclosed that efforts were being undertaken to re-establish the JSC. He was at the time speaking with reporters on the sidelines of an event, where he was asked about the substantive appointments of the Chancellor and Chief Justice (CJ).

“We’re not at the stage of addressing those issues as yet… I am trying to complete the Judicial Service Commission; these things must be in place almost instantaneously now that we have the clearance. We’re hoping to have the Teaching Service Commission fully constituted and in effect, we’re hoping to have the Public Service Commission fully in effect…then we’ll move our focus…,” the Head of State explained.

The Judicial Service Commission’s powers include the power to make appointments, to remove and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding several legal offices including – Commissioner of Title, Magistrates, Director of Public Prosecutions, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Registrar of the High Court, Deputy Registrar of the High Court, Registrar of Deeds and Deputy Registrar of Deeds – and offices connected with the courts.