By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal president dubbed yesterday’s special ceremony for the retirement and elevation of three judges as “the institutional knighting of the Court of Appeal”.
The occasion, said Justice Anita Allen, would mark the “farewell to two of our most experienced justices, while welcoming the first of what will inevitably be, a new generation of justices of appeal.”
Barbados-native Justice Christopher Blackman, appointed in March 2008, has retired as an appellate judge in the Bahamas but will take up a similar post in Belize while Justice Stanley John, appointed in July 2009, is retiring to take on philanthropic pursuits in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago.
Meanwhile, Justice Jon Isaacs, who was senior justice of the Supreme Court for the past five years, has been elevated to the Court of Appeal bench.
“Justice Blackman is retiring because our Constitution says he must, while Justice John has decided to retire early,” Justice Allen said.
“These statutory retirements on the obtainment the statutory age of civility, as I have seen it referred to, is of course, a natural cycle which the court goes through every few years. However, as I have lamented at this year’s special sitting, our present age limit puts judges out to pasture far too early.”
“I imagine that when the framers of the Constitution recommended the age of 70 for our justices of appeal, it was at a time when it was thought that 70-year-olds would have lost their mental acuity, their energy and drive and would be ready to retire to their rocking chairs. But that was then. Since then, there’s been amazing advancements in medicine, extending the life expectancy of men and women, we now have a new era of 70-year-olds who still have mental and physical energy and are still able to use the knowledge acquired due to many years on the bench, for the continued benefit of the judiciary. Justice Blackman is one of those.”
Justice Blackman, prior to his appointment in March 2008 as a resident appellate justice, was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Barbados in 1970. He became a partner in the law firm of Carrington & Sealy in 1971 and in 1987 was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Justice Blackman acted as a judge of the High Court of Barbados on a number of occasions between November 1996 and November 2000. From April 2001 to May 2003, he was a judge of the Supreme Court of Belize. In June 2003, he was appointed a judge of the High Court of Barbados.
Prior to assuming judicial office, Justice Blackman was active in the corporate community life of Barbados where he served as an Independent member of the Senate of Barbados from 1986 to 1990 and as president of the Barbados Bar Association from 1983 to 1986.
“I’ve found Justice Blackman to have an incisive, inquisitive and analytical legal mind and this coupled with a wealth of knowledge and experience, made him a valuable asset to the court” Justice Allen said, adding that Justice Blackman was also the court’s “world and legal news guru.”
“Justice John is the opposite in personality to Justice Blackman,” she added.
“He is as quiet and reserved as Justice Blackman is precarious. But although quiet and reserved, he is extremely insightful and intellectually, very competent. When Justice John asked a question or made a statement in court, everyone stops to listen because whenever he speaks, what he says has been thoroughly considered and is well articulated.”
Justice John was called to the Bar of England and Wales as a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in July, 1972. He served in private practice in Trinidad from 1972 to 1994. In 1994, Justice John was appointed a puisne judge of the High Court of Justice of Trinidad and Tobago.
He also served as a justice of the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago from July, 2002 until June, 2009.
During her tenure as appellant president, Justice Allen said both Justices Blackman and Conteh were apart of presiding panels that decided “many novel and complex issues as diverse as the property rights of same-sex couples, the black-hole in contract law, third party claims under the Road Traffic Act, the death penalty and freedom of religion, to name a few.”
Yesterday’s third honouree, Justice Isaacs, ruled that the controversial 2011 amended law on mandatory minimums for possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply was unconstitutional in September of this year.
He received his primary and secondary education at St Anne’s High School in New Providence and then at Cornwall College in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Justice Isaacs was called to the Bahamas Bar in 1984.
He also entered the Office of the Attorney General where he served for 13 years as a prosecutor, and civil litigator. He rose to the post of assistant director of legal affairs, a post he held until his appointment as chief magistrate in January, 1997. He took office as an acting justice of the Supreme Court in September, 2000 and was appointed a justice in 2002.
“I extend congratulations to Justice Isaacs, on his elevation and welcome him to the Court of Appeal and I’m confident that he will find appellate work most challenging and that he will be very happy here,” Justice Allen said.
“I had the great pleasure of serving with Justice Isaacs in the Supreme Court for some 10 years and know his commitment to hard-work, his passion for the law and his love for the country and his continuous quest for excellence.”
Justices Blackman, John and Isaacs expressed their gratitude for the kind remarks and well-wishers from the legal community, family, friends and the general public.