By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRESS Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday there is no timeline for when Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will appoint a chief justice.
His comment came as a small protest planned by a senior magistrate highlighting Dr Minnis' failure to appoint a substantive chief justice was held yesterday.
Senior Magistrate Derence Rolle Davis had urged his colleagues to meet at the Supreme Court yesterday at 10am, abandoning their schedules for the day to fight the "ongoing disregard for justice, fairness and integrity".
He was joined yesterday by a handful of attorneys as well as well as another magistrate.
Responding to attorney Wayne Munroe, who told The Tribune last week Dr Minnis should have been prepared to name a new chief justice soon after Sir Hartman Longley retired last year, Mr Newbold said Dr Minnis was not caught off guard by Mr Longley's retirement but that the decision of when to appoint the new chief justice is "his call".
Stephen Isaacs was sworn in as acting chief justice last December.
"The prime minister did what he thought he had to do and when he decides he has to do something else he will do that," Mr Newbold said. "Whether or not it is unprecedented, nothing is hurt, the judiciary, conduct of the business of law, nothing is shortchanged or hurt by the fact that this is not chief justice, no acting in front of it. Nothing is stopped from functioning because that is not the case."
However, critics say so long as an acting chief justice exists without a substantive officeholder, it raises questions about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
It can create the appearance that eligible candidates have to audition for the top role.
The Bahamas Bar Association, in a letter to Attorney General Carl Bethel last week, expressed "deep-seated concern and alarm" that Dr Minnis has not recommended someone for the substantive chief justice post.
"Article 95 (1) of the Constitution may be prayed in aid of the decision to appoint an acting chief justice," the letter, written by Bar President Kahlil Parker, said. "However, maintenance of the intended and proper constitutional order requires that a suitable qualified person be appointed to the office of chief justice and assume the functions forthwith.
"It is neither my intention, nor my role, to lecture one as learned as you (Carl Bethel) in constitutional matters and varied requirements of the rule of law. It is however my duty, as chairman of the Bar Council and president of the Bahamas Bar Association, to speak out on behalf (of) the legal profession and the wider public with regard to the administration of justice."