Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is “disappointed and distressed” at Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ lengthy delay in filling the post of Chief Justice.
“I am disappointed and distressed that the vacancy has not been filled and so should the community as it should have been filled a long time ago,” he told The Tribune yesterday.
Asked for a response, Erica Wells, communications director in the Office of the Prime Minister, said a person has been identified and agreed upon for the role. “An announcement will come shortly,” she said.
“The Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins will continue to act until an appointment is made but we’ve had discussions with her already.”
Denise Lewis-Johnson, vice president of the Bar Association and Wayne Munroe, member of the Bar Council, also revealed yesterday that Dr Minnis consulted the council last month on his Chief Justice pick.
They said they are satisfied with who the prime minister has chosen. They suggested it may take awhile before the appointee officially takes office because the person will need time to wind up his/her current affairs.
Noting Bar officials were critical of the confirmation delay for former Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs, Mr Munroe said that is now history.
“The issue,” he said, “now turns to the appointment of his replacement and what we can say is this, the prime minister is not constitutionally bound to consult us but to his credit he consulted the Bar and we gave him a view on the question that was asked of us.
“I can understand why the Chief Justice taking the chair might not take the chair this month or next month,” he added. “There are some practical issues. If the Chief Justice comes from the judiciary, there may be issues about winding up affairs in that part of the judiciary. If the Chief Justice comes from private practice, there are issues of winding up the practice. Based on the consultations, I understand the need for time.”
Mrs Lewis-Johnson added: “From Bar Council we understand and accept the need for delay. We appreciate there was no legal obligation for us to be consulted and we appreciate having been consulted.”
Neither could say when Dr Minnis made his decision and when the countdown began for his choice to wind up his/her affairs.
The delays in filling the substantive chief justice post are without precedent in the modern era.
The gap between Sir Hartman’s departure from office and Justice Isaacs’ promotion to the role is the largest gap of its kind in the post-independence era. The gap in having someone succeed Justice Isaacs as the substantive office holder is close to being at least the second largest of its kind in the post-independence era, though the circumstances are unique since Justice Isaacs was the first in the modern era to die while in office.
According to Supreme Court records, it has on average taken mere days for the transition from one substantive holder of the office to another to take place.