By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
CHIEF Justice Brian Moree says he understands the Bahamas Bar Association’s calls for greater transparency in the country’s judge selection process, telling The Tribune that to do so would ensure a level playing field.
BBA President Kahlil Parker, at the start of the legal year last month, called for a transparent and merit-based process for the selection of judges and judicial officers.
Chief Justice Moree said he is prepared to sit with Mr Parker and his colleagues to engage in dialogue on the issue.
“I heard Mr Parker and he has expressed views that I think have been held by many persons for quite a long period of time,” the chief justice said in a recent interview.
“I would simply say this: the way in which judges are appointed in the Bahamas now is governed by the Constitution, so any fundamental change in that process would require the government to look at the Constitution.
“I certainly understand that the view of the bar as communicated by its president with regard to the transparency of the process. It’s always good to increase that as much as one can and in order to ensure there is a level playing field. I think those are fundamentally sound and reasonable observations.”
He continued: “How it translates into the actual legal position of the Constitution is a matter for the policy makers. There is a Judicial Legal Services Commission, which is an independent constitutional commission that appoints magistrates and judges in the Supreme Courts.
“Judges in the Court of Appeal are appointed by the prime minister through the usual constitutional mechanism. You know, the governor general acting on the advice of the prime minister, so that’s how we do it at the moment.
“I have indicated to the president that I am prepared to sit down with him and his colleagues to discuss their ideas and certainly to engage in any dialogue on that subject.”
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the way things are currently done, Chief Justice Moree said.
“If the question is, ‘could the process be improved’ I think that there is certainly a reasonable case to make that we should look at how we are appointing judges and we should see whether there is some consensus on a better way of doing it.
“I think the way we are doing it now has served the country well. Judges have security of tenure, which is very important to their independence.
“…But it’s always good in the development of a country to figure out and sit back and say what has been happening has worked well for us, but can it be improved now in 2020.
“I am certainly prepared to engage in the dialogue on that basis not because what has happened has failed. I don’t think that would be a correct premise at all, but it’s always good to look at it and see whether things can be improved going forward as the country develops and as we become more mature in the context of our political development.”
In his address during the start of the legal year, Mr Parker said the pathway to the bench and senior legal office in this country must be meritocratic, straight and narrow, and it must also be transparent and accessible to all.
“There are members of the bar and bench qualified and ready to serve their country and all they want for is a reasonable and fair opportunity to be considered,” he said at the time.