Prime Minister should not be allowed to appoint judges, argues Sir Frederick
If retired Court of Appeal justice Sir Frederick Smith had his way, all legal judgments in Barbados would be returned within six months and any judges who were perceived to be “sleeping” on the bench would be dismissed forthwith.
The former Attorney General would also change the way that judges are appointed since, in his estimation, the current system was simply too “political”.
“When you come to the question of appointments, that is where the judiciary falls down. The Prime Minister should not be allowed to appoint judges,” Sir Frederick argued in an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
In fact, he was adamant that such appointments should be made by the country’s Judicial and Legal Services Commission “as presently comprised of the Chief Justice, the head of the Public Service Commission [and] one or two lawyers who had been judges themselves”.
“. . . Then you would be able to see who is a good lawyer and who is a bad lawyer,” he said.
“But once you have it political . . . and put prime ministers to appoint judicial officers, [they will] appoint [their] friends.”
The retired jurist also questioned the experience of some of the current judicial officers, complaining that “some of the people on the High Court [bench] never appeared in the High Court yet!”
“Some have never had any experience in challenging a jury, challenging nothing!”
“I mean they are intelligent enough to learn,” he told Barbados TODAY.
However, that did not satisfy his concern about the slow pace at which the wheels of justice were currently turning in the island.
Sir Frederick said he had already suggested to Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson that something must be done about bench sloths.
“I told the Chief Justice . . . a fellow does not give a [timely] judgment, send him home and say, ‘I giving you leave’,” said the 90-year-old retired jurist.
Sir Frederick, a former Member of Parliament for St Andrew who also led the Democratic Labour Party for two years while it was in Opposition in the 1970s, also maintained that “failing to give a judgment within six months should be a reason why a judge should be dismissed”, depending on the technicality.
“And I would of course give a balance to it by giving them clerks who can do the research and look up the law,” he added.
Sir Frederick further lamented that cases which could be dismissed almost immediately were being put back for inordinately long periods.
“I mean, the lawyer done talk and you got your idea . . . [so] let them go! Give the judgement so the person can know where they stand as far as that case is concerned,” he advised, pointing out that in cases where the parties were dissatisfied there was always “the Court of Appeal there for that”.