We quote with approval the statement in the advance copy of the column of former MP Philip Galanis on the question of the choice of a Chief Justice. The press has indicated that Brian Moree, the now head of McKinney Bancroft and Hughes law firm is the name selected to become Chief Justice. Here is the case as outlined by Mr. Galanis:
Appointing a Supreme Court Chief Justice
The current administration is gun-shy when it comes to appointing Supreme Court Chief Justices. We observed this with the last Chief Justice who the Prime Minister took forever to appoint. In fact, when Justice Isaacs finally assumed the position, he served for only a very short time before his untimely passing.
We are again faced with a void in the office and, again, the Prime Minister has failed to fill the position in a timely manner, although it is a public secret that he has made his choice but has not yet publicly communicated it. This is unfortunate on two fronts.
First, it is fundamentally wrong for the substantive position to be vacant for as long as it has been. Secondly, if the person who the Prime Minister has selected is the individual whose name has been the subject of “semi-public” discussions in the legal fraternity and the cocktail circuit, we question the Prime Minister’s wisdom in his selection.
There are several important questions that the Bahamian people would like to have answered regarding this matter. One: is the person selected a sitting judge? If not, why not? Is it not possible for the Prime Minister to select the next Chief Justice from among the ranks of sitting Supreme Court Justices? Or does the Prime Minister lack confidence in the current Supreme Court Justices so that he has to go outside the courts to transplant an attorney, notwithstanding his candidate’s outstanding credentials, to the top position on the Judiciary?
Two: is the Prime Minister satisfied that his candidate will sincerely demonstrate a level of compassion for the dispossessed and underprivileged among us, or will he be inclined to favour those who are more highly placed and privileged in society? This is critically important because an effective Chief Justice, more than anyone else in the Judiciary, must inspire confidence that justice will be dispensed fairly for all, regardless of race, social standing, and financial worth.
Third: has the Prime Minister’s candidate demonstrated a history of public service to the Bahamian people, or has his candidate spent all of his professional life in private practice amassing a great fortune? For the Prime Minister to ignore those Supreme Court Justices who have demonstrated years of public service in the Judiciary is an affront to them and to their contribution to national service and development. If the Prime Minister’s candidate was really interested in rendering public service to the Bahamian people, why is he only now, in the twilight of his professional career, willing to accept the highest judicial honour?
Fourth: how long will the Prime Minister’s candidate be able to hold the high office of Chief Justice because of constitutional age limitations? Is it financially prudent to saddle the Bahamian taxpayers with an annual pension of $120,000 for life for a person who will serve a very short time as the Chief Justice? Is it prudent for our VAT money to be so wastefully spent?
Fifth: is the Prime Minister’s candidate primarily motivated by the attraction of receiving a knighthood that accompanies the appointment? Enquiring minds would like to know what the true motives are.
If he is not very thoughtful and careful, this could be a very stupid decision taken by the Prime Minister.