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Thursday 27 June 2019
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Mendes: Recommendations can democratise judges' appointments

PRESIDENT of the Law Association of TT (LATT) Douglas Mendes SC has expressed hope that recommendations from a Committee on Judicial Appointments will assist in democratising the process of appointing judges.

He was speaking on Friday at the official handover of the final report from the committee to the LATT at the association's offices.

He said last year the association took the decision to appoint the committee to look at the system of appointing judges at the High Court and Court of Appeal. Mendes said the recommendations could provide a greater amount of transparency in the process.

"The intention is to persuade the legislature to take on board the recommendations made by this committee."

Mendes said some recommendations required amendments to the Constitutions while others could be taken on board the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC).

The report from the seven member committee, chaired by former judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice Desiree Bernard, included recommendations for the JLSC to be replaced by a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) established under the Constitution and this JAC would have responsibility for the appointment, promotion, transfer and the removal of judges of the Court of Appeal. The JAC would comprise seven members: the Chief Justice as chairman; a retired judge of the Court of Appeal; a senior attorney of not less than 15 years call in active practice nominated by the council of the Law Association; an attorney of not less than 10 years call not in active practice and appointed by the President; a human resources professional; and two members drawn from outstanding people from civil society, academia or national organisations representative of business of community interests.

Mendes said other issues being discusses include the extension of the retirement age from 65 to 70 and reduction of the period a judge can practice after leaving the bench from ten years to five years.

"It widens the pool of senior persons interested in coming on the bench."

He said if implemented the recommendations will improve the process and instil greater confidence in the public that judges appointed would be more representative of society.

Mendes said the council of the Law Association will review the report and intend to persuade the legislature to take on board some of the recommendations. He added the report will be posted shortly on the LATT website.

Committee member and economist Dr Terrence Farrell spoke on the recommendation for psychometric testing saying that being a job puts a lot of pressure on someone psychology and the test would ensure the applicant understand what type of pressures would be faced,

"The applicant themselves might decide this is not the job for me."

He also said there was a need to reintroduce the temporary judges system and for an orientation process for new judges.

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