In most, if not all functioning democracies, there are three branches/ structures of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
The judiciary, although they have no ‘influence over either the sword or the purse’, is nevertheless of supreme importance for, to quote words of Baron de Montesquieu, ‘There is as yet no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from legislative power and the executive power.’
Although it is self-evident, for the purpose of this letter, I would remind that members of the Judiciary cannot appoint themselves; so it stands to reason that someone/some authority must appoint them.
In watching the debate in our Parliament, some have argued against leaving the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), and have advanced the fact that our (West Indian) politicians are part of the process (politicians are part of the process in appointing the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission, the body charged with appointing Caribbean Court of Justice judges) and can therefore supposedly wield undue influence on the judges.
What is remarkable about this stand is that in the United Kingdom, appointments to the JCPC are made by the Sovereign on the advice of the prime minister, and are for life.
The average citizen may not necessarily know/care how judicial officers are appointed, but I’m sure those debating the matter in our Parliament know, or at least ought to know, about the practice of judicial appointments in the United Kingdom. So, are they saying British politicians are a breed apart, pure as the driven snow? I would just mention ‘Partygate’ and comment no further.
Where I think the concern should be is on the calibre of our judges, for in my respectful view, the character of the judges matters far more than how they were appointed. I’m loath to use names because then the focus is on personality instead of the issue at hand; but in this instance, I will.
Justice Gillian Lucky was a politician, and is now a Justice of Appeal at the Supreme Court of Judicature for Trinidad and Tobago. In my mind, Justice Lucky is one of our finest jurists; she is principled, fair, reasoned and knowledgeable and; in my respectful view, can hold her own against any jurist, in any part of the world.
We as citizens must/should make ourselves more knowledgeable about this issue of the CCJ versus the JCPC; and do not simply leave it up to our politicians, who may or may not have altruistic motives in saying the things they say.
Remember the saying, knowledge is power. To reinforce this, I will end with a quote attributed to Robert McKee, author, lecturer and story consultant: ‘No civilisation, including Plato’s, has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much.’