CCJ to hear first Belize appeal on Monday

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by Caribbean News Now Staff

BELMOPAN, Belize — The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will hear the first appeal from Belize on Monday, and it will be an appeal that has regional interest and perhaps will create Caribbean jurisprudence, since it involves misfeasance or alleged misconduct by government ministers.

The appeal was filed by two ex-ministers of government, Florencio Marin, Sr. and Joe Coye, after the current Dean Barrow administration took them to court for nearly a million dollars in damages as part of a misfeasance lawsuit.

The Belize government initiated the suit against the two former ministers for $924,056, which the attorney general claimed government had lost in the sale of 56 acres of land.

Former Chief Justice Abdul Conteh dismissed the government’s case after he raised a technical question of whether the government was pursuing the right kind of claim against the former ministers.

The former chief justice ruled that the attorney general cannot file a misfeasance action in the Supreme Court, but could have pursued the route of filing a malfeasance claim for criminal sanctions in the Magistrate’s Court.

The attorney general successfully appealed to the Belize Court of Appeal, which ordered that the Supreme Court hear and determine the case filed by the government.

The two former ministers then appealed to the CCJ, which has replaced the Privy Council as the final court for Belize.

The appellants’ attorneys, as well as lawyers for the respondents (the Belize government), had a pretrial hearing via teleconference.

The president of the CCJ, Michael de la Bastide, is reported in the Amandala newspaper as saying, "I think this is a matter of great public importance — that is whether the members of a government which has replaced by another government are liable to be sued by the attorney general on behalf of the state for loss which they have allegedly caused the state by their misconduct — or their misfeasance to use the technical word — while they were in office."

"This is a matter that I am sure is not only of great importance (I would have thought) to the people of Belize, but indeed to the people of this region," he added.

He noted that a CCJ ruling "…would be describing what the law is finally for a least some of the countries in CARICOM" and particularly for Barbados and Guyana, which are the only other two nations to have accepted the CCJ’s full appellate jurisdiction.

Four Belizean lawyers will travel to Port of Spain for Monday’s hearing.

Dr Elson Kaseka and Magali Marin-Young are appearing for the ex-ministers, while Lois Young SC and senior crown counsel Nigel Hawke of Guyana will represent the attorney general of Belize.

It is understood that the entire panel will sit to hear this important appeal: President de la Bastide, Justices Jacob Wit, Desiree Bernard, Adrian Saunders and Rolston Nelson.

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