CCJ Rules Belize Supreme Court Judge is to be considered for Investigation

Port of Spain, Trinidad. In the case of Dean Boyce, British Caribbean Bank Ltd, and Lord
Michael Ashcroft KCMG v the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Caribbean Court of
Justice (CCJ) today issued a judgment stating a 2012 complaint against Mr. Justice Awich, now a
Judge in the Court of Appeal, should be properly considered by the Judicial and Legal Services
Commission (JLSC). This paves the way to allow the JLSC to refer the complaint to the Belize
Advisory Council which would then investigate whether the judge should be removed from office.
The matter arose from a dispute as to whether the conduct of Mr. Justice Awich during his tenure
as a judge of the Supreme Court of Belize is relevant to his removal from office as a Justice of
Appeal. Mr. Justice Awich was appointed as a Judge in the Court of Appeal on 24 April 2012 and
was sworn in in May of that year.
In a joint letter dated 17 July 2012, Mr. Dean Boyce, British Caribbean Bank Ltd and Lord Michael
Ashcroft KCMG made a request to the JLSC that Mr. Justice Awich should be investigated by the
Belize Advisory Council. This request detailed allegations of lack of judicial ‘acumen’, delays in
judgment writing and lack of timeliness in the delivery of judgments whilst Justice Awich was a
Judge of the Supreme Court of Belize. The appellants, in that letter, suggested that it should be
considered whether the Judge should be removed from office for inability and/or misbehaviour.
Objections to his appointment had previously been raised by the Bar Association of Belize and the
Leader of the Opposition.
The JLSC refused the appellant’s request on the basis that the complaint was directed to matters
relating to the performance of the judge in his previous position of Justice of the Supreme Court
and therefore had no relation to his present office of Justice of Appeal.
The decision of the Commission was successfully appealed at the Supreme Court of Belize but the
Court of Appeal subsequently set aside the decision of the trial judge. That court held that the

complaints made against Mr. Justice Awich as a Supreme Court judge were not relevant to any
consideration of his removal from office as a Justice of Appeal.
The matter then moved to the CCJ where the Bench considered Section 102 of the Constitution of
Belize which provides for the removal from office of a Justice of Appeal for misbehaviour and/or
inability. The court held that the section was clear that the JLSC’s role was strictly to consider
whether the complaints were serious and, if so, to refer them to the Belize Advisory Council, whose
role was to investigate the matter and to advise the Governor-General whether the judge should be
removed.
The CCJ said that a judicial officer’s past conduct, depending on the circumstances, could bear
relevance on the question of whether removal from office was warranted. The Judicial and Legal
Services Commission was therefore bound to determine whether the complaint was grave enough
to warrant referral and the JLSC ought not to have dismissed the request without proper
consideration.
The Court also provided guidance on the issue of what constitutes ‘inability’ and ‘misbehaviour’.
The judgment stated that the term inability referred to the lack of capacity to perform the duties of
the office at the requisite level of competence and skill. A judge who was unable to write and
deliver judgments on time or who was often overturned on appeal may lack the ability to do his
job. The CCJ noted that a judge may be unable to perform the functions of the office at one level
of the judiciary but be perfectly capable of performing the functions at another level.
Misbehaviour would mean a judge has serious character flaws that would render him or her unfit
to hold office. Conduct of a criminal nature, corruption, and serious moral failings could amount
to misbehaviour. So too “may any conduct, whether falling within the categories above or not,
which in the view of a wide cross section of reasonable members of the society brings the judiciary
into public ridicule or opprobrium.”
The Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal of Belize and in setting aside its judgment, made an
order referring the Complaint back to the JLSC. The Court also awarded costs at the CCJ, and the
courts below, to the Appellants. The full judgment of the Court and a judgment summary are
available on the Court’s website at www.ccj.org.