General — 14 October 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks
Franz Parke, Barrow’s Belize Court of Appeal appointee, has puzzling past

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Oct. 11, 2017–The law firm of Courtenay Coye LLP filed a fixed date claim at the Supreme Court Registry today on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño (People’s United Party (PUP)), who is challenging the constitutionality of Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow’s appointment of Jamaican-American Franz Parke to sit as Justice of Appeal on the Belize Court of Appeal.

In Hon. Briceño’s claim, which named the Attorney General as the defendant, he contends that Parke is unqualified to serve on the Belize Court of Appeal.

Parke is a former classmate of Prime Minister Barrow, both of them completing the Norman Manley Law School course in 1985. Parke remained in Jamaica for 5 years, until 1990, when he migrated to the United States, where he has been living and practicing law ever since.

The Parke appointment is also opposed by the Belize Bar Association, although they are not listed as a party to Hon. Briceño’s constitutional challenge.

Parke first came in contact with Belize’s Judiciary when PM Barrow appointed him to serve on the Court of Appeal in June 2015. That appointment, however, was only for the June session of the court, when Parke signed on at the Governor General’s office along with newly appointed Justice of Appeal, Muricio Ducille.

At the end of the June session of the Court of Appeal, Appeal justice Christopher Blackman, who was appointed in October 2014, told an Amandala court reporter that he would not be returning to serve on the court. Justice of Appeal Blackman’s departure created the vacancy that PM Barrow wants to fill with his law school classmate and friend, Parke.

Opposition to his appointment on the Court of Appeal from the Leader of the Opposition and the Bar Association is not the only river Parke has had to cross. Reports are that there was an incident in the US that placed him under a federal investigation in October 2000.

Parke’s legal history in the US goes back as far as the turn of the new century. An article in the Sun Sentinel of October 25, 2000, under the caption “Miami-Dade Prosecutor Under Scrutiny,” written by Jose Dante Parra Herrera, is reproduced below:

“A senior prosecutor at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is on administrative leave pending the result of a joint state and federal investigation, the spokesman for the office confirmed on Tuesday.

“Franz Parke, a supervisor in the office’s felony division, has been on leave since Sept. 8 while the investigation continues, said Don Ungurait, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney. Ungurait would not elaborate on the focus of the investigation or the agencies involved.

“ ‘The reason we’re not commenting is because we’re trying to preserve the integrity of the investigation,’ Ungurait said.

“ ‘This relates to a joint state-federal matter,’ Ungurait said, adding that ‘Parke has not been arrested.’

“Mike Flint, chief of investigations for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Miami, said he could not comment. A federal official said the Drug Enforcement Administration is aware of the investigation, but could not confirm whether that agency is actively involved. Parke, 50, of Boynton Beach, could not be reached at his home late Tuesday night. Ungurait would not say whether Parke had hired a lawyer.

“Parke is one of 20 felony division chiefs. Like other division chiefs, Parke supervises three prosecutors and handles the division’s major cases.

“ ‘This is an open and pending matter, and we hope he will behave responsibly,’ Ungurait said.”

There was no further information on the US investigation of Parke, and apparently, there was no follow-up story in the Sun Sentinel, as Parke slipped back into obscurity in his private practice.

Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the Bar Association in Belize has been able to shed more light on the US investigation, which also included the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

No date has been set for Hon. Briceño’s constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court.

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