BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 4, 2017–Despite fierce opposition from several quarters, Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow went ahead and appointed his former law school classmate, Franz Parke, to the Belize Court of Appeal as a Justice of Appeal.
Less than two months after Parke was officially sworn in at a ceremony at the Belize House in Belmopan, however, he has tendered his resignation.
A government press release today made the announcement that, “The Office of the Prime Minister is in receipt of a copy of a letter sent to the Governor General, H.E. Sir Colville Young by Justice of Appeal Parke in which he tendered his resignation from the Belize Court of Appeal with immediate effect.”
The two-paragraph government press release ended, “The Office of the Prime Minister understands that Justice Parke made his decision in order to spare the Court any exposure that a trial on the issue of his tenure would create.”
The Jamaican-born Parke, who has been practicing law in the United States for five years after he graduated from the Norman Manley Law School in 1975, was thrust into the center of controversy when Barrow named him for the appointment to the Court of Appeal, replacing Appeal Justice Christopher Blackman, whose contract had not been renewed, presumably to make way for the Parke appointment.
Parke’s appointment was opposed by the Belize Bar Association and the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, who had also mounted a legal challenge to the appointment.
When Parke was appointed on October 16, Hon. Briceño told News5, “We have been very clear for some time that we believe that Mr. Parke does not meet the qualifications to be a justice of the Court of Appeal. His résumé is very uninspiring. We have seen that he has almost no experience in the Caribbean. He has left the Caribbean since 1980 to live in the United States, so he has no prior experience for us to be able to name him as that. We don’t believe that he meets the criteria that the Caribbean Court of Justice has set up. The Bar Association has pointed out that they cannot support his appointment.”
Attorney Eamon Courtenay, S.C., writing in the September 15 issue of Amandala, had this to say about Parke: “In summary, Mr. Parke’s professional experience is as follows: 5 years as a junior prosecutor in Jamaica; about 8 years in accounting, then 11 years doing criminal prosecution in Florida, followed by 16 years of private practice in Florida. So, of his 32 years of practicing law, only 5 was as a junior lawyer in a Caribbean jurisdiction and 27 as a Florida attorney-at-law.
“Mr. Parke has no judicial experience. Mr. Parke has no relevant experience practicing as an attorney-at-law in the Caribbean. So why has the Prime Minister chosen his former classmate for high judicial office in Belize? Is the Prime Minister’s former classmate qualified to be appointed of the Court of Appeal?”
In his article attorney Courtenay went on to further point out, “Mr. Franz Parke does not have an impressive curriculum vitae – he does not appear to have distinguished himself in any field of law. His curriculum vitae does establish that he is a Florida attorney-at-law who has significant experience in practicing law in Florida. But, that Florida experience is of little relevance and inapplicable here in Belize. But yet, he is about to be appointed to our Court of Appeal for five years.”
Notwithstanding the criticism against the appointment and a lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Barrow still stood by his man, insisting at a press conference he held near the end of September that his pick for the Court of Appeal “would make a fine Justice of Appeal.”
“Mr. Parke, who was a classmate of mine, extremely bright, came to law after he had already qualified as an accountant; had a Bachelor’s degree in accounting … He practiced in Jamaica for five years, where he is from, then he moved to the States, where he got yet another qualification; he did the JD, the American equivalent of our LLB, and practicing certificate, and he spent the rest of his professional life up to this point in the States, where his experience is completely variegated … the bulk of his experience is not in Belize, but in the US ….
“Well, listen, the US is a common law jurisdiction in the same way as Belize is now …. the fact that the bulk of Mr. Parke’s practicing experience has been in the United States, I do not see that as a disqualification … he was so entitled from 1975 … I am convinced that Franz, as bright as he is, and with all the experience, that he will make a fine Justice of Appeal,” PM Barrow said.
Now that Parke has resigned from the post, the legal challenge that the Leader of the Opposition has filed at the Supreme Court will most likely die a natural death.