BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Fri. Jan. 5, 2018– Despite concerns raised by the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), long-time United Democratic Party (UDP) favourite, Marilyn Williams, was today appointed to serve as a Supreme Court judge.
Her ascension to the office was witnessed by the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, whom she is to assist with the clearance of a backlog of criminal cases that await judgement. The ceremony was also attended by other judges of the Supreme Court, as well as relatives and friends of Williams.
Williams is expected to be a part of the ceremonial opening of the Supreme Court on Monday, January 8. Following the official opening of the new legal year, the new Justice of the Supreme Court is expected to begin sitting on cases.
Last March, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte had announced that the Supreme Court needed two judges. The posts were advertised not only in Belize, but in the wider Caribbean.
According to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Williams was selected by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), and not by him.
However, we must note that Barrow and Williams have had an extremely close relationship. In 2003, under Barrow’s leadership, Williams challenged the PUP’s then incumbent Albert area representative, Mark Espat. Records show that she only garnered 253 votes (14.4%), while Espat was re-elected with 1,482 votes (82.83%).
Since then, Williams, a trained attorney, has served in many capacities under the Barrow administration. From 2008 to 2013 she served as the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Observers say that there was nothing ground-breaking about her performance at the FIU.
Last year she was appointed to serve as the Chair of the Integrity Commission. Again, there was nothing remarkable about her time in office. With her promotion, that seat has become vacant.
The Prime Minister has gone on record to indicate that the post, Chair of the Integrity Commission, will be filled shortly, and that it won’t take another 5 years, as was previously the case.
Although Williams has received the green light to serve as a Supreme Court judge, her time in office may be marked by turbulence as the Opposition has questioned whether she has met the prerequisites to serve in the court.
Readers will recall that last year the Opposition mounted a legal challenge to the appointment of Court of Appeal justice Franz Parke, a former classmate and friend of PM Barrow, who vacated his seat a short while later, less than two months after assuming office.