BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 19, 2022– On Monday the Hon. Madam Chief Justice (Ag.) Michelle Arana, and Attorney General Hon. Magali Marin-Young both confirmed that new justices would be added to serve in the Criminal and Civil divisions of the Belize Supreme Court. The following day, four legal professionals from the Commonwealth were sworn in. Ricardo Sandcroft, a Jamaican national, and three women—Suzan Lamb, Genevieve Chabot, and Patricia Farnese— were sworn in by CJ Arana to serve on our high court for an initial term of one year.
These four new judges, which include a former acting Master of Chambers for the Eastern Caribbean Court, a Harvard-educated human rights expert, a former member of the Australian Parliament, and a renowned legal professor and expert in environmental law, bring a wealth of legal knowledge to our bench in Belize. In 2019, the number of judges available to review Supreme Court cases was reduced considerably due to the departure of five judges from the Supreme Court—three resigning from the Criminal Division, and two reaching retirement age in the Civil Division. This led to a build-up of additional cases on top of the backlog that had already existed.
President of the Bar Association, Illiana Swift, explained, ”At the end of 2020, the legal system was in a dire state, with a lack of judges at all three levels, antiquated laws, and severely deficient registries. The Bar has been encouraged by steps taken by the Office of the Attorney General to breathe life back into the legal system.”
During her presentation at the opening of the legal year, Attorney General Marin-Young stated, “We have, in the interim, secured the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat for four temporary judges who are scheduled to arrive this month to assist with the backlog of cases in both the Civil and Criminal divisions. With their help, we are hoping to clear the backlog of cases and to enable this court to have judges appointed on a permanent basis, once we have restructured the Judiciary.”
Ricardo Sandcroft is a children’s rights specialist with years of experience working in both the civil and criminal division in our sister island, Jamaica. He has worked for years in the area of child law and served as the acting Master of Chambers of the Eastern Caribbean Court.
Patricia Farnese holds an LLM from the University of Arkansas and is a well-known legal professor from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. She also holds an LLB from that university and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph. Her areas of expertise include environmental law, property law, animal health, and wildlife law.
Suzan Lamb served as judicial coordinator and legal officer in the court of Cambodia. She was also a member of the Australian Parliament, representing the Australian Labor Party from 2016 up until 2019, when she lost her seat.
Genevieve Chabot worked as a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa recently but served as the Deputy Chief Commissioner on the Canadian Human Rights Commission. She has practiced civil litigation and is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
These new justices join CJ Michelle Arana (ag.), Justice Lisa Shoman and Sonya Young in the Civil Division, and Justice Antoinette Moore, Herbert Lord, and Francis Cumberbatch in the Criminal Division. They will be added to the bench to bring the high court back to its full complement of judges, for one year at least.