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The Supreme Court
Chapter 7 of the Constitution provides for a Supreme Court consisting of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Justice is the head of the court and is appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Where the office of Chief Justice is vacant or where the Chief Justice is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his office, those functions are performed by one of the judges appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The judges are appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. Judges hold a special office under the Constitution and retire at the age of 65. Their salaries are secured by being made a charge on the Consolidated Fund. A person may be appointed to act in the office of an Appeal justice or High Court judge where there is a vacancy or where the business of the court requires this.
The Constitution allows appeals from the High Court to the Court of Appeal as of right on decisions concerning:
• the interpretation of the Constitution arising in civil or criminal proceedings
• the fundamental rights of citizens
• the appointment of senators or the election of members of the House of Representatives
• the punishment of people for contempt of court.
Appeals from the Court of Appeal may be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as of right in final decisions in:
• civil cases where the value of the dispute involves more than $1,500, or concerns property rights valued over $1,500
• cases dissolving or nullifying marriages
• civil or criminal proceedings concerning interpretation of the Constitution
• disciplinary proceedings concerning attorneys-at-law.
Appeals can also take place to the Privy Council in cases where the Court of Appeal gives permission in civil cases involving great general or public importance.
The Privy Council itself can also give special leave in certain civil and criminal cases for appeals to it.
Judicial and Legal Service Commission
The Constitution also establishes the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. The members of the commission comprise the Chief Justice and the chairman of the Public Service Commission and three other members appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. At least one of the appointed members must hold or have held judicial office in a Commonwealth country. The other two must have legal qualifications.
The Commission has power to:
• appoint people to offices in the Judicial and Legal Service
• promote, transfer or confirm such people
• remove and exercise disciplinary control over people whom it appoints.
Before the commission makes an appointment to the offices of Solicitor General, Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Director of Public Prosecutions, Registrar General or Chief State Solicitor it must consult the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister signifies his/her objection to a proposed appointment to these offices the Commission cannot appoint that person.
This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem you should consult a legal adviser.
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