AG supports increasing retirement age for judges, not life appointment

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Removing the age limit at which judges of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court must retire is not something that Antigua and Barbuda’s Attorney General favours.

Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin is also the Minister responsible for Legal Affairs and Justice.

Instead, as government’s chief legal advisor, Benjamin believes the age limit can be moved up from 62 and 65 – which are the limits, respectively, for judges of the High Court and of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.

Speaking with OBSERVER media after the call was made by Queen’s Counsel Sir Gerald Watt and attorney Hugh Marshall Jr for judges to be able to serve for as long as they are in good health, Benjamin said: “I am of the opinion that the age of retirement for judges should be increased to age 75. I do not agree that they should be appointed for life. Seventy-five would be consistent with the retirement of judges who sit on the CCJ [Caribbean Court of Justice].”

Reflecting on the good work and recent retirement of the former president of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron and, before that, the retirement of the CCJ’s first president, Michael de la Bastide, Benjamin said, “There is no doubt that once a judge is in good health and his faculties unimpaired, experience is always of great benefit and often leads to a better appreciation of the law.”

On Monday, Sir Gerald and Marshall Jr. both spoke at a special sitting – aired live on the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court website – to reflect on the life and contributions of retired Justice Albert Redhead who died on March 4 and was laid to rest on Tuesday.

Sir Gerald labelled the age of retirement as “ridiculous”, stating that in small societies like the Eastern Caribbean, judges should be allowed to serve beyond 62/65 as long as they are in good health.

Marshall Jr. agreed, saying retirement at such an age is an “indictment on our jurisprudence.”

It is not the first time Sir Gerald has called for the age limit to be removed or altered.

Back in 2012, he said the retirement age for judges in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) region has been putting a strain on those serving the judiciary, thus causing a shortage of judges and a backlog in the system.

He was at the time addressing a farewell sitting for the then OECS Chief Justice Hugh Rawlins.

Sir Gerald, now 80, is a former Attorney General and current Speaker of the Antigua and Barbuda House of Representatives. He suggested increasing the retirement age by at least 10 years for High Court judges who retire at 62, and for the Chief Justice who retires at 65.

To support his call, he referenced UK Judge Lord Denning who retired from the judiciary at 83 after 38 years on the bench.

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