Pursuant to section 42(5) of the Constitution of Belize, Chapter 4 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2011 all legal proceedings for or against the Government of Belize (the “Government” or “State”), in the case of civil proceedings, are properly to be brought in the name of the Attorney General of Belize, who is the principal legal advisor of the Government.
What is a civil proceeding?
A civil proceeding begins where a claim (lawsuit) is initiated by one party against another where there is a dispute, with the purpose of having the Court decide the rights and remedies as between them, in matters relating to and including torts, contracts, real property, and family law.
In cases of civil claims brought for or against the Government, the Court will be asked to decide the rights and remedies where the dispute concerns torts, contracts, public and administrative law, including judicial review, and constitutional law. As such, the Litigation Department is required to competently represent the Government where civil proceedings are initiated for or against it.
Where civil proceedings are initiated for or against the Government, the Crown Counsel assigned to the Litigation Unit of the Attorney General’s Ministry will act as legal representative for the Government, as required by section 2(1) of the Law Officers Act, Chapter 26 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2011.
Government entities which a Crown Counsel will act as legal representative include Ministries, such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Natural Resources; Departments, such as the Belize Police Department, the Department of Environment and the Refugees Department; and governmental committees, such as the National Environmental Appraisal Committee.
What levels of Court are representations made for or on behalf of the Government?
Civil claims may be initiated in the Magistrate’s Court or the Supreme Court, depending on the value and or nature of the claim. Generally, claims with values of $15,000.00 or less are initiated in the Magistrate’s Court, while claims in excess of $15,000.00 are initiated in the Supreme Court.
In instances where a decision is appealed from the Supreme Court, the Crown Counsel will represent the Government at the Court of Appeal, and then the Caribbean Court of Justice, if the matter is further appealed. The Caribbean Court of Justice is the highest court in Belize, and any decision given by this court is final.