Chief Justice (Fiji)

Chief Justice (Fiji)

The Chief Justice is Fiji's highest judicial officer. He or she is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is required by the Constitution to consult the Leader of the Opposition. This does not give the Leader of the Opposition a veto, only the right to be consulted. The appointment is permanent, until the Chief Justice reaches the age of 70 years. At the discretion of the government, the retirement age may be waived until the Chief Justice reaches the age of 75 years; it may be extended once more, by a maximum of three years. No person, therefore, may hold the office of Chief Justice after reaching the age of 78.

The present Chief Justice is Daniel Fatiaki, who succeeded Sir Timoci Tuivaga in 2002. In the wake of the military coup that deposed the Qarase government on 5 December 2006, Commodore Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Acting President of Fiji, sent Fatiaki on leave. []

According to of the Fijian Constitution, The Chief Justice presides over both the Supreme Court and the High Court, but is disqualified from presiding over, or even sitting on, the Court of Appeal. This stipulation is designed to give the Appeal Court a measure of independence from the other two courts.

These constitutional arrangements were temporarily overturned in 2000, following a counter-coup by Commodore Frank Bainimarama to neutralize a civilian coup d'état instigated by George Speight. Chief Justice Tuivaga recognized the Interim Military Government that took office and abrogated the Constitution on 29 May, and drafted the controversial Administration of Justice Decree that was immediately promulgated by the military administration. This decree abolished the Supreme Court, made the Chief Justice head of the Appeal Court, and raised the retirement age of the Chief Justice from 70 years to 75. These changes were reversed following a decision of the High Court to reinstate the Constitution on 15 November 2000, a decision upheld by the Appeal Court on 1 March 2001.

Like other judges, the Chief Justice does not have to be a Fijian citizen. When Tuivaga retired in 2002, there were calls from the Citizens Constitutional Forum (a pro-democracy, human rights organization) for a foreigner to be appointed, to recover the independence of the judiciary that had been seen to be politically compromised by the 2000 coup. The government disagreed, however, and appointed Daniel Fatiaki.

The following persons have held office as Chief Justice since Fiji became independent in 1970.

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