July 12, 2004 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull restated his long-standing support for the establishment of a territorial supreme court on Monday in a Government House release.
The Senate Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Committee took testimony last Thursday on a bill that would create the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, as well as change the name of the Territorial Court to the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands and set up a Judicial Nominating Commission. Those testifying concerning the creation of an appellate court expressed support for the idea.
(See "Witnesses All in Favor of a Territorial Appeals Court".)
The release noted that the governor in his 2003 State of the Territory address had stated that "the Virgin Islands is currently the only jurisdiction under the United States flag that does not have its own appellate court to interpret its laws." He termed the premise that local courts should interpret their own laws "a basic foundation of democratic government" and said the creation of an appellate court "will be a significant milestone in the territory's quest for greater self-determination."
However, according to the release, Turnbull objects to having a judicial council present a slate of nominees "from which the governor would make selections to the supreme court."
"The governor should be free to make nominations of qualified candidates from the entire legal community and ask the advice and consent of the Legislature for the nominees," he said.
The governor noted that he was a delegate to all four of the territory's constitutional conventions, starting in 1964, and supported the establishment of a V.I. supreme court at all of them. He pointed out that Congress nearly two decades ago authorized the creation of a territorial appellate court.
"Guam, acting pursuant to that same authority, established its supreme court in 1996," he said. "We in the Virgin Islands should now avail ourselves of this very important authority conferred on us by the Congress."
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