A Draft of two unnumbered Articles, one on the Judicial Branch and one on the Protection of the Environment, of the Fifth Constitution of the Virgin Islands.
*These drafts are subject to further review by legal counsel.
Section 1. The judicial power of the Virgin Islands shall be vested in the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, and in such lower courts as may be created by law.
Section 2. The supreme court shall be the highest court of the Virgin Islands. It shall consist of a chief justice and no fewer than two associate justices and shall have appellate jurisdiction over all cases arising under this Constitution and laws of the Virgin Islands, and shall also have original jurisdiction to issue all writs necessary to the proper exercise of its jurisdiction, and such other appellate and original jurisdiction as may be provided by law. Decisions of the supreme court on questions arising under this Constitution and the laws of the Virgin Islands shall be final, except as Federal law may provide for review of such decisions by courts of the United States.
Section 3. There shall be a Judicial Nominating Committee comprised of nine members, whose terms shall be as provided by law. All justices and judges shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Legislature, but no person shall be appointed as a justice or judge who has not been nominated by the Judicial Nominating Committee.
a) Two members shall be appointed by the Governor of the Virgin Islands, one of whom shall not be a lawyer;
b) Two members shall be appointed by the Legislature, one of whom shall not be a lawyer;
c) One member shall be appointed by the Board of Governors of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, said member who shall have been engaged in the practice of law in the Virgin Islands for at least five successive years preceding his or her appointment;
d) Two members shall be appointed by the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands and shall be current or former judges or justices in a court of record in the Virgin Islands;
e) Two members shall be appointed by the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands and shall be current or former judges or justices in a court of record in the Virgin Islands;
f) Vacancies on the Judicial Nominating Committee shall be filled in the same manner in which the original appointment was made, and any person so appointed to fill a vacancy occurring other than upon the expiration of a prior term shall serve only for the remainder of the unexpired term of such person's predecessor;
g) Members of the Judicial Nominating Committee shall serve without compensation for services rendered in connection with their official duties on the committee;
h) The Judicial Nominating Committee shall choose annually, from among its members a Chairperson and such other officers as it may deem necessary and may adopt such rules of procedure consistent with this Article as may be necessary to govern the business of the committee;
i) The Judicial Nominating Committee shall act only at meetings called by the Chairperson or by a majority of the members held after ten day written notice has been given of such meeting to all members and such meetings may be closed to the public;
j) In the event of a vacancy in a position of justice or judge, the Judicial Nominating Committee shall, within sixty days of such vacancy, submit to the Governor, for possible nomination and appointment, a list of three persons for each vacancy. If more than one vacancy exists at a given time, the Judicial Nominating Committee shall submit lists in which no person is named more than once and the Governor may select more than one nominee from one list.
Section 4. There shall be a judicial commission established by law with the power to discipline, censure, suspend, remove for misconduct, or retire for disability any justice or judge of any court established by law. The commission members shall be comprised of the same individuals who sit on the Judicial Nominating Committee, and subsections (f)–(i) of Section 3 shall also apply to the judicial commission. Any decision of the judicial commission shall be appealable in a manner as provided by law. The position of any justice or judge suffering permanent disability shall be filled in accordance with law.
Section 5. The regular term of a justice of the supreme court shall be twelve years and the regular term of a judge of a lower court of the Virgin Islands shall be ten years.
Section 6. A justice of the supreme court and a judge of a lower court shall
(a) be a citizen of the United States and of the Virgin Islands;
(b) be a domiciliary of the Virgin Islands for not less than ten years immediately preceding his or her appointment;
(c) for appointment to the supreme court of the Virgin Islands, have practiced and been duly licensed to practice law, or have served as a judge in the Virgin Islands, for not less than 10 years immediately preceding his or her appointment; and for appointment to any lower court, have practiced and been duly licensed to practice law, or have served as a magistrate, for not less than five years immediately preceding his or her appointment.
Section 7 The salary and allowances of a justice or judge shall be provided by law, and may not be decreased during his or her tenure.
Section 8 No person who holds a judicial office in the Virgin Islands shall hold any other paid office, engage in the practice of law, or in the pursuit of business. Any justice or judge who files or announces his candidacy for elective office shall thereby forfeit his or her judicial office. These provisions shall apply equally to magistrates.
Section 9. The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands shall adopt rules consistent with this Constitution with respect to judicial matters in the courts of the Virgin Islands, including temporary disability, civil and criminal procedure, judicial ethics, and admission to, governance of and expulsion from the practice of law. Lower courts shall adopt rules for those courts, to the extent consistent with this Constitution and the rules adopted by the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands.
Section 10. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands shall be responsible for the administration of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands. The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court shall be responsible for the administration of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.
Section 5. The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands and the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands shall continue as the appellate court and the trial court of jurisdiction respectively in the same manner as existed prior to the date of adoption of this Constitution until and unless changed by law. The qualifications for justices and judges set forth in this Constitution shall not be retroactively applied to any sitting justice or judge of the Supreme or Superior Courts. All rules of the judicial system consistent with this Constitution and in effect upon the adoption of this Constitution shall continue or may be modified or terminated in the same manner as existed prior to the adoption of this Constitution until and unless changed by law or by rule.
An Agriculture/Mariculture Authority shall be established by law for acquiring lands for agricultural purposes, for the development of the marine science industry, for scien
tific research and development, production and management, and economic development of the industry for redistribution by lease to the people of the Virgin Islands for agriculture, homestead, or other related public purposes as provided by law.
The Virgin Islands shall establish a Land, Air and Water Preservation Commission to preserve its people, natural resources, protect its air, land, water, spiritual and medicinal plants and animals, through the development of a comprehensive plan, and shall further provide for the enjoyment of its natural beauty, cultural resources, economic viability and quality of life by the people of the Virgin Islands.
All beaches and shorelines of the Virgin Islands, including territorial cays and inlets shall be public and open to public access. Where access to a beach or shoreline is not available, the government shall, to the greatest extent possible, provide public access from a public road in perpetuity.
Submerged lands, filled and reclaimed lands in the Virgin Islands are public lands belonging collectively to the people of the Virgin Islands, and shall not be sold nor transferred. The Virgin Islands of the United States cannot be sold nor transferred.
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