The Court System in the RED

+ Brandon Fuller

The government of Honduras recently passed a constitutional statute that defines the governance structure for a new special reform zone, known locally as la Región Especial de Desarrollo (RED). The statute stipulates that the courts in the RED are independent from the existing courts in Honduras. Judicial nominees in the RED will be subject to the approval of the Honduran National Congress, but the RED government is free to draw on judicial nominees from all over the world, giving it access to a relatively deep pool of judicial talent.

This is the approach that China used when it resumed sovereign control of Hong Kong and needed to establish a new Supreme Court for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. To guarantee the credibility and independence of this new body, China, through a treaty with Britain, agreed that justices for this new court could be recruited from other common law jurisdictions. The Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong includes judges from New Zealand and South Africa, as well a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Australia.

The constitutional statute also gives the RED the power to negotiate a cooperative agreement that anchors the RED courts in the successful judicial system of a partner country. This is the approach that Mauritius used after declaring independence, retaining the ability to appeal Mauritian cases to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. This innovative legal structure, along with the use of special zones, helped Mauritius to become one of the most successful economies in Africa.

Honduras recently established diplomatic relations with Mauritius and the Mauritian Supreme Court has agreed in principle to serve as an appeal court for the judicial system in the RED. The governments of Mauritius and Honduras believe that an internationally trusted court of appeal can help to ensure would-be RED investors and residents that contracts and rights will be respected and enforced, thereby accelerating development in the new reform zone.

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