Marston Gibson, Chief Justice
In a statement from Trinidad extracts which are published in the Nation and Barbados Today, the Chief Justice has said:
“I want to find out what is the Bar’s plan to tackle the growing instances of attorney dishonesty. The twitter in Barbados is that there are several attorneys who are in the same position as the attorney whose case is presently pending before the Court of Appeal,” he said.” [BU’s EMPHASIS]
BU stands to be corrected, but does the CJ not chair the panel of the Court of Appeal before whom this case, recently highlighted by BU has commenced and been adjourned?
If this is indeed the case, for the Chief Justice Gibson (CJ) to allude to it publicly in any way, far less in a press release/statement, is highly improper if he is sitting on the hearing. It is highly improper for any judge to allude in public to a case on which he is sitting – such statements can and must only come from the Bench. And the CJ, not only was not on the Bench, but out of jurisdiction. However, for the CJ, who is head of the Court of Appeal, to make such a statement, especially to the Press, is not only gross misconduct, but brings the courts into disrepute. That is grounds for dismissal from office.
.. a functioning judiciary underpins an orderly society …
We do not accept that our judiciary is tardy or indecisive. Rather, a distinction must be made between the judiciary and the administrative aspects of the justice system – Nation newspaper (June 14, 2014)
It is taboo for the local media to be hostile at the judiciary. BU has been one of the few voices highlighting glaring inefficiencies in our legal system – see Tales from the Courts. Barbados is a society that is respected by those on the outside because our attention to maintaining law and order, AND, a functioning judiciary underpins an orderly society.
Minister Donville Inniss’ public acknowledgement last week that our delinquent judiciary is affecting international investment in Barbados has come as no surprise to BU. Successive governments have allowed politics – like every other thing – to affect decision making in the judiciary. Now we have corroboration from the Minister of Commerce and International Business of situations where business is not coming to Barbados because of concerns about the judiciary. Lest we forget, attracting foreign direct investment is important to Barbados to pay our large import bill AND allows us to maintain our touted high standard of living. Our per capita income is the envy of many.
Unfortunately our leading local newspaper in its editorial quoted above felt to make the distinction between the Court Registry and the Judiciary. This is one of the reasons why Barbados continues to decline on the social and economic indicators index – the failure of the fourth estate to come to the public with clean hands. The Nation editorial conveys the notion that Chief Justice Marston Gibson and Judges have no say in the scheduling of cases and the time it takes to deliver judgements. Of course the delays is compounded by the files at the Court Registry which mysteriously go missing. Meddling by the CJ and Judges has the knock on effect of prolonging justice to those who are remanded for unacceptably long periods. How often have we posted the maxim, justice delayed is justice denied?
Marston Gibson, Chief Justice
Former Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite
Dale Marshall, MP
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart
It was with more than passing interest that BU read the Nation article of 15 January 2014 entitled SLOW JUDGEMENTS HEAVILY CRITICIZED.
It is somewhat daunting to note that the Nation has only now espoused this cause as the result of cross-party agreement in the House led by former attorney general, Dale Marshall and supported by the PM and the present attorney general. This, after all, is an issue that BU – Tales from the Courts – has been resolute in airing for some years now and it appears that it is only now that a leading economist has publicly pointed out the obvious, that the demise of the justice system is almost completely responsible for the fall off and withdrawal of off-shore and foreign investment, that it now has been raised. Although, to be fair, last year in Toronto, the PM did serve notice that the justice system and courts had to be sorted out. But still his warning appears to have fallen in deaf ears and he himself has not done anything since.
When mention is made of layoffs in the public sector no thought is ever given to extending the treatment to our referred Judges. BU has been relentless in the effort to expose the inefficiency of the Judiciary – see Tales from the Courts. Chief Justice Marston Gibson of whom much was expected has resigned himself to communicating about the thousands of cases in backlog which has our courts in gridlock.
There is the saying that if there is to be a different result one cannot continue to do the same thing. The news which appears in today’s Trinidad Newsday newspaper seems relevant to Barbados. These are tough times for all citizens as we grapple with austere conditions, it is time for our Judges to suck it up.
The recommendation coming from a Chief Justice and a sitting Judge in Trinidad is to “WITHHOLD the pay of tardy judges as a penalty for failing to deliver judgments within six months of the conclusion of a case”.
Read the full article – NO PAY FOR TARDY JUDGES
Justice Saunders of the CCJ opined recently that Barbados judges were not scheduling their time properly.
For some years now BU has been highlighting the issue of the almost terminal state of our justice system. We have been highlighting, among other things, the backlog of cases both before the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the complete inefficiency of the Registry with its loss of files and procrastination, the mess that is the Bar Association and the clear conflict between Bar Association enforced membership and the Constitution; but most importantly, we have been highlighting the quality of our judges, both at High Court and Appeal levels.
A very short while ago, attorneys-at-law from Barbados raised the issue of delays in both getting matters heard and in receiving the judgements on those matters with CCJ Justice Saunders at one open forum. Justice Saunders opined that it was because Barbados judges were not scheduling their time properly. Meanwhile, in another forum, CCJ President Sir Denis Byron advised that appeals to the CCJ from Barbados had risen by 350%.
Having read some of the CCJ decisions in right of Barbados, we have to say that Justice Saunders was being diplomatic, for these judgements do not censure delay alone, but the lack of quality of the judgements themselves, judgements that in any other jurisdiction would lead either to the judge being asked to resign or to his/her dismissal.
Where is justice in the Barbados Courts?
“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied” – British politician William Gladstone
A dip into decisions of the Barbados Court of Appeal by BU legal eagles has provided the opportunity to critique the case James Livingstone Eastmond v. Rayside Concrete Works Limited [Unreported] C.A. B’dos Civil Appeal No 18 of 2003. The decision was handed down on 2012-11-08 by a panel comprised of Williams CJ (ag) Mason, Burgess JJA. The decision was written by Peter Williams JA.
The case is one involving dismissal and severance payment. This is not some high-flown case with wealthy and high-profile litigants, but one which demonstrates the perpetual failure of our judiciary to deliver justice to an ordinary Bajan.
The plaintiff, James Eastmond, had worked for Rayside Concrete Works for 15 years and he had been dismissed over 20 years before the decision of the Court of Appeal was handed down. A twenty year search for justice. The case was in the system (either before the Severance Payments Tribunal or the High Court) for about 11 years, before coming to the Court of Appeal.
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart
BU has come into possession of a list of outstanding decisions before the Barbados courts as at November 2012. It is a daunting list that in any other jurisdiction other than Barbados, would mandate that the delinquent judges be censored and their resignations demanded forthwith.
BU makes one caveat on behalf of Mr Justice Randall Worrell who is in an unenviable position not of his making. Former Chief Justice David Simmons invited Justice Worrell – a highly successful criminal counsel – on to the bench specifically to try criminal matters and therefore speed up the process of the courts, lessen remand periods etc. Once installed on the Bench, however, the Registrar persisted in scheduling civil matters, some of them extremely complex, before Justice Worrell. While at the same time, ensuring that he could not do justice to the civil matters by constantly involving him in assizes for which he had been brought on to the bench in the first place. Justice Worrell must now find the time to write his decisions in civil matters, as well as to complete part-heard matters that have commenced hearing before him, as mandated by the Administration of Justice Act Cap 109b of our laws. This is the main reason that BU has not gone after Justice Worrell for delinquency. However in the final analysis, Justice Worrell, whatever excuses can be posited on his behalf will ultimately find himself joined in actions under the Constitution brought by litigants against the Attorney General for breach of the constitutional rights through delay. BU is well aware that there are a number of such actions for delay…but predictably these actions for delay are themselves egregiously delayed by the incompetence and corruption of the Registrar and the Registry.