Supreme Court again!
Add a few more items to the catalogue of woes affecting the Supreme Court of Jamaica. This time we learn about broken-down photocopiers, out-of-service elevators and ice-making machine, as reported by this newspaper.
The justice needs of the population are not being adequately served when trial notes and transcripts, necessary for filing appeals, cannot be copied, or when the court list cannot be printed and posted to announce the business of the court.
The report stated that the three photocopying machines stopped working in December and there is no indication from the Court Management Services (CMS) when it will be fixed. The CMS was set up in 2008 with the mandate to provide administrative service to the courts. Its principal reports to the chief justice, who is the head of the judiciary.
The other matter concerns the out-of-service elevators at the Supreme Court that have not worked for months, creating hardships for physically challenged litigants and others in negotiating the stairs. Even with a functioning elevator, access to this multilevel facility is generally poor.
Indeed, several talking points have arisen out of the physical state of the island's courts, which are found to be mostly unsatisfactory to hold dignified judicial proceedings. Pick any court, with a few exceptions, like the newly built Balaclava and Morant Bay courts, and you can expect to find insufficient seating for members of the public; there are likely to be no meeting rooms to facilitate lawyer-client briefings; antiquated air-conditioning units which malfunction; poor sanitary facilities; and limited parking spaces.
At the bustling Supreme Court in Kingston these problems are magnified. Here, security is also an issue. For example, metal detectors that were installed at the Supreme Court have long stopped working.
Endless column inches have been devoted to the failings of the system to deliver justice
efficiently and effectively. If facilities are
broken down and out of order, creating delays and inconveniences, how will the court perform the job of protecting the constitutional rights of citizens?
The excuse of not enough resources has grown old. Staff members are obviously
frustrated with the current conditions and so decided to air their grouses in the media. One is apt to believe that this is a last resort after complaints have all fallen on deaf ears.
This is the 21st century. Broken-down photocopier and cranky elevators should be an easy fix. These problems should be dealt with promptly so that the court can advance in other areas, such as using new technologies to facilitate visual presentations to improve courtroom efficiency.
Justice Minister Mark Golding has pledged to put sound court infrastructure in place in keeping with the Government's commitment to improve access to justice by Jamaicans. Even as the resources are being found to make elaborate changes, there are some small adjustments and maintenance issues which need to be addressed.
Certainly, it is not the minister's job to see that technical glitches are fixed. But we submit that the chief justice should make the case that it is high time that money be allocated to have simple maintenance issues dealt with expeditiously. The first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem. We believe that even minor changes would be welcome by litigants, attorneys, jurors and staff.