Danmar Clarke | Ruling against UTech a blow to the gut
It is no secret that the decision in the case of Jason Jones v Council of Legal Education and others, at the Caribbean Court of Justice, is a sad one for most, if not all, non-UWI LLB holders.
The main contention was that the practice of the Council of Legal Education's law schools (for example, Norman Manley) in requesting that only non-UWI LLB holders sit an entrance exam was discriminatory. The court held that because the CLE and the other bodies brought before it were not mentioned within the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, they had no legal personality. As such, the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
We were hoping for the court to give a ruling that acknowledged that the system was wrong and should be addressed, which would strengthen the Jamaican Government's decision to set up a law school at UTech. In light of this decision, many graduates, as well as those in the present cohort at UTech's Faculty of Law, are angry because even though we are in bondage, we feel our own regional court has turned its back on us.
This now begs the question, should Jamaica really make the Caribbean Court of Justice its final court in place of the Privy Council?
Ever since the decision by the Government to set up the law school at UTech, there has been excitement and anticipation. Its establishment is a ground-breaking one, which will benefit our country in three major ways: new branches of law other than the traditional ones can be explored, the playing field of legal education will be levelled and high-quality attorneys-at-law will be produced. On the other hand, we must also appreciate that a system lacking parity will continue to exist if the law school is not established.
If the new law school is established, we expect that new branches of law will be examined other than the traditional ones. The traditional branches of law such as real estate and criminal law are the main areas in which attorneys specialise in Jamaica, but with the commencement of the new law school, we are confident that a more modernised curriculum will examine areas such as oil and gas law, maritime law, special education law, tourism law, and disability law.
Second, the new law school at UTech will produce high-quality attorneys-at-law. This will be so because currently at the faculty level, we have a successful track record of graduates who are well schooled in the practical application of law.
Third, if the new law school is established, we expect that the playing field for legal education in Jamaica will be levelled. There will no longer be one institution providing legal education. As such, non-UWI law students will have an alternative, instead of doing the entrance examinations into the Norman Manley Law School.
On the other hand, if the new law school is not established, a system that is discriminatory and lacks parity will continue to exist. This will be so as UWI students will continue to receive automatic entry while non-UWI students will still have to sit the entrance examinations to gain access into Norman Manley Law School.
In addition, sadly, again we will be forced to accept the harsh truth that maybe liberty and equality from any unconscionable system does not exist here in this great nation, which are underlying principles behind our ancestors' fight against colonial oppression and slavery.
Furthermore, the dreams of the law students at UTech would be crushed. This means the world to them, so much that it is a topic of constant discussion in every classroom, every boardroom, and every congregation on social media. In fact, the name of the law school was the topic of much debate, but since UTech Ja is the 'people's university', the Law School of Jamaica would be an appropriate name for the institution.