Fri | Sep 22, 2017

My 2016 wish list

Published:Monday | January 11, 2016 | 1:00 AM

Do you recall 'My 2015 Wish List' that was published on January 5, 2015?  My gloomy prediction - "the frequent complaints about the slow pace of legislative reform and delays in the courts will continue to follow us during 2015" came to pass.  Also, not a single item on my wish list was granted.

I refuse to give up.  The revised list, that repeats some of the items from last year, is set out below:

1. Divorce backlog.  Paper applications need to work as they were intended to.  The appointment of an additional Master late last year to remove some of the burden of handling the ever-increasing number of divorce petition from the judges will help; but one critical solution always seems to be overlooked.  More of the Court's time must be allotted to the consideration of divorce matters.

2.Specialised Family Division in the Supreme Court.  Family law cases deserve to be handled  by judges with the background, experience and interest in handling those matters.  The needs in this area of the law are no different than those in commercial and revenue law for which special divisions of the court were established.

3. Mediation can effectively reduce the number of family law matters that come before the court.  Pre-action mediation in family matters, especially matrimonial property and child custody, will come into being.

4. A new home for the Dispute Resolution Foundation.  The wholly unsuitable building that currently accommodates mediations diminishes the effective use of the process of mediation to relieve some of the courts' burdens.

5. The Rent Restriction Act.This act was last amended in 1983.  In its current state, it discourages the purchase of real estate for investment unless an owner is acquiring commercial property which can be exempted from the provisions of the act, because landlords feel that they can achieve no justice.

6. Make it easier to enforce judgments. It makes no sense to be holding the paper saying that you have a judgement when months, and sometimes years, pass before warrants and orders for the enforcement of judgements are signed.

7. Increase stamp duty for filing claims in the Supreme Court.  Even if the Government is not prepared to increase the stamp duty for filing civil claims in the Supreme Court across the board.  Many litigant, who recognise that the scarcity of funds is one critical impediment to improvement in the Justice system would be willing to pay more than the current $2000 if there will be a corresponding improvement in service delivery.

8. Revise the table of basic costs.  The table of basic costs recoverable by successful litigants in the Supreme Court has not been amended since 2003.  This has meant that the current table of costs is no longer a useful guide to be used to determine what costs a successful litigant should recover.

9. Make court flies accessible on-line. At the very least, attorneys-at-law should have online access to the Supreme Courts electronic files, rather than having to attend court to carry out a search of the records. Every document filed in the civil division at the Supreme Court is scanned, so this should be possible.

10.Improve the Resident Magistrate's Court's.  More appropriate locations for the several Family Courts across the Island and the Corporate Area Traffic Court need to be identified . At the very least, there should be parking available so that parties are not at the mercy of touts and thugs or at risk of getting traffic fines for parking illegally. Also, the courts should have ramps or lifts so that disabled persons are able to gain access to the courts.  Increase the number of resident magistrates in the civil courts, because there has been a significant increase in the number of matters before the court since the jurisdiction of the court was broadened.

11. Amend the Children (Adoption of) Act.  The promise to amend this act must be kept.  I am yet to meet an adopter who has said that the adoption experience was hassle-free.  Why is this so?  The children are the hapless victims of the seriously flawed process.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co.  Please send questions and comments to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.