Sun | Mar 24, 2019

'Undesirable'- Judges deliver in 27 per cent of cases where decision was reserved over 15-month period

Published:Monday | May 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Gleaner Writer

Between January last year and the first quarter of this year, Supreme Court judges handed down their decision in 27 per cent of the cases in which they reserved judgment, figures obtained by The Gleaner have revealed.

Over the 15-month period, the figures show judgments were reserved in a total of 148 cases that were argued before the Supreme Court.

"Of this number, 40, or 27 per cent, were delivered, leaving 108 outstanding," said the Court Management Services (CMS), which compiled the figures.

CMS revealed, too, that the judgments reserved and delivered over the period came in cases that were presided over by 29 current High Court judges.

"That's crazy! I'm shocked to hear this," one senior attorney said in reacting yesterday.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck described it as "undesirable", but stopped short of criticising the judges.

"For them to be waiting in excess of six months is not only undesirable, but almost inflicts greater disappointment and pain on these litigants," he told The Gleaner.

"Before their cases are tried, they might have been waiting three to five years. So once the cases are tried, they expect a result soon after," he added.

CMS revealed that between January 1 last year and March 31 this year, a total of 130 judgments have been delivered. According to the agency, this included 90 that were reserved before January last year.

However, CMS could not indicate the total number of cases in which judgments have been outstanding for two years and more. Further, the agency could not indicate the number of judgments outstanding from retired judges.


Attorneys claim judgments outstanding for up to 12 years


Several attorneys have cited cases in which judgments have been outstanding for between five and 12 years, but are reluctant to give details out of fear that doing so would adversely affect their clients.

"I have two cases from 2006 and 2010 when judgments were reserved," a senior attorney told The Gleaner.

The attorney said the judge who presided over the 2010 case was not given an extension by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to continue serving upon retirement.

"Therefore, as a result of the [former] Eagle [financial network] case, any judgment he gives now is dead," the attorney added, making reference to a landmark ruling handed down by the Court of Appeal last month.

To make matters worse, the attorney said a retrial would be pointless, as most of the witnesses in the case have now aged. "So the only [thing now] is to try and compromise and cut you losses," the attorney reasoned.

Among the cases still awaiting a decision is the legal challenge brought by the Jamaica Defence Force against an attempt by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) to search its Up Park Camp headquarters.

INDECOM is probing the army's use of mortars during the May 2010 police-military operations in west Kingston and has obtained a warrant to search JDF headquarters, but there has been no decision from the court since a panel of three judges reserved their decision on April 12, 2016.