Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Get serious on final court of appeal

Published:Thursday | July 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The following is an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.

Chief Justice Brian Sykes and his judges are all in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate court. Let me declare my bias here: I'm a nationalist, not a regionalist nor globalist. Therefore, I believe if we are to leave the Privy Council we should have our final appellate court in Jamaica. Now let's go to the United States of America - The Supreme Court which is the final court of the land overturns 70 per cent of cases from the circuit courts. The third, ninth, 11th and sixth circuit with the percentage of 78, 79, 85 and 87, respectively, are way above the national average.

Now let's come back to Jamaica. The latest reversal rate I've seen was from Queen's Counsel Walter Scott, published in The Gleaner on September 23, 2012 headlined, 'Our judges are solid', where he gave the data from 2001-2011 of just over a 38 per cent reversal rates of cases leaving the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. I would love for the chief justice or his judges to give the nation the up-to-date number (2012-2017). I would like to know if there's any change for the better or worse.

Now, some may argue that it is foolhardy to look at reversal rates because many cases go to the Privy Council and took a while to be heard. Well, that same argument could be made for the United States, because the Supreme Court, it is estimated, takes 100-150 cases annually. But it is also estimated that 7,000 cases annually are sent to the Supreme Court to be reviewed.

WE NEED OUR OWN FINAL COURT OF APPEAL

We should move the Privy Council and set up our own final court of appeal. We should still keep the other appellate courts but with few changes. For example, the chief justice should leave the Supreme Court and head to this new court, while the senior puisne judge head the Supreme Court. Also, the chief justice must not sit in the Court of Appeal, let the president and his other five judges be in full control. I strongly believe this final appellate court should have 10 associate judges along with its chief justice.

With resources and technology, I will have faith in our own justice system. Why should we leave the Privy Council and still end up being servants to the Caribbean Court of Appeal? It's time for this administration to get serious and have a vote on having a final appellate court in Jamaica. Let us, the people, through a referendum, decide whether to have a final appellate court here in Jamaica.

Teddylee Gray

Ocho Rios, St Ann

teddylee.gray@gmail.com