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Legal Scoop: Gazing through the gazettes - Key information hiding in plain sight

Published:Sunday | May 8, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Shena Stubbs-Gibson
From left: Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, president of the Court of Appeal Dennis Morrison, and Justice Hilary Phillips leading other members of the judiciary into a church service.
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It took me an hour and a half, during the dead of night, to pore through the gazettes that had accumulated in my study.

The discarded 'Not interesting info' pile was 10 times the size of the small 'Interesting info' pile. Below is a synopsis of what I found interesting from the numerous gazettes published between October 2015 and January 2016.

1. Gazette Vol. CXXXVIII, Monday, December 28, 2015: No. 87 -The Honourable Mr. Justice Cecil Dennis Morrison, CD, has been conferred with the honour of the Order of Jamaica with effect from January 4, 2016. I had the privilege of being monitored by Justice Morrison in the early days of my career, a Rhodes Scholar and the father of a Rhodes Scholar himself, CDM, as he was affectionately called in those days, was and remains equal parts, brilliant, statesmanlike and humble. The honour was conferred along with his ascension to the position of president of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica. Well done, CDM. As they say, it could not have happened to a more deserving person.

2. Vol. CXXXVIII, Monday, December 28, 2015: No. 158 - Although The Committal Proceedings Act (the Act) was passed in 2013, it had not come into effect at the same time. This Gazette which I was reading three months late, placed the public on notice that the act would come into operation on January 1, 2016. This is a watershed legislation, of sorts, for the justice system and, therefore, it is worth noting the date that it came into effect. The legislation is important because it marks the departure from the decades-old system of conducting preliminary enquiries. Preliminary enquiries is the system by which a resident magistrate determines, through the examination of witnesses and documents, whether a prima facie case has been made out against an accused person. If a prima facie case has not been made out, the matter cannot proceed to the next step, namely, a trial in the Circuit Court. In a nutshell, the act dispenses with the examination of witnesses and the taking of depositions and provides instead that a magistrate examines, without witnesses being called, the statements and exhibits in the case, with a view to determining if a prima facie case has been made out. This transformation of the preliminary enquiry, largely into a paper trial, promises to shorten the overall trial process significantly and is therefore welcomed.

3. Vol. CXXXIX, Thursday, January 21, 2016: No. 3 - The section of this gazette that was interesting to me was where it set out the Jury (Amendment of Schedule A) Order, 2016. Schedule A of the Jury Act sets out the persons exempt from jury duty. One of the most frequent questions that I receive as an attorney-at-law is whether someone who has been summoned to jury duty has to appear. This gazette promulgates the order of Parliament which amended the Jury Act by deleting the old Schedule A and replacing it with a new one. I have set out the revised list below for the benefit of readers:

 

List of Persons Exempt from Serving on Juries

 

• Members of the Privy Council, the Cabinet, Senate, and House of Representatives.

• Judges and spouses of judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, masters in chambers and spouses of the masters in chambers, registrars and spouses of the registrars of Supreme Court, judges and spouses of judges of the Family Court, judges and spouses of Judges of the Traffic Court, and resident magistrates and spouses of resident magistrates.

• The mayor, deputy mayor and councillors of the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation, and the mayors, deputy mayors and councillors of the parish councils and municipalities.

• Custodes of parishes.

• Justices of the peace who preside in courts of petty sessions.

• Attorneys-at-law in actual practise (including attorneys-at-law employed in the public service of Jamaica).

• Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force.

This important amendment would have escaped my attention were it not for my gazettes-slumming sojourn. This order actually widens the pool of persons eligible to be summoned to jury duty. Previously, for instance, public servants, ministers of religion, medical doctors, secretaries of parish councils, teachers, dentists, veterinaries, pharmacists and many more were for the most part exempted from jury duty. However, that ship has now sailed and left in its wake a vaster array of fishes for the fishers of jurors. There you have it, folks. If the above provision does not fit, you must serve. Where one is unable to attend for important "uncontrived" reasons, this should be communicated to the court in advance, as early as possible, and the court, in such instances, is usually very accommodating.

Gazettes in Jamaica are under-read. They contain crucial information, which often goes unnoticed. I challenge the media to further embrace its self-imposed mandate of creating a more civil, engaged, educated society by putting in place a system to provide consistent summaries of the information contained in gazettes.

- Shena Stubbs is an attorney at law and legal commentator Send feedback to: Email: shena.stubbs@gleanerjm.com. Twitter:@shenastubbs