Chuck outlines bold proposals for improving delivery of justice
Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck has outlined an ambitious programme of reform, which he hopes to introduce as a means of speeding up the pace at which justice is delivered to Jamaicans.
Chuck, who delivered the main address at the General Legal Council Law Conference last weekend, was adamant that time lines were needed to determine how long cases should remain in the courts.
"We must put in some guidelines and timelines for the period when cases should be decided. For simple matters in the parish courts, they should be decided in weeks or months, and no case, in my view, should last more than 18 months in the parish courts. In the same way in the Supreme Court, I think that we should work towards a timeline of two years," he said to applause from the lawyers present at the conference.
Turning his attention to the delivery of judgments, Chuck lamented that far too many of these have not been delivered within six months. Describing as tragic the number of cases awaiting judgments, Chuck said, "I have spoken to the chief justice and she has indicated that it is not for want of moral suasion. There are a few judges who are giving the vast majority of judges a bad image because, to be frank, when you look at the list, the same names appear over and over."
Chuck disclosed that more students from the Norman Manley Law School would be employed as judicial clerks to assist the judges in doing research so that judgments could be delivered more speedily.
"I would hate to think that we would have to pass the law that Guyana passed - that judgement must be delivered in six months or it is judicial misconduct ... . There are some territories [where] you don't get your pay until you deliver your judgment. So if moral suasion does not work, we will have to take some of these steps to ensure that judgments are delivered," he said.
Speaking to the practice of cases not commencing on set trial dates, Chuck has asked judges to be firm with lawyers in this regard.
He also announced that all the courts would be equipped with audiovisual equipment so that cases would be on tape. This, he said, would minimise the practice of judges having to make extensive notes during trials.
Chuck said he was considering a constitutional amendment which would allow retired judges to be returned to the courts to serve as temporary judges.