Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Power play - Local Association of Women Judges launched

Published:Sunday | January 8, 2017 | 1:03 AMErica Virtue
Chief Justice Zaila McCalla (left) and retired Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith unveiling a sign signalling the official launch of the Jamaica Association of Women Judges yesterday.

A full house of some of the region's best legal minds yesterday witnessed the launch of the Jamaica Association of Women Judges at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, with master of ceremonies Justice Hilary Phillips arguing that this was coming at an opportune time.

"We are here at a time when the justice system is being described as crumbling, as each administration pays scant regard in not providing the resources that is needed for its proper function ...," charged Phillips in an opening commentary that at times sparked laughter and at times deep thinking.

Following her opening comments on the state of the justice system, Philips handed over to Chief Justice Zaila McCalla for the welcome, and the head of the local judiciary's skilful avoidance of any response to Phillips was not lost on the many legal minds in the room.

Among them were Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn; Solicitor General Nicole Foster Pusey; Senior Parish Judge Judith Pusey; Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte; Justice Susana Medina de Rizzio, president of the International Association of Women Judges; Justice Joan Charles, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Women Judges; Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith (retired); Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, and Her Honour Paula Blake-Powell, vice-president of the Caribbean Association of Women Judges.

The chief justice instead spoke to issues such as those affecting women and girls in detention, how the justice system is working to assist these females, and how the Family Court has been transformed into helping them.

McCalla spoke with passion about the Women's Centre Foundation and gave details about remedial school for dropouts from the school system, counselling and rehabilitation programmes, parenting school and a programme to help drug-addicted children taken to family court.

FAMILY COURT ISSUES

According to McCalla, that programme is being conducted with little or no financial assistance, and her dream is that family courts should be able to deal with all matters dealing with the family, whether at the parish or at the national level.

The attorney general brought brief greetings and congratulated the female judges, while urging them to "continue to play your part in achieving the objectives so outlined".

In her brief message, delivered through a translator, the Argentine de Rizzio said there should be no fear that the association would "feminise the justice system".

According to de Rizzio, there are similar bodies in 90 countries around the world and they have been recognised by the United Nations.

"There can be no Association of Caribbean Women Judges without Jamaica," declared Justice Charles as she took to the podium.

The Trinidadian congratulated the Jamaican women judges, stating that there was so much that could be learnt from each other.

Retired Justice Smith, who was declared the first patron of the association, noted that women judges in Jamaica have come a far way over the years.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com