Retired judges to the rescue - Government, Opposition agree on need for constitutional changes to allow former members of the Bench to serve after age 70
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is expressing confidence that his plan to amend the Constitution to allow retired judges to return to courtroom duties will become a reality this year.
Chuck, who first announced the plan in Parliament last June, has tentatively secured the support of the parliamentary Opposition so the two-thirds majority of both Houses needed to enact the constitutional changes should not be difficult.
"I have been in touch with the Opposition and it shouldn't be a problem for the two-thirds majority. It will take at least six months. So later in this year, if it is passed, then the judges will be available," Chuck told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.
"During the course of this year also, we are hoping for an adjustment to the Constitution that will allow retired judges, who at age 70 years can no longer engage in judicial practice, to allow them to sit on an as-needed basis.
"Not only in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, but maybe even in the parish courts, and that will assist us in removing the backlog of cases in the system," added Chuck.
JUDGES TO BE RE-ENGAGED
According to the justice minister, the retired judges will be re-engaged in the justice system and will sit on 'as-needed basis', provided they have not gone to greener pastures on contract.
In the meantime, Opposition Spokesman on Justice Mark Golding told The Sunday Gleaner that his side is poised to support the Chuck proposal although there has been no official and formal discussion.
"We have had a brief discussion on it. I wouldn't say we have had a formal discussion to say this is our proposal that we want to implement through a constitutional amendment, are you willing to support it.
"We have not had that type of conversation. Nevertheless, we will support it because the system needs those kinds of resources," said Golding, the former justice minister.
But Golding said, as a general principle, it would be nice to see younger judges coming through the system.
"I would support any honest effort to cope with the burdens on the system," said Golding.
Chuck had used his presentation in the last Sectoral Debate to announce the proposal, as he bemoaned the fact that a dozen or more retired Jamaican judges are serving on the Bench in places such as Belize, The Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, and Cayman Islands.
The justice minister expressed confidence that with the addition of the retired judges and more courtrooms, the worrying backlog in the justice system will be reduced over time.