Sun | May 31, 2020

Chief Justice moves to get judges to deliver decisions before retiring

Published:Monday | April 30, 2018 | 12:11 PM
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes - File photo

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes says he will be putting systems in place to ensure that no judge proceeds on retirement with outstanding court decisions.

He made the disclosure in response to last Thursday's ruling by the Court of Appeal in the case of Paul Chen-Young and others v Eagle Merchant Bank Jamaica Limited and others.

The court ruled that judgements in cases heard before the retirement of judges where there is no decision before retirement, and who have not been granted permission by the Governor General to continue to perform as judges, are null and void.

In a statement, Sykes said he has taken serious and careful note of the landmark ruling and that he has moved to avoid any recurrence of what he described as an unfortunate situation.

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Here's Chief Justice Bryan Sykes' full statement.

On Thursday April 26, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Paul Chen-Young and others v Eagle Merchant Bank Jamaica Limited and others [2018] JMCA App 7, ruled that judgements in cases heard before the retirement of judges but in which no decision had been handed down before retirement, and who have not been granted permission by the Governor General to continue to perform as Judges, are nullities. This means that those judgements have no legal standing. It does not appear that the Court of Appeal addressed the question of whether decisions given before retirement but reasons are given after retirement, are affected by the ruling.

We have taken serious and careful note of this landmark ruling. It squarely addressed the implications of the delay in delivery of judgements beyond retirement, while recognising the negative impact of a chronic shortfall of human resources in the Court of Appeal. The ruling will require major changes in how we operate in managing the disposal of cases.

Ahead of this ruling, retired judges with outstanding judgements were being actively engaged, by successive Chief Justices to have them handed down in short order. This judgement however means that the longstanding practice of judges handing down judgements after retirement, previously thought permitted by the Constitution, can no longer continue. It reinforces the acknowledged need for more judicial accountability through enhanced efficiency in the management of time and the other resources of the courts — a process already in progress.

The decision also demonstrates the strength, independence, and integrity of the Jamaican judiciary and shows that judges will not shirk from making difficult decisions even if it involves critical and negative self examination.

Given the ruling of the Court of Appeal, it is my intention to engage in timely discussions with the retired judges, whose decisions will be affected by the ruling, to determine the most appropriate and effective way forward.

To avoid any recurrence of this unfortunate situation, I am putting systems in place to ensure that hereafter no judge proceeds on retirement with an outstanding decision. The proposed system is that two years from retirement administrative management of judges’ assignments will facilitate completion of all outstanding (reserved) decisions and trials, by at least one year before retirement.

During the pre-retirement year, the nature of a judge’s assignments will be such that there will minimal risk of the judge not delivering the decision before retirement. In exceptional circumstances, I will seek from His Excellency, the Governor General, the necessary permission for an extension, to enable a judge to deliver any outstanding judgements. This plan will apply to the Parish Court, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal.

To complement our enhanced management and accountability systems, ongoing budgetary support for the required human, technical and financial resources is also critical, to enable the courts to keep pace with the ever-increasing numbers and types of cases.

As a judiciary, we continue to stand by our commitment to the people of Jamaica to deploy our energy and competencies towards the consistent provision of a timely delivery of a high standard of justice for all so that Jamaica becomes the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business by the year 2030.

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