Attorney in spat with Chuck vows to press for justice
Barbara Gayle, Contributor
Attorney-at-law Captain Paul Beswick has vowed to continue fighting for significant improvements in the justice system amid a tiff that has seemingly developed with the Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.
Beswick has raised concerns about the slow pace in the delivery of judgments and the processing of court orders in the Supreme Court, writing to Chuck to detail his frustration.
In response, Chuck has promised to send back the letter for Beswick’s garbage bin.
“I don’t support the abusive manner in which Captain Beswick engages in letters to judges and myself, and many of the letters I return to him,” Chuck told The Gleaner.
But Beswick said he was only bringing to the minister’s attention the fact that he was having difficulty in getting an order for seizure and sale processed in the Supreme Court Registry.
In his letter to Beswick, the minister said it was an issue for the chief justice and the Court Management Division, and reminded him of the separation of powers principle.
Beswick said he found it scandalous that after two weeks, he could not get the order to take to the bailiff, and that was why he brought the issue to the minister’s attention on December 16 last year, to ascertain if leadership or resources were lacking in that area.
The lawyer said up to last week he did not get the order, and disclosed that for the past two and a half years he has been waiting on an order for taxation of costs so he could take steps to enforce the order.
Chuck has conceded that the length of time it takes to have civil and criminal cases tried is an issue.
But he said unless attorneys-at-law encouraged their clients to use alternative dispute resolution, then there was going to be prolonged delays in civil cases.
“I hope to bring to Parliament, this year, a mediation bill that hopefully will facilitate and encourage mediation,” Chuck said.
In the meantime, Beswick said judges are to be held personally accountable for delays in the delivery of judgments.
“There must be a way for that to be done or else some judges will never try to improve the situation,” he insisted.
Jamaica has a Judicial Conduct Guideline dated August 22, 2014, which states that judges should endeavour to perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved judgments, efficiently and with reasonable promptness.
It states further that in exceptional cases, and where for good and sufficient reasons a judge believes that a judgment is likely to be reserved for more than three months, in the case of Supreme Court judges, they should inform the chief justice, while judges of the Court of Appeal should notify the president of the circumstances causing or contributing to the delay.
One judge has pointed to the lack of adequate support staff among the reasons for the delay.
“The workload is so heavy that judges have to be in court every day and many of us have to use our vacation to write judgments, which is not fair to us and just leave us very tired at times,” the judge said.
However, another judge said there must be a system where judges with outstanding judgments are taken out of court and given time to complete them.
The jurist suggested that the Court Administration Division should set up a committee to look into the operations of the Supreme Court, and set up a special desk so that lawyers and litigants can get court orders and dates for trials of civil cases within a reasonable time.
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