Hugh Wilson, Conributor
The caption 'Our judges not good enough', a statement attributable to Hugh Wildman, former senior director of public prosecutions of Jamaica, appearing in the September 7, 2012 edition of The Gleaner, has the potential effect of undermining the integrity of the judiciary of Jamaica, in particular, and the English-speaking Caribbean, in general.
Wildman was reported as saying that the quality of judgments delivered by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) was superior to those delivered by the appellate courts in the region. He used this as the basis to caution the political directorate from replacing the JCPC as the region's final appellate court.
Wildman's statement is understood to mean that our judges in Jamaica, and for that matter, the region, do not possess the ability:
a) To grasp complex legal issues;
b) To analyse and interpret the law and apply the law to factual situations;
c) To write grammatically structured, coherent, logical and reasoned judgments; and
d) To write scholarly judgments.
It is my considered opinion, based on my reading of most criminal and civil judgments delivered by the Court of Appeal of Jamaica, that the vast majority do demonstrate legal scholarship and erudition, not a lack thereof, as Mr Wildman would want the public to believe.
The judges of our Court of Appeal are intellectually perspicuous and possess the ability and competence to grasp complex legal issues and the capacity to distil the law in a readily comprehensible manner. Their learning in the law and delivery of written judgments are comparable to the quality of written judgments of the Privy Council. I challenge anyone, apart from Wildman, to dispute this fact.
Indeed, the JCPC has, on several occasions, paid tribute to the legal scholarship and learning displayed by our judges. Most recently, in Phillips v DPP  UKPC 24, the Privy Council commended "the very convincing and full review by the Court of Appeal" in its analysis of the facts and law in that case.
upheld several decisions
Moreover, the JCPC has upheld several decisions of our Court of Appeal. Of course, there are other cases which have been overruled by it, not because of the quality of the legal reasoning or a misunderstanding of the law, but because it used the opportunity to clarify an apparent uncertainty in the law, to qualify an aspect of the law that it has developed, or to legislate new law.
The Court of Appeal of Jamaica has two divisions. In each division, three judges sit to hear a case on appeal. All the judges are overworked by reason of the volume of cases that come before it each month. Each panel hears both civil and criminal matters.
In criminal matters, for example, before a division hears a case, judges assigned to that panel are expected to read hundreds of pages of transcript and case law authorities dealing with the particular issue being appealed. Notwithstanding these challenges, our judges manage to deliver judgments of the highest quality.
The judges of the JCPC, on the other hand, have legal research assistants who oftentimes write the opinion which would be approved by the particular judge assigned to write the judgment. Our judges do not have that luxury.
If, as Wildman asserted, there are inferior judgments written by judges of the appellate courts in the region, those judgments are an aberration or an exception to the rule. The vast majority of judgments are structured on legal scholarship.
Our judges are erudite, brilliant and hard-working persons who are committed to the delivery of justice to our people. We must respect them.
Hugh Wilson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.