Golding aces test - Minister gets high marks despite numerous problems facing the justice system
The almost daily complaints from Jamaicans who interface with the local justice system are getting louder, as lengthy delays before trials, crammed and uncomfortable courtrooms, and overworked judges underscore the poor state of the system.
In 2013, almost 562,000 cases were listed for hearing in the Resident Magistrate's Courts, but less than half (46 per cent) were disposed of. Despite these and other issues, Justice Minister Mark Golding has received high marks for his efforts since being appointed minister in 2012.
Stephen Vasciannie, professor of law, University of the West Indies
S - Minister Golding has been an active, articulate, goal-oriented minister, committed to reform within a difficult sociopolitical context.
W - When under pressure, he sometimes responds in ways short of his usual perceptive approach.
O - His intellectual and social qualities allow him to influence his colleague ministers to make positive decisions for the country. The financial community likes him, which presents opportunities for him to put justice higher up the country's agenda
T - He does not have a constituency base, which weakens his power of moral suasion.
General comments: Minister Golding steered the abolition of flogging and whipping through Parliament, which was the right thing to do, though not necessarily the popular thing. Generally, he has mastered his brief, and has led from the front on various matters, including the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) debate.
He should be careful not to drop the ball on follow-up activities relating to marijuana, and he needs to be more publicly proactive in relation to some human-rights issues such as prison conditions. Within the law-reform community, he is much respected. I tip my hat to him.
Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, attorney-at-law, Gifford, Thompson & Shields
S - Quietly getting things done, such as ganja-law reform, court procedures improved, new Supreme Court building.
O - To make a real difference to the delays and injustices of the criminal justice system.
T - He could be edged out by more partisan colleagues.
General comments: As well as achieving results, he is accessible, committed to justice, and can build bridges across party and social lines. You will see that I am a fan, but when I checked my views with a prominent attorney in the Jamaica Labour Party, he also said, "One of the best ministers in the Cabinet."
David Rowe, adjunct professor of law, University of Miami
S - Mark Golding's greatest strength is that he is a confident, competent commercial attorney, who is highly regarded by both the Bench and the Bar. He speaks with clarity and authority about the legal issues which come within his parliamentary responsibility.
W - In his capacity as minister of justice, Mark Golding has no weaknesses.
O - The Cabinet may wish to consider asking Mr Golding to play a significant role in explaining its fiscal and domestic policy to the general public on a regular basis. His credibility and good judgement will enhance the reputation of this administration if he is given an expanded political role.
T - There are few, if any, lawyers on the opposition side who have Mr Golding's international reputation or commercial expertise. He has no known skeletons in his closet.
General comments: Mr Golding has engaged in a thorough campaign of law reform. He has decriminalised marijuana, created an intellectual environment for the Caribbean Court of Justice, and introduced cyberstatutes, which, will hopefully control future computer crimes on the island.
He has been industrious and thorough.
Mark Golding has seen to it during his tenure that politicians and officials have been appointed with a legitimate foundation and that the new laws passed have been based on authorities conferred by the common law.
Hopefully, at a later time he will be able to confront the two-headed monster of lack of speedy trials and the inordinate delay in the trial system for criminal defendants.
Bar Association lauds Golding, calls for more money for justice ministry
While declining to offer a rating for Justice Minister Mark Golding, head of the Jamaican Bar Association, Donovan Walker, has expressed satisfaction with the work done so far by the first-time minister.
Walker told The Sunday Gleaner that he would not participate in rating the minister, who is a partner in the firm where he also practises.
However, Walker argued that despite the meagre budget allocated to the justice ministry, Golding has done a commendable job.
"We note that there is presently not enough budgetary allocation made to the Ministry of Justice to enable further and better work to be done to improve our justice system and our physical court infrastructure," said Walker.
"Comparative analysis reveals that the Jamaican per capita spend on the justice system is very low. While Minister Golding is part of the collective Government, and we understand that the budgetary allocation is not his doing, we continue to call upon the Government of Jamaica to allocate more funds to the Ministry of Justice," added Walker.
He noted that the Bar Association has already publicly commended Golding for the excellent legislative agenda undertaken by him and his ministry.
"In the past two to three years, we have seen a vast array of laws being considered and passed through Parliament. The minister - and his ministry team - continues to do an excellent job in taking steps to modernise and update our laws.
"The fact that Jamaica's ranking has improved in the World Bank Doing Business Report seems to bear out that we are moving in the right direction," said Walker.
He also hailed Golding's transition from commercial and legal practice in the private sector to the mammoth task of running the justice ministry.
"Minister Golding had transitioned to public service and brings to the Ministry of Justice the same intellect, focus, work ethic and approach to getting things done.
"We highly commend his focus on ensuring improved access to justice for all Jamaicans culminating in the present ongoing debate to have the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate court.
"Further, many attorneys-at-law, particularly those practising in western Jamaica, have given high commendation to Minister Golding for improving access to justice in western Jamaica by the creation of a Western Supreme Court Registry and the occasional sitting of the Court of Appeal in western parishes," said Walker.