Monday, March 29, 2010

Jamaican appointed Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) judge - will this prompt progress?

By Oscar Ramjeet:

The Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) appointed a Jamaican as the newest judge in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanHe is Professor Charles Anderson, an academic who replaces Duke Pollard, who goes into retirement on June 10 next when the new judge will assume duties.

He is the first Jamaican to be appointed to the regional court, and the omission of a judge from the largest country in the region has been criticised, especially since that country contributes 27 percent of the costs to run and administer the Court.

Former Attorney General of Jamaica, Dr Osward Harding, who is now the President of the Senate, had indicated to me two years ago that several highly qualified Jamaicans, including a few outstanding Senior Counsel, were overlooked five years ago.

Now that that a Jamaican has been appointed as a judge, one wonders if this will accelerate the powers that be in Kingston to join the Appellate Division of the Court.

Pollard's appointment in the regional court was criticized in some quarters since he was never in active law practice, never served as an advocate either as counsel or prosecutor and has never sat as a judge. He has been an academic throughout his legal career and was involved in preparatory work for the establishment of the CCJ.

The tenure of CCJ judges expires at 72 years of age, but Pollard was given a three year extension two and a half years ago.

Since Pollard's appointment was criticised, legal practitioners want to know why the RJLSC chose a law professor rather than an experienced judge.

Anderson holds a law degree from the University of the West Indies and a Doctorate in Philosophy (Phd) in international law from the University of Cambridge. For most of his career, he has been a member of the Law Faculty of UWI. He was appointed lecturer in 1994, senior lecturer in 1999 and was made professor in 2006. He spent a year as a research fellow at the University of Sheffield between 1994 and 1995, and a year as senior lecturer on fellowship at the University of Western Australia in 1996. He is currently the executive director of the Caribbean Law Institute Centre (CLIC).

Professor Anderson and Professor Simeon McIntosh were involved during the past two years travelling around the Caribbean participating in seminars promoting the CCJ, and urging governments to join the Appellate Division of the Regional Court

The lone female judge in the Court, Desiree Bernard, who was Chief Justice and former Chancellor of Guyana, will reach the age of retirement in March next year, and already there are discussions in the legal circles whether she will be given an extension and, if not, whether another female will be appointed to replace the distinguished Guyanese, who had many firsts in her homeland - the first female judge, first female Court of Appeal Judge, first female Chief Justice, first female Chancellor of Guyana and first female Head of the Judiciary in the Caribbean. She is also the first solicitor to be appointed a judge, the reason being that the legal profession in Guyana was fused in 1979 and Justice Bernard, a practicing solicitor, automatically became an attorney at law since both solicitors and barristers were known as attorneys as of November 1979.

Justice Bernard was appointed a High Court Judge in 1980. I recall writing a piece in the local newspapers under the headline "High time for a female judge in Guyana" and I suggested her appointment although she was from the practicing Bar, and the following week she was named.

Belize will soon be on board as the third jurisdiction to join the CCJ, and I look forward for Dominica and Jamaica to do so soon rather than later. I am also hopeful that Trinidad and Tobago will consider joining now that there is a new opposition leader in Kamla Persad Bissessar, a West Indian trained attorney who served as attorney general in the Basdeo Panday administration.

March 29, 2010