(JAMAICA GLEANER) — Jamaica’s chief justice on Sunday pledged to deliver all outstanding judgements in the Supreme Court by year-end and to clear the current backlog choking parish courts within six years.
This formed part of a declaration he made in an unprecedented national broadcast to make the island’s judiciary the best in the region in the next three years and among the best globally in six years.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes insisted that “we must get to the point where matters begin on the day they are scheduled, and move away from the culture of multiple adjournments and mention dates”.
Sykes said he would be implementing measures to have all outstanding judgments in the Supreme court delivered by December 31 and that as of 2020, judgments would be delivered within 90 days.
“For the first time last year seven parish courts had a clearance rate over 100 per cent,” Sykes told the nation. “This has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years,” he said.
Sykes said his aim for excellence in Jamaica’s courts would be hinged on three pillars: trial and hearing date certainty, efficiency and instilling a culture of service among court staff and judges.
The chief justice said achieving excellence in the judiciary was important to Jamaica meeting the targets set out in Vision 2030.
“Courts will start on time and trial time productively utilised. All stakeholders: judges, court staff, witnesses, jurors, attorneys-at-law, police officers and others, despite the many challenges they face, must resolve to come to court to assist in the administration of justice,” Sykes urged in the first address to the nation by a chief justice.
“This means that the trial or hearing takes place on the day it is listed to begin. We no longer set multiple trials for each courtroom as this always lead to adjournments,” he added, insisting that “unnecessary delays will not be accommodated”.
Sykes disclosed that the Court of Appeal is to get three additional judges this year to help the high court dispose of cases faster.
“The judiciary that I lead will ensure that Jamaica is the place of choice to live, work, raise families, do business and retire in peace and safety,” he committed.
See below full text of the Chief Justice’s address:
Good evening Jamaica. I am Bryan Sykes, your Chief Justice. When I took the oath of office, one year ago, it was with a deep sense of gratitude and humility.
I understood the complexity, as well as the magnitude of the work that needed to be done to transform the judicial arm of government with excellence and efficiency at its core.
It was also with the recognition that if Jamaica is to achieve vision 2030, the Jamaican Judiciary must remain strong and maintain its integrity. In this regard I must recognise the contribution of previous Chief Justices and Judges.
I am making it my mandate for us to have excellent courts. Excellent courts rest on three pillars. First, trial and hearing date certainty.
This means that the trial or hearing takes place on the day it is listed to begin. We no longer set multiple trials for each courtroom as this always lead to adjournments.
Unnecessary delays will not be accommodated.
We must get to the point where matters begin on the day they are scheduled, and move away from the culture of multiple adjournments and mention dates. The culture shift has begun to produce desirable results in the Supreme Court and Parish Courts.
The Court of Appeal should also increase its disposal rate as, since January 2019, there are now three additional judges with three more to be added later in this year.
The consequence of hearing and trial date certainty is that cases are disposed of within stated time standards.
In Jamaica this means disposing of cases within 24 months of entry into the courts.
In some Divisions of the Supreme Court, the Gun Court and Parish Courts that statistics show that more than 100 cases are being disposed of for every 100 cases filed.
For the first time last year seven Parish Courts had a clearance rate over 100%. This has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years.
Secondly, excellent courts are efficient. Time, human and material resources are properly utilised to produce the best outcomes.
It is our goal to decrease the waiting time for the adjudication of some matters. For example, in divorce matters, once the documents are submitted error free, the decree absolute will be issued within 16 weeks. By December 31, 2019, there will be no outstanding divorces. That is our commitment to you.
In relation to matters of probate and letters of administration, that is, establishing the validity of wills and dealing with the estates of persons who died without a will, once all documents are submitted error free, the Supreme Court Staff will ensure that these take no longer than 12 weeks. That is our commitment to you.
Thirdly, excellent courts mean that we have a culture of service among staff and judges. Research has shown that the perception of court users is influenced by how they are treated and not only by the outcome of their cases.
Therefore, as our customer service charter states, court staff will be courteous, respectful, fair and prompt. We have ongoing training for court staff to improve their basic customer service and stress management skills. This will continue as we aim for first world standards.
My vision is for our Judiciary to be the best in the Caribbean Region in three years and among the best in the world in six years beginning March 1, 2019.
To support this vision, I give my commitment to put in place measures so that by December 31, 2019 all outstanding judgments in the Supreme Court will be delivered. As of 2020 a judgment should be delivered within 90 days, and in exceptional cases, 180 days following completion of the case.
Courts will start on time and trial time productively utilised. All stakeholders – judges, court staff, witnesses, jurors, attorneys at law, police officers and others, despite the many challenges they face, must resolve to come to court to assist in the administration of justice.
The Judiciary that I lead will ensure that Jamaica is the place of choice to live, work, raise families, do business and retire in peace and safety.
Join the Judiciary and partner with us, as we work to strengthen the rule of law in Jamaica land we love. Thank you.