Do more oral judgments, Sykes tells judges

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has said the issue of judges having to “work” while on vacation can be resolved by them handing down oral judgments for certain kinds of cases.

The chief justice was responding to an observation made by president of the Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Brooks during the swearing-in ceremony of acting judges of appeal, puisne judges, and masters-in-chambers at King’s House on Monday.

Addressing the gathering, Justice Brooks said, “The situation is that judges have had to go on vacation, creating the opportunity for these officers. Unfortunately, a number of the judges who go on vacation have to take work with them, writing judgments and so on, and so I look forward to the day when judges can go off and get the rest and relaxation that vacation is supposed to be.”

But the chief justice said, “The question of solving the problem posed by the president of the Court of Appeal of judges going on leave without having to do judgments, the solution to it is within our grasp.”

“What we have to do now is to organise ourselves to get that done, and how we can do that is by looking at, for example, the types of cases that we get in and you will find that most of the cases, over 90 per cent, that come through the courts are important cases for the individuals, but they are not unusual cases, they are not particularly difficult cases in terms of law and fact,” the chief justice pointed out.

“So you have about roughly five to 10 per cent of cases that are really challenging cases, so what this really means is that with this kind of information you can actually have an analytical framework within which you examine those cases. Let me give a quick example, we know, for example, in the Gun Court, over 95 per cent of the cases, the issue is identification and so the law of identification is well-developed and then there was a judgment by Justice Frank Williams and he set out in the judgment how, for example, in the Court of Appeal you can manage evidence of that nature. So for the vast majority of those cases you can have oral judgments,” the chief justice reasoned.

“There are similar situations in the parish courts, where over 40 per cent of the cases are assaults and woundings. Again, no earth-shattering law is going to emerge from there, so those cases really shouldn’t take a long time to be managed. If we begin to do things like that, we will get to the point that when the judges go on leave they will have no cases to decide while they are there,” Justice Sykes stated.

He, however, described as precarious the management of fraud cases.

“The critical thing is the fraud cases, those cases tend to consume a lot of resources and we really haven’t been doing well in managing these cases because the newspaper reports will tell us that we have at least one or two of these cases that are ongoing for four or five years. That needs to be examined,” Justice Sykes declared.

A judgment or ruling can be in written or oral form. Oral judgments are often provided at the end of a court matter.

In his charge to the acting judges he stated, “Let me make it clear that you are not here because of seniority; it is not about longevity and surviving all the others.”

“We are looking for whether persons are performance qualified, that is to say, your work life has demonstrated over time a commitment to hard work, a commitment to excellence. And why do we look at your work life in that way? Because you have to guard against persons who may have a sudden affliction of activity that is designed to create the impression that, yes, I am committed and hard-working,” the chief justice said.

In noting that the selected judges had passed that litmus test, the chief justice said, “You are actually here on merit.”

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