Chief justice vows to clear backlog, improve judicial services

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CHIEF Justice Bryan Sykes has committed to instituting measures to further improve service delivery across the judicial system.

Among these, he says, are steps to ensure the delivery of outstanding judgements in the Supreme Court by December 31, 2019.

Justice Sykes said that as of 2020, a judgement should be delivered within 90 days, “and in exceptional cases, 180 days following the completion of the case”.

He further indicated that the Court of Appeal’s case disposal rate should also increase, consequent on the appointment of three additional judges in January, with another three later this year.

The chief justice, in a national broadcast on Sunday, made it clear that unnecessary delays will not be accommodated. “Our goal is to decrease the waiting time for the adjudication of some matters,” said Justice Sykes.

He noted, for example, that in the issuance of a decree absolute in divorce matters will be within 16 weeks, once the documents are submitted error-free, while advising that by December 31, 2019, “there will be no outstanding divorces”.

In relation to matters of probate and letters of administration intended to establish the validity of wills and dealing with the estates of persons who have died without leaving a will, Justice Sykes indicated that once all relevant documents are submitted error-free, the Supreme Court’s staff will ensure these are settled within 12 weeks.

“I am making it my mandate for us to have excellent courts. 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,” he said.

Justice Sykes noted that the culture shift, already embarked on to this end, has begun to produce desirable results in the Supreme Court and parish courts.

He highlighted statistics, indicating that in some divisions of the Supreme Court, the Gun Court, and parish courts, more than 100 cases were being disposed of for every 100 filed.

Additionally, the chief justice said last year, for the first time, seven parish courts had a clearance rate exceeding 100 per cent.

This, he added, “has set the platform for us to clear the current backlog within six years”.

Sykes noted, too, that timely service delivery by the judicial system requires the input of all stakeholders.

“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. 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 leads to adjournments,” he underscored.

Meanwhile, Justice Sykes advised that ongoing training was being facilitated for court staff to improve their basic customer service and stress management skills.

This, he pointed out, is in keeping with the judicial system’s Customer Service Charter, articulating that court staff will be courteous, respectful and prompt.

“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. This [training] will continue as we aim for First-World standards,” the chief justice added.

He pointed out that Jamaica’s attainment of developed country status by 2030, requires a Judiciary that “remains strong and maintains its integrity”, and paid tribute to his predecessors and other judges for their role in this regard.

“I [understand] the complexity, as well as the magnitude of the work that needs to be done to transform the judicial arm of government with excellence and efficiency at its core. My vision is for our Judiciary to be the best in the Caribbean region in three years and among the best in the world within six years,” he said.

“This 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,” said Justice Sykes.

He invited “well-thinking citizens” to “partner with us as we work to strengthen the rule of law in Jamaica, Land We Love”.

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