Justice Kerr remembered

Funeral services were held in Jamaica over the weekend for Mr. Justice James Kerr, who died 21 February.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie attended the funeral. In Cayman, Mr. Justice Dale Sanderson led a moment of silence in Grand Court.

He explained that Mr. Justice Kerr had served on the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal from its inception in 1984 until his retirement in 1999.

At a ceremony to mark that retirement, Mr. Justice Kerr noted that he first came to Cayman in 1965 to act for Mr. Justice Horsfall. He recalled that Cayman was the only jurisdiction in which he would adjourn the Grand Court, take off his wig and gown, then come back as magistrate.

Ramon Alberga QC traced other highlights of the judge’s distinguished career at the time.

Mr. Kerr joined the legal service as an associate clerk of court in 1940. After he was called to the bar in Lincoln’s Inn, he served as clerk of court, resident magistrate and legal attaché to the Jamaican High Commission in London.

He went on to become Director of Public Prosecutions.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie at the same gathering referred to Mr. Justice Kerr’s years of teaching at the Norman Manley Law School and his legal prowess, which included 17 consecutive victories in the Privy Council.

The Chief Justice noted that Lord Diplock considered Mr. Justice Kerr to be the only true authority on the Jamaican Constitution.

He also served on the court of Turks and Caicos as well as ombudsman in Jamaica.

Attorney David Ritch, then president of the Cayman Islands Law Society, said it was sometimes forgotten that judges not only make decisions and write judgments: they also give assistance to members of the bar who might otherwise not develop and do as well as they could.

Mr. Ritch said he would remember Mr. Justice Kerr as a judge who was never afraid to say, ‘Yes, I’ve got your point. You may move on to your next best point.’

Attorney Alden McLaughlin, then president of the Caymanian Bar Association, pointed out that the retiree had been on the Court of Appeal during a period of extraordinary development in Cayman, as reflected in the complexity and number of cases that came before him.

Mr. Justice Kerr’s legacy as an outstanding jurist is reflected in the Cayman Islands Law Reports, Mr. McLaughlin noted.

At Friday’s court proceedings, Mr. Justice Sanderson said Mr. Justice Kerr was considered by those who appeared before him as a true gentleman and an extraordinary jurist.

‘He commanded the respect of both his colleagues on the bench and the members of the bar. He was one of those judges who will long be remembered with affection.

‘His contribution to the jurisprudence of this country is significant and remains so today in the many learned judgments that he delivered,’ Mr. Justice Sanderson stated.

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