Time of reflection for Justice

As the years have passed, Justice Edward Zacca has seen many changes in Cayman.

‘When I first came here I don’t think there were a half a dozen buildings on Seven Mile Beach. I don’t mean to say any disrespect, but it was like a sleeping village,’ he said, laughing.

‘The island has grown both in the judiciary, in business, unfortunately more crime, but that happens with progress and especially with the drugs. There are so many cases that are as a result of drugs, which is unfortunately the same in Jamaica and other countries,’ he said.

The changes in the judiciary have been as notable to Mr. Zacca as the changes to Cayman itself.

‘When I came here there were no Caymanian lawyers qualified here,’ he said.

There were only law agents who were allowed to appear in court for clients, and as Mr. Zacca recalls, there were four of them at the time – Clifton Hunter, Warren Connolly, Ormond Panton and Annie Bodden, whom Mr. Zacca recalls as a quite imposing figures in court.

‘It is only since you have had the law school here that you have had quite a number of Caymanians qualifying as lawyers. You did have a few who qualified before the law school period – there were a number but they were few and far between and today there are quite a large group of Caymanian lawyers in the Cayman Islands,’ said Mr. Zacca.

‘The strength of the bar and the numbers of the bar has also grown tremendously.’

When the Court of Appeal was established a very competent group of experienced judges were selected for the panel.

‘I think that has laid the foundation for the confidence that it seems the lawyers, litigants and investors have in the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands,’ said Mr. Zacca.

Yet there are some improvements that can be made in Mr. Zacca’s eyes.

‘The Grand Court I think might require more judges and perhaps strengthening in some ways, especially with the commercial work that is taking place here. Maybe they should establish a commercial court and get judges with commercial work experience, because investors look to see what is available here before they come and invest,’ said Mr. Zacca.

‘They want to make sure that their problems can be determined expeditiously and by competent judges too.’

According to Mr. Zacca, the commercial side of the law poses the greatest challenges to Cayman’s judiciary.

‘Over the years with the country growing and the financial institutions increasing and companies coming here because of the tax-free situation there have been some very complex commercial cases involving billions and billions of dollars,’ he says.

‘These cases are quite complex sometimes and really require thought and consideration before coming to a decision. In the criminal cases you have robberies and robberies and murders and murders, so you are doing the same type of work over and over, whereas in the commercial cases they are different considerations, different litigants, different commercial complexities so it’s not the same thing you’re doing over and over again. You have to be applying your mind to a new thing, a new matter from time to time, and that can be taxing,’ according to Mr. Zacca.

‘I remember one session we had three of these commercial cases on appeal, each one lasting three or five days, and they just followed one after the other so we really were stressed out at the end of those three appeals as it takes a lot of work and reading, it takes a lot of concentration because these are complex matters,’ he said.

Mr. Zacca readily admits that the commercial work that the judges of the Court of Appeal had to deal with here was a new challenge to them at the time.

‘We are really helped by what is presented to us to help us to come to our decision, because they can be very difficult cases and we have managed somehow because let’s face it, when the court was originally established none of our judges had any real experience in commercial work because Jamaica, these countries that the judges came from, not any of us had ever done any serious commercial work.’

In a career with many highlights, Mr. Zacca finds the most pleasure and honour in having been appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

‘I had the opportunity of sitting with the law lords on various occasions in cases coming from the Caribbean – appeals from the Courts of Appeal on the islands. I really felt very privileged and honoured to he chosen by Her Majesty the Queen because I had to be sworn in as a member of the Privy Council by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and that gave me a lot of pleasure and to know that I had been considered for that post.’

Although now retired as president of the Court of Appeal in Cayman, Mr. Zacca still remains as the president of the Court of Appeal in Bermuda and Turks & Caicos, and has no plans retire completely any time soon.

‘I have been very fortunate in keeping well, my health has been good, thank God, The Lord has been good to me there because as I pointed out for 33 years I have never missed a session here, not a day. Thank God my health has been good and I hope it will continue to be so, so that I can at least continue to offer my services,’ he smiles.

‘I am very privileged and happy that I was able to reach the top of the judiciary in Jamaica and that gives me satisfaction even though materially it might not have been the thing to do. It has given me a lot of satisfaction to look back at what I have achieved. That I think is equal to materiality. It makes you happy and makes you feel that you have done something,’ said Mr. Zacca.