Why Grand Court has six-plus judges

 

Grand
Court judges disposed of 100 criminal cases in 2010 while dealing with 77
others thathad
to be carried over into 2011, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie revealed at the
ceremonial court opening last Wednesday. Meanwhile, they collectively also
handled 419 cases in the specialised Financial Services Division and an
unspecified number of other civil matters, probate, family and children cases.

The
majority of cases were dealt with in a timely manner, remarked Attorney Charles
Jennings, Law Society president. He commended the magistrates in the Summary
Court and judges in the Grand Court for diligently and efficiently disposing of
both criminal and civil lists week in and week out.

“This
is clearly important both in respect of local litigation, which affects the
lives of the people in the community and also with regard to the international
work which is so vital to maintain Cayman’s position as a leading financial
centre,” Mr. Jennings pointed out.

President
of the Caymanian Bar Association James Bergstom observed that, “as a
jurisdiction, we should take pride in the fact that in particular the commercial
judgments of the Grand Court and of the Court of Appeal continue to generate
interest around the Commonwealth and it is becoming increasingly common for
Cayman cases to be mentioned in those other tribunals.”

Attorney
Colin McKie, speaking on behalf of the Cayman Islands Law Reports, put the
judges’ work in perspective. In 1964, the Grand Court issued eight writs and
other civil proceedings. In 1984, 291 were issued. In 2010, by his reckoning,
well over 800 were issued — 517 in the civil division and 296 in the Financial
Services Division.

In
addition the judges handed down 136 written judgments and rulings. “Many of
these judgments concerned difficult and novel matters. The judges sitting in
the financial services division have delivered judgments on complex issues
arising out of fund suspensions and redemptions, liquidations and receiverships,
takeovers, trusts, and proceedings related to the Madoff and other frauds,” Mr.
McKie said.

Civil
Division judges delivered judgments on local licensing, personal injuries,
constructions disputes, while Family Division judges gave a number of important
decisions on the custody of children and financial provision. There is also an
Admiralty Division, but no rulings were given last year, he summarised.

The
divisions of the Grand Court, announced in 2009, have already had impact, as
explained by the Chief Justice in his latest address.  One benefit, he noted, is the ability to assign
judges to the work of the various divisions “according to their availability
and specialisms.”

The
fact that Financial Services Division cases remain with a single judge helps
ensure a timely and cost-efficient disposal, he said.

“The
public of these Islands would also no doubt be interested to know that these
benefits brought by the FSD have come with little additional costs to the
public. This is due to a large extent to the special terms and conditions under
which our additional judges have agreed to serve and to the fact that the
reasonable fees that are charged in relation to FSD cases largely offset any
additional costs.”  

He
indicated he will be seeking legislative changes to formally establish the
Family Division, “which would exercise jurisdiction in relation to all matters
involving children or the family as a whole”, because of the need for
confidentiality and sensitivity in the treatment of these matters.

While
the various speakers addressed the work of the past year, they also looked
ahead to issues yet to be dealt with.

Mr.
Bergstrom pleaded for the passage of a Legal Practitioners Bill, which has been
in the works for eight years. “I firmly believe that this issue is contributing
to Cayman’s loss of market share as an international financial centre as well
as harming our reputation as a progressive jurisdiction,” he said.

He
commented positively on the work of the Financial Services Legislative
Committee, in which the public and private sectors were working well together.
The committee was formed “to introduce the fast-tracking of legislation to help
Cayman maintain its pre-eminence in the offshore financial market,” said Mr.
Jennings, who is now the group’s chairman.

Attorney
General Samuel Bulgin referred to the Constitution, which came into effect in
November 2009. The fact that some legislation has not yet been amended as contemplated
by the Constitution does not mean things are being done unconstitutionally, he
assured. The biggest challenge over the next 22 months will be to prepare for
the Bill of Rights. “It is perhaps inevitable that the courts will be called
upon to adjudicate on these rights and this carries with it the need for
greater vigilance to ensure and support the independence of the judiciary and
indeed the rule of law,” Mr. Bulgin said.

It
is through the courts that both criminal and civil legislation is interpreted,
implemented and enforced, the Chief Justice remarked.

Along
with the Chief Justice, the Grand Court is comprised of Justices Alexander
Henderson, Charles Quin, Angus Foster, Andrew Jones and Sir Peter Cresswell.

Mr.
McKie acknowledged overseas judges and local practitioners who sat as acting
judges in 2010, including Justices Roy Anderson, Lennox Campbell, Howard Cooke,
Roy Jones, Leighton Pusey, Algernon Smith. Justice Karl Harrison is acting
currently.

Along
with the Chief Justice’s report, the Judicial and Legal Information web site
will carry the remarks of Mr. Bulgin, who moved the court’s opening, and the
speakers who seconded his motion.

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