Cayman seeks new judges

Job postings went out late last week for two vacant judge positions within the Cayman Islands criminal justice system.

The first post seeks to fill an open seat on the Grand Court; the other seeks to replace a vacant magistrate’s position.

The Grand Court position was previously held by Judge Priya Levers, who was removed from office following a lengthy enquiry into alleged misbehaviour on the bench. The magistrate’s job was previously held by Grace Donalds, whose contract was not renewed.

The Grand Court judge’s job pays $190,187 (US$228,224) annually. The magistrate’s position is being advertised at a range of CI$96,372 – CI$117,420 (US$115,646 – US$140,940).

Appointments to the Grand Court in the Cayman Islands are until the age of 65 or for a five-year term, whichever is longer. Magistrates are typically employed in accordance with the Public Service Management Law, which governs the hiring and benefits paid to all civil servants.

The Grand Court judge’s position requires a minimum of 10 years in post-qualification experience in law as well as holding a legal licence to practice within Cayman, the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth.

Requirements for the Grand Court judge include the ability to “command the respect of the legal profession and the community and possess absolute personal integrity”. Also, the post holder must “demonstrate procedural fairness in all cases and deal tactfully and courteously with all participants, as well as with the public”.

For magistrates, who preside over Summary Court, a minimum of five years post-qualification experience in law in the UK or Commonwealth jurisdiction is required.

In addition to the above requirements for the Grand Court judges, the magistrates should preferably possess “an enthusiasm to participate in various pilot projects in the Summary Court aimed at a more restorative approach to the treatment of domestic violence, DUI and psychiatrically-impaired offenders, which may lead to the promulgation of legislation for the establishment of new specialist courts”.

The selection of new judges within the Cayman Islands operates quite differently under the country’s 2009 Constitution than it has previously.

Judicial and Legal Services Commission Chairman Dan Scott said back in September that it was likely a subcommittee of commission members and some other individuals would be formed to consider all applications for Grand Court position.

The final recommendations for the new judge will be made to Governor Duncan Taylor by the commission members – not Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, Mr. Scott said.

However, Mr. Scott said he envisioned that Mr. Smellie’s input would be sought and even intimated that the chief justice could be included on the commission’s interview subcommittee.

“I would anticipate… we would look to the chief justice for his views at some point in time if we are looking to appoint a judge,” Mr. Scott said during an interview last year.

The commission is breaking new ground in the Cayman Islands, where judges and magistrates previously were appointed by the governor acting at his discretion – typically with advice from the chief justice.

Now, judicial appointments – as well as those for other legal offices, including attorney general and director of public prosecutions – must be vetted by the independent commission. The eight-person body consists of six appointees with extensive judicial or legal background and two lay people, including the chairman, Mr. Scott.

“This adds another layer to the process, but it is a good layer,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s an opportunity to enhance public confidence in the process.”