There’s nowhere better, perhaps, to see certain facets of life than inside a courtroom.
And while that’s somewhere most of us will hopefully never see, there are certain people who have made it their career. Author Judge Kipling Douglas is one of them, having first been called to the Bar in 1963, although his own story had a few twists and turns up until then.
“What is strange is that my father was a medical doctor,” he tells Weekender. “And my siblings and I all thought that medicine would be the profession for us. Unfortunately, unlike the others, I was unable to follow in his footsteps, as from the age of five I started suffering from asthma which greatly affected my attendance at school. As a result I was unable to excel in any subject that required instructions, such as Latin, chemistry, maths, etc. But I was bright at all those that I could learn by just reading, which enabled me to pass my Senior Cambridge Examination.
“This ailment was terminated in my early 20s while studying journalism in England when my mother sent me a foam rubber pillow. That ended my asthma and made me realise that I was allergic to feather pillows. It was while working at a journalist, and at times reporting court cases, that I developed a keen interest in law.”
His experiences form the subject matter for his third book, The Courtroom: The Poor Man’s Theatre, based on his years in Jamaica, Turks & Caicos and the Cayman Islands.
“Years ago when I conducted court on certain days in the rural areas of Jamaica, and the courtroom was always crowded by the country people who came mostly to have their entertainment for the week, or month, according to the number of days court was held, from their attitude and interest it soon struck me that the courtroom was indeed The Poor Man’s Theatre, and this has remained in my memory ever since.”
Theatre or no, it’s still something of a step from journalist-turned-justice to justice-turned-novelist. How did that come about?
“Throughout my days on the bench I always thought of making a record of the interesting cases that came before me, but somehow I was so busy that I never had the opportunity of recording, and since my retirement in 2000, I have written two other books without giving it a serious thought. A couple of years ago I was requested by one of the Rotary clubs in Cayman to address, and allowed to choose the subject.
“It then came to me that I had presided over several humorous cases that I have retained in my memory and tell from time to time to the amusement of my friends. I then resolved that they would be the topic of my address. It was so well received by the gathering, and members of the hotel staff who stopped their work to come and listen, that in a short while I received another invitation from another Rotary club to come and address them. It was shortly after that that I started the manuscript of this book,” recalls the author.
Justice Douglas says that Cayman has been good to him since he first arrived in 1965 as a barrister.
“In 1965 the population was approximately 8,000, which consisted of 2,000 men and 6,000 women. George Town was a village with a number of wooden houses, and West Bay Road was used at night as a race track for vehicles without a muffler. The mosquitoes at sunset were murderous, but the people were kind and friendly.
“I consider that Cayman has been good to me, and as a result, I have made it my home.”
The book release and signing for The Courtroom: The Poor Man’s Theatre is at Hobbies and Books on Friday and Saturday, 26 and 27 August, from noon until 2pm.