Tributes pour in for Justice Douglas

Friends and peers from the legal community paid tribute this week to the late Kipling Douglas.

Celebrated attorney Ramon Alberga, who knew Mr. Douglas since their shared tenure at Wolmers Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica, remembered his longtime friend as personable and kind. Mr. Alberga, two years senior to 86-year-old Mr. Douglas, said they shared the same house during their time at Wolmers.

“I got on quite well with him,” said Mr. Alberga of his initial impressions of Mr. Douglas. “We started a friendship that lasted the rest of time until he died. We had a nice relationship, and I think as a judge, he was quite a strong judge. He made some good decisions and he was quite respected by the bar.”

The two men took quite different paths after school, with Mr. Douglas embarking on a career in journalism before later entering the field of law. Mr. Alberga said they did not really practice at the same time in Jamaica before renewing their old friendship as legal professionals in Cayman courts.

Mr. Alberga went on to appear before Mr. Douglas several times in his capacity as a magistrate, and he said that his former classmate was wise and fair with his rulings and with his control of the court.

“He let you know how he was thinking and he sometimes telegraphed what his decision was going to be very early in a case. That’s what I remember,” he said. “The fact that I knew him and was at school with him didn’t affect him in any way. He was a judge who was very independent and very forthright.”

Casey Gill, a prominent local attorney and a former President of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, said he would remember Mr. Douglas as a kind man with many varied interests.

“He was a very widely read man as well as a very widely traveled man,” said Mr. Gill. “He was vibrant and enthusiastic in all his undertakings. He was always calm and soft-spoken. He enjoyed sitting on the bench and liked to put counsel on the spot with a twinkle in his eyes.

RELATED STORY: Kipling Douglas passes away at 86

“I’ve known Kipling since he first came to the island in 1983 and we were also very good friends. I remember fondly the dinner parties which his wife Leslie held. He relished talking about their travels. Apart from his distinguished judicial career, he worked in financial services and he was proud of his membership in the Executive Council of the Commonwealth Magistrates. He was just a very, very well liked man and always gentle.”

Mr. Douglas wrote about his extensive travels in the Cayman Compass and its sister paper, The Sunday Observer, and he chronicled memorable tales of his judicial career across three jurisdictions – Jamaica, Cayman and Turks and Caicos – in the 2013 book “The Courtroom, the Poor Man’s Theatre.”

Margaret Ramsay-Hale, the chief justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands, served alongside Mr. Douglas as a magistrate in Cayman and said that he was already a “larger than life” figure at that time. Mr. Douglas, she said, was a friend of her father and already very well known to the legal community and beyond.

“Throughout the years I lived and worked in Cayman, he readily shared with me the knowledge and wisdom he had gained on and off the Bench with the generosity and wit for which he was renowned,” she said. “I will always be grateful. I don’t know that I have ever met another person who took such unbounded joy in his family and friends, in his work – which he memorialized in his book – and in the pursuit of new experiences in different places across the globe, travelling widely in his leisure time and memorializing some of those experiences in travelogues which were published in the Cayman Compass.”

Karen Myren, the senior court reporter in the Cayman Islands, worked with Mr. Douglas briefly during his latter days on the bench in Cayman and remembered him for his kind disposition.

“He was just a pleasure to sit in court with,” she said. “He was always very fair and very kind but stern as well. He had such a good sense of humor that he could lighten things up. He was very quick witted.

“I just remember always enjoying sitting in court with him, and I’d also see him in a different court. He liked to play tennis. I played at the tennis club and I would often on Saturdays see him there playing tennis. Even if he wasn’t playing, he was watching his friends on Saturday afternoons. He was just so nice. I would say hi to him at the tennis club and he was just a really lovely, kind man.”

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