The Judicial Administration on Thursday announced the appointment of Cayman’s first Legal Aid director, Stacy Parke.
Ms. Parke’s new role, effective Aug. 7, replaces the administration of Legal Aid by a panel of Grand Court judges, led by Acting Legal Aid Director Nova Hall, pursuant to the creation of 2015’s Legal Aid Law, although Chief Justice Anthony Smellie dealt with most applications.
The chief justice welcomed Ms. Parke, saying she would “bring to bear a pragmatic, but fair and balanced, approach to the administration of legal aid, in keeping with the new regime of the 2015 Law.”
He noted Ms. Parke’s assumption of the Grand Court’s previous “primary decision-making functions … exercising an administrative and quasi-judicial role,” but said appeals of Ms. Parke’s decisions may still be lodged with the Grand Court.
The new regime would “help to streamline the functions and make the process more transparent,” he said, urging legal aid practitioners “to support the director in … carrying out her important functions to ensure that our jurisdiction continues to provide a fair and effective legal aid program.”
Trinidadian Ms. Parke began practicing law in 1998 in Trinidad and Tobago after gaining certification from Hugh Wooding Law School and graduating with honors from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Moving to the Cayman Islands in November 2003, she pursued civil and family litigation at local law firm Brooks and Brooks.
She will also seek to create a free-of-charge Legal Aid Clinic, staffed by volunteers and Truman Bodden Law School students.
“I am very excited and genuinely looking forward to the new challenges the job will bring,” Ms. Parke said. “I am equally delighted that I will be working alongside students of TBLS as we establish a full-fledged Legal Aid Clinic,” offering “free legal advice … by volunteer attorneys,” while enabling “law students to gain valuable practical experience in legal advocacy.”
Court Administrator Suzanne Bothwell also welcomed last Monday’s appointment. “I am pleased to have Ms. Parke join [the] Judicial Administration as the first Director of Legal Aid. As her former colleague at the Bar, I can say that Ms. Parke has a very strong local litigation background and a solid reputation amongst her peers and the local community, which she has served for some 15 years as a legal practitioner.
“Her existing familiarity with the Legal Aid system and wide scope of litigation expertise will allow her to apply the Legal Aid Law as intended … balancing genuine need for the dispensation of legal aid funds, where it is in the public interest to do so.”
She told the Cayman Compass that Ms. Parke would “receive, process, assess and make decisions on legal aid applications,” administering a $3 million budget.
The free clinic, Ms. Bothwell said, would “aim to provide greater access to justice for citizens as well as, by the provision of free advice through a volunteer clinic, allow law students to gain practical experience and the opportunity to shadow actual legal aid cases with local legal aid attorneys.
“We look forward to working with existing volunteer stakeholders, the Truman Bodden Law School and the local bar to achieve these goals,” she said.
She thanked Ms. Hall, Elizabeth Webb and Kimberly Dixon of Judicial Administration for “managing the transition to the new legal-aid scheme since its coming into force in October 2016.”
Ms. Parke, she said, had been among five local candidates for the position.
The Legal Aid Office will continue to operate from the main courthouse, but is scheduled to move across the street to Town Centre next year.