The formal opening of Grand Court for 2019 took place on Wednesday morning, with Chief Justice Anthony Smellie and other speakers addressing the challenges and opportunities involved in the administration of justice in the Cayman Islands.
As has been traditional since the early 1990s, proceedings began with a Guard of Honor by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service outside the Law Courts Building. Led by Chief Inspector Everton Spence, the contingent gave a general salute and was then inspected by the Chief Justice before the throng of attorneys, court staff and guests adjourned to Court One for the rest of the program. An overflow crowd viewed proceedings via CCTV in Court Two.
Dignitaries in attendance included Cayman’s new governor, Martyn Roper, and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson. With Premier Alden McLaughlin in Belgium for meetings with European Union officials, Cayman’s elected government was represented by Finance Minister Roy McTaggart.
Members of the Legislative Assembly present included David Wight, Kenneth Bryan, Alva Suckoo, Austin Harris and Arden McLean.
After the Grand Court judges took their places on the bench, Pastor Jeff Jefferson gave the opening prayer.
In the absence of Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, who was also in Belgium, the motion to open court was moved by Acting Attorney General Reshma Sharma. Ms. Sharma noted court highlights of the past year, including the use of sexual harm prevention orders, the regular sitting of a court dealing with domestic violence and abuse, the acquisition of the Scotiabank building for court use, the amount of legislation drafted and passed, and the establishment of a Witness Protection Unit in criminal matters.
Attorney Erik Bodden seconded the motion in an address he described as a “landmark moment” – the first on behalf of the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Association. Speaking on behalf of interim president David Collins, Mr. Bodden explained that CILPA is the newly formed single, unified and inclusive body that is replacing the former Cayman Islands Law Society and Caymanian Bar association. He noted that the legal profession is evolving at a rapid pace, with more than 800 attorneys now registered to practice law in Cayman.
The objectives of CILPA will be the progression of Caymanian attorneys in their various firms, retention of the financial services’ preeminent position internationally, and the provision of an appropriate level of self-regulation through a code of conduct for members.
Mr. Bodden emphasized that attorneys welcomed the opportunity to be involved in consultation on proposed new legislation, as they have been in the past.
Attorney Colin McKie, consultant editor of the Cayman Islands Law Reports, was the final speaker on the motion. He thanked the Grand Court judges for the 188 rulings handed down last year.
He said the 2017 volume of law reports took up 1,456 pages. The increase in size was partly due to the ever-increasing number of judgments, he explained, as well as the ever-increasing complexity of matters. The preparation of such judgments required an enormous amount of a judge’s time outside of court, he said.
A judgment explains the court’s decision to the parties involved, Mr. McKie pointed out. It also communicates reasons to the general public and to an appellate court if there is an appeal. Well-written judgments ensure continued public confidence in the rule of law, he said. He warned against an unfortunate but noticeable trend in lengthy judgments made possible by “cut and paste” references to related cases found on the internet.
Mr. McKie urged writers to avoid unnecessary verbosity as well as unnecessary brevity. He quoted Sir John Chadwick, former president of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal, who explained that the court proceeded on the basis that the court below was correct “unless we are persuaded otherwise.”
Chief Justice Smellie responded to each speaker briefly before making his own remarks.