Black Immigrant Daily News
There continues to be an outcry from senior officials within the local judicial system over the shortage of Judges, but according to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) will be established in the coming months, thus paving the way for these critical appointments to be made.
“I want to assure that very, very early this year – long before the end of the first quarter of this year – we will have appointed the Judicial Service Commission and the Public Service Commission. [These are] two important constitutional commissions that will address the inadequacy of human resources that currently plague the judicial institutions… You have our fullest commitment that that issue will be addressed,” Nandlall stressed.
The Attorney General was at the time responding to lamentations by the top judicial officials on the lack of Judges in the system – something he acknowledged while applauding the current complement of Judges for being able to deliver quality justice despite these deficiencies within the system.
He was at the time speaking at the launch of the 2023 Judicial Year which was held on Tuesday under the theme: “Serving People, Providing Justice”.
Currently, there are 11 High Court Judges – one of whom will be retiring soon – and only three Judges in the Court of Appeal.
According to Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, the Judiciary is doing the best it can, given the extremely heavy case load, in particular, among other challenges.
“I do acknowledge that decisions should be given in a timely manner and we are committed to striving to do so… We can and must do better. Of course, we can; of course, we must,” she contended.
The Chief Justice (ag) pointed out that as it is, a civil judge oversees a constant docket of about 200 to 400 cases at any one time throughout the year, managing cases for all three counties. The Judges who are assigned to the criminal jurisdiction, she added, are also assigned some civil matters to assist with the case load.
Justice George further noted that the two Commissioners of Title carry a case load in the thousands for all three counties, while the criminal case load in both the High Court and the Magistrates’ Courts are extremely high.
In addition, all Judges of the High Court also sit at an appellate level to hear Full Court appeals – many of which are filed annually, she stated.
“It has to be remembered that the court system is a receiver of cases and has no control over the number of matters filed… The fact is we are a litigious nation. Mediation has assisted, but there are still many cases going to trial… And with the increasing passage of legislation with added criminal offences, it is the court system that will bear the brunt of the many cases filed,” Justice George posited.
Meanwhile, similar sentiments were expressed by Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, who underscored the need for more Judges to assist in carrying out the mandate of the Judiciary.
She outlined that the complement of Judges has been depleted with the retirements of High Court Judges – Justice Franklin Holder and Justice Brassington Reynolds – in the latter half of 2022.
“Courts exist to do justice and we cannot do justice with machines alone. We need the people and we can only do what we’re required to do if we have the necessary resources.“We do not need the rhetoric… We need the Judges. We’ve been hearing, time again, about the JSC soon to be established, we would like to see the implementation and the establishment of the Judicial Service Commission,” the Chancellor insisted.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack has also joined the calls for more Judges to be appointed, especially in light of the significant increase in the number of criminal cases.
She said more Judges are needed to preside over the criminal sittings so that the backlog of cases could be disposed of in a timely manner.
Moreover, President of the Guyana Bar Association, Attorney-at-Law Pauline Chase also pointed out that the lack of a full complement of Judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal, owing to the absence of the Judicial Service Commission to appoint Judges, is severely undermining the administration of Justice.
“We’re now at about half of our statutory complement of Judges… We at the Bar are acutely aware with the pressure that this is placing on the [judicial] system… Our Judges are performing a herculean task in supporting the system… Help is urgently needed,” Chase asserted.
The tenure of the previous JSC expired in September 2017.
Article 198 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states that the JSC members must comprise of the Chancellor of the Judiciary, who will be appointed as Chairman; the Chief Justice; the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, and any other members appointed to the Commission.
The JSC’s remit includes the power to make appointments, to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting within the offices of Commissioner of Title, Director of Public Prosecutions, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Magistrate, Registrar of the High Court, Deputy Registrar of the High Court, Registrar of Deeds and Deputy Registrar of Deeds, among others.
The Commission also advises the President on the appointment of Judges, with the exception of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice.