Justice delays anger Chuck
Despite a measure of success in the timely disposal of some court cases, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has expressed dissatisfaction with what he termed the “unacceptably long delay in setting trial dates and delivering judgments”.
In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Wednesday, Chuck told his colleagues in Gordon House that there were cases filed and ready for trial in the Supreme Court with dates as far as 2026.
“Such inordinate delays do not reflect timely disposal of cases. It is a matter that needs to be addressed,” the justice minister declared.
Chuck said that matters that do not require adjudication in the Supreme Court should be completed within 12 months.
“If the case needs to go to trial, they should realistically be completed within two years on average. From filing to completion should not be longer than three years,” he said.
The justice minister said that Parish Court cases should be completed within two years, with 18 months a realistic average.
“Unfortunately, this is a far cry from what is happening now, and we need to do something about it,” Chuck insisted.
He bemoaned that litigants had their lives on hold and waited in frustration for years to have their cases scheduled and tried.
Jamaica’s Chief Justice, Bryan Sykes, has urged the courts to deliver more judgments orally and that judgments be only reserved for complex cases.
According to Chuck, if a written judgment is required, the decision should first be given orally and followed up within three to six months, with the explanation in writing.
Chuck said that he has received complaints from litigants and their attorneys about delays in the justice system.
“This minister of justice respects the separation of powers and has never, cannot, and will not interfere with the judiciary in their judicial role. However, the prolonged delay in the court system is a matter of public concern that cannot be ignored,” he asserted.
Citing support given to the judiciary and the court system, Chuck said that the ministry had responded to a request to provide judicial clerks to assist with writing judgments, and 10 had been provided, increasing their numbers to 22 in the Supreme Court.
He said the Court of Appeal has 11 senior judicial clerks.
Last year, the Court of Appeal appointed three additional judges, increasing the number to 10. As a result, the Court of Appeal disposed of 193 appeals for 2019, representing an increase of more than 20 per cent in the clearance of appeals delivered over 2018.
However, the Court of Appeal has 1,800 appeals pending. “We expect the Court of Appeal will appoint three additional judges for a total of 12 appeal court judges, plus the president, so that they can sit regularly in three panels per week to deal with these pending cases.”
Court of Appeal
· As at June 16, 2020, sixty-nine outstanding reserved judgments and 30 outstanding reasons for judgment.
· Sixty-five per cent of all matters disposed of by the court were completed within six months of hearing.
· Thirty-eight per cent increase in the number of appeals disposed of in 2019.
· More than 30 reserved judgments delayed for more than two years at end of 2019
· An increase of 120 per cent in number of judgments delivered in 2019 over those in 2018.
· From January to May 2020, the court delivered 97 judgments and reserved 42, leading to a clearance rate of 231 per cent.
· Approximately 50 per cent of reserved judgments are delayed for more than two years.