The late Hon. Carl Rattray, O.J., former attorney, judge, and parliamentarian, has been hailed as a “celebrated Caribbean legal mind” and “a remarkable son of Jamaica."
He is considered by many, a heroic figure who made a significant contribution to Jamaica, through his constant and dedicated pursuit of justice.
Undoubtedly, he has left an indelible mark on the local and regional landscapes of justice, politics and human rights.
Mr. Rattray passed away at home on Wednesday, March 14, at the age of 82, after ailing for four years.
Born in St. Elizabeth on September 18, 1929, he was educated at Beckford and Smith’s High School (now St. Jago High), Lincoln’s Inn School of Law and the Inns of Court, London. He was employed in the Colonial Office, London, in the West Indies Welfare Division from 1955 to 1956 and was called to the Bar in Jamaica in 1958. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1969.
Along with former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P. J. Patterson and the late Alfred Rattray, he was a founding partner in the law firm Rattray, Patterson, Rattray. He was elevated from private practice to President of the Court of Appeal where he served from 1993 until his retirement from the Bench in 1999.
Mr. Rattray was also a founding member and past chairman of the Jamaica Council for Human Rights. He was a member of the People’s National Party and was Member of Parliament for South East St. Catherine from 1989 to 1993.
The outstanding Jamaican served in several capacities in Government and in Parliament. He was Attorney General and Minister of Justice from 1989 to 1992 and was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs from 1992 to 1993. He was Leader of Government Business in the Senate from 1978 to 1980.
In a recent tribute in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller described Mr. Rattray as an exemplary Jamaican, who served his country with honesty, integrity and a genuine love for humanity.
“If you were looking for someone who was a prime example of what a team player is supposed to be… someone of enormous talent, who chose throughout his working life to use that talent unsparingly in the service of his fellow men and women …(then you would have found this in Carl Rattray),” the Prime Minister said.
She said the late parliamentarian was a celebrated Caribbean legal mind who served in Jamaica’s three branches of government.
"He served as legislator, at first as a long time member of the Upper House, and ended his parliamentary journey in this chamber for the constituency of South East
St. Catherine,” she informed. “It was as a Senator that he first served in the Executive arm of government, during the 1970s as Attorney General and Minister of Justice."
Mrs. Simpson Miller said his indelible contribution of leading the development and passage of the most far-reaching pieces of social legislation, in the history of Jamaica’s Parliament, stands as a monument that may be equalled, but not likely surpassed.
“He was passionate about women’s rights, equal pay for women, and was the forerunner for the Rights of Spouses Act, for which he later helped to lay the foundation in the early 1990s,” she added.
She further reminded that Mr. Rattray made significant contributions to “the rights to which poor prisoners are entitled and the expansion of workers’ rights, which was anchored on the introduction of the minimum wage."
“This Parliament has been illuminated by the spark of brilliance that Carl Rattray brought to Gordon House. When he stood to speak everyone would listen,” she said.
The Prime Minister further declared that, “no government, since Independence, has found such a legal rock on which it could firmly stand. Rattray was the colleague on whom all could count."
She noted that before embarking on his political career, Mr. Rattray had distinguished himself as an outstanding advocate at the private bar. However, it was his movement from the political arena to the judiciary as President of Jamaica’s Court of Appeal that served to define him as a man to whom conventional barrier ceilings were meant to be broken through, she remarked.
“Rattray was an exemplary judge, calm, patient with an eager ever listening ear. He was also an avid writer, who made solid contributions to our cultural landscape with his offerings of poetry,” she said.
Attorney General, Patrick Atkinson, said Mr. Rattray was among a cadre of lawyers who were always available to offer advice to younger lawyers.
“In private practice, he distinguished himself as a sound lawyer who sought and got justice for his clients and at the same time, he was a mentor and a role model for those of us who were younger lawyers at the time,” said the Member of Parliament for North Trelawny.
He pointed out that as Attorney General, Mr. Rattray “guided the government on a legally safe path while balancing and protecting the constitutional rights of ordinary Jamaicans."
“As President of the Court of Appeal, his judgments still serve as precedence to guide our jurisprudence to this very day. And Hansard, I believe, will record how he distinguished himself as a legislator,” Mr. Atkinson said.
Opposition Spokesman on National Security and Justice, Delroy Chuck, said Mr. Rattray has not only served the legal profession, and the courts with distinction, but has served the political arena in the Parliament, in the Senate and also in the Executive.
“He has served the people of Jamaica with extraordinary ability, excellence and in a manner of which all Jamaicans can be proud,” he said.
Mr. Chuck said Mr. Rattray had a passion for justice. “He felt that every human being could be restored, they were not irredeemable. He really felt that even the worst in the prison could be redeemed,” he said.
The Official funeral service for Mr. Rattray will be held at the University of the West Indies Chapel on Tuesday, March 27, beginning at 10:00 a.m. He leaves behind widow, Audrey and four children.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter