Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, says there should be progress this year in addressing some of the challenges that affect the justice system, including inadequate space and the need for more Supreme Court judges.
She said with the expansion of the Supreme Court, which is expected to be completed by May, some of the prevailing issues related to space will be addressed while the number of judges will be increased, based on the fact that there will be more chambers available in the new building to accommodate them.
She informed that the Judicial Services Commission has been conducting interviews and has subsequently identified suitable candidates for posts. "Therefore, we are urgently awaiting the expansion of that Court in order to accommodate an increased number of judges," she remarked.
Justice McCalla noted also that the expansion works will facilitate transfer of the Civil Registry to more spacious surroundings. "What we hope to do is to transfer the Civil Registry to the refurbished building and use that building for civil matters. I do hope that that will ameliorate some of the conditions," she stated.
The Chief Justice was speaking at this morning's (Jan.13) ceremony at King's House, where four judges were sworn into higher officer by Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen.
They are: Court of Appeal Judge, Hon. Justice Hazel Harris, who will Act while President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Seymour Panton goes on vacation leave; Justice Patrick Brooks was sworn in as Court of Appeal Judge; while Evon Brown and Nicole Simmons were sworn in as Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court.
Justice McCalla, in congratulating the newly appointed judges, noted that their appointment demonstrates the confidence that has been placed in them to perform their duties. "You are responsible not only to yourselves, but to the profession and the people of Jamaica to uphold the best traditions of the judiciary. I have no doubt that you will do so," she stated.
She remarked that Justice Harris is aptly qualified and is no stranger to hard work, noting that under her stewardship the Court of Appeal will be in capable hands during Justice Panton’s absence.
The Chief Justice also reminded the judges of the task ahead, pointing to the heavy case loads and the many challenges that continue to affect the justice system, including scarce resources.
Justice Panton also expressed confidence that Justice Harris will keep "a very steady hand on things" and that she will have the full support of her colleagues.
He stated that "she's one of the hardest working judges this country has seen, she is well read and wise, calm but resolute. She is one whom I would describe as an experienced thinker. She is a very prolific judgment writer and the Court of Appeal and Jamaica itself, will benefit immensely from her skills and her sense of justice."
Justice Panton also commended the other judges and advised them to be even tempered and even handed in their work and their attitude, and be courteous to all.
The Governor-General, in his remarks, noted that the appointments come at a critical time in the nation’s journey as an independent state. “We have come to the 50th year of nationhood and your appointments to function at this time must also be considered in the context of the maturity and the stage that we have reached as a nation,” he stated.
Responding on behalf of the judges, Justice Harris said they will strive to protect the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. “I assure you that I’m committed to ensuring that the precepts and tenets of the judiciary will continue with dignity, proprietary and seamlessness. I will not fail to heed the cry for justice, knowing that justice is a guaranteed right to be enjoyed by all persons,” she stated.