NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As he lambasted the current state of the court system in The Bahamas, Chief Justice Brian Moree foreshadowed several changes that will seek to modernize the justice system.
Moree made the comments during the opening of the legal year earlier this week.
“Too many of the justices of the Supreme
Court are working in court rooms and chambers which are wholly unsuitable for the performance of their judicial functions,” Moree said.
“…Similar conditions prevail in the case of Registrars and Magistrate and again, they deserve our commendation for working assiduously under adverse circumstances.”
Moree underscored the advocacy of previous chief justices for change and modernization in the judicial branch of government.
“The need for reform and modernization of our Court System is now impatient of debate,” he said
“That matter has been settled and what is needed is bold initiatives without, what has been described as, the dead hand of tradition holding back radical and fundamental change.
“It will involve systemic, procedural, administrative and operational paradigm shifts.”
He pointed to three initiatives that will be understated to ensure there are transformative reforms which would fundamentally and substantially change the country’s court system.
These include a new Supreme Court Complex, the Court Services Bill and new Supreme Court rules
Moree told members of the judiciary “The physical structure of a courthouse is the most obvious factor affecting access to justice.
“To ensure that all persons with legitimate business before the court have access to its proceedings, court facilities need to be safe, accessible, and convenient to use.
“Currently the Supreme Court is operating out of seven different buildings in various states of disrepair.
“Roofs are leaking, ceilings are collapsing and floors are cracking in different areas of the buildings significantly impairing efficient utilization and optimal productivity.
“Simply put, the buildings are not suitable for a modern court system.”
He noted that the only real plan is a new Supreme Court complex.
Moree said that while he is aware that the government is actively considering the construction of a new complex and has identified a specific property for the building, he urged the government to move now to make this long sought after project a reality.
He said understanding the financial predicament is in in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the judiciary stands ready to lead the initiative of developing public/private partnerships, “as a part of our Reform and Modernization programme and work with all stakeholders if we are provided with the resources.”
Pointing to the urgent need for the Court Services Bill, Moree insisted that judicial independence, both institutional and personal, is an essential pre-requisite of the rule of law.
Attorney General Carl Bethel has committed that the government will pass the bill before the first quarter of this year.
Moree added that the new rules of the Supreme Court will be introduced based on an adapted and updated version of the CPR.
He added that a committee has been working for the past several months and a working draft of the new rules will be sent to the Bahamas Bar Association early next week.
“With the cooperation of the other two branches of government we have a real opportunity to achieve meaningful and important change.”