Letters to the Editor

To whom are judges accountable?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The act of 97 judges' meeting last week Monday at the Supreme Court to discuss Bryan Sykes being appointed acting chief justice as well as the contentious issue of separation of powers, which effectively brought court proceedings across the island to a screeching halt, was unprecedented and it resulted in grave inconvenience to many.

While we understand the significance of these judges coming together to make their voices heard on these critical issues in safeguarding judicial independence, and while we can argue that actions that appear extreme under normal circumstances are appropriate during adversity, their planned action was inappropriate and tantamount to misconduct.

In a context where there are, inter alia, mountains of cases in the courts which takes an average of six years before they are tried, together with the shameful inadequacies and inefficiencies in the justice system which exacerbates the situation, judges do not have the luxury of arbitrarily interrupting court proceedings at the expense of litigants, witnesses, accused, and attorneys.

In light of the inappropriate conduct of these judges in convening a meeting during court hours when there were appropriate alternatives at their disposal, such as to seek audience with the governor general to register their grouses and concerns, it raises the question as to which no on seems to have the answer to the question: To whom are judges accountable administratively and for misconduct?

In the event of bias, or some form of conclusion which leads to a miscarriage of justice, we know that the Court of Appeal and/or the Privy Council would be the avenue for review and recourse. What is lost on us is who (or what body) is responsible for effectively disciplining judges and for violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct.

The panel on All Angles, that was aired on February 14, 2018 on Television Jamaica, which included Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, struggled to respond satisfactorily to this pertinent question.

Certainly, judges are not a law unto themselves, neither are they above the law. They are guided by rules and regulations which, if violated, should see them suffering penalties just like any other professionals.

Judges should not be so independent that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and they should not feel as if they are only answerable to themselves. That, in and of itself, would be dangerous, and it requires immediate attention from the authorities (whoever that is).

There should be a public education campaign to address this issue concerning the accountability of judges.

Dujon Russell





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