Nation hails distinguished jurist Sir Edward Zacca

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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The nation's leaders, as well as eminent attorneys yesterday paid tribute to former Chief Justice Sir Edward Zacca, noting his years of distinguished service to Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as his decency as a human being.

Sir Edward, whose judicial service in Jamaica spanned more than 38 years, died yesterday morning in hospital after a long illness. He was 88 years old.

Reacting to the former chief justice's passing, Prime Minister Andrew Holness expressed sadness and noted that Sir Edward had a long and distinguished career as a jurist, not only in Jamaica but in the Caribbean.

“He carried out his duties fairly, fearlessly and justly as an important arm of the democratic system of governance,” the prime minister said.

He noted that Sir Edward also had the opportunity to serve in the capacity of acting governor general of Jamaica from March to August 1991 and extended condolence to his family and friends.

“He was a gentleman in his professional life and leaves behind a legacy in the legal fraternity of which all Jamaica, the Caribbean and his family can be proud,” Prime Minister Holness said.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in his tribute, said that Sir Edward “gave distinguished service to the country at the critical phases in our immediate post-Independence years”.

“Justice Zacca's reach and influence went far beyond the Jamaican shores... he developed a reputation for integrity, learning and excellence in judicial circles,” Dr Phillips added and expressed condolence to Sir Edward's family, particularly his wife Hope Margaret and his children Christopher, Edward Jr and Karen.

Eminent Queen's Counsel Patrick Foster, who appeared in court with Sir Edward both here in Jamaica and at the Privy Council, described the late jurist as “an honourable and decent man, a good judge who was measured and calm”.

Added Foster: “Because of his fine judicial qualities he served not just in Jamaica and the Privy Council, but also in the Court of Appeal in The Bahamas and Bermuda. Jamaica and the Caribbean have lost a good judicial mind and a solid public servant.”

Yesterday morning the Supreme Court observed a moment's silence in honour of Sir Edward.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, who expressed surprise at the news of his passing, noted that he was “such a pleasant and urbane, courteous individual”.

“What was admirable was his total commitment to public service,” the DPP said and extended condolence to his family.

Supreme Court Judge Justine Vivene Harris, in concurring with the DPP, said the service given by the former chief justice was of great note.

Defence lawyer Lloyd McFarlane said he was “taken completely by surprise” by the news and was totally unaware that Sir Edward had been ill. Expressing condolence on behalf of the Bar, he said Sir Edward had “served very well”.

Sir Edward's son, Christopher Zacca, who is president and chief executive officer of Sagicor, said his family was “very proud of his accomplishments”.

“He was a great father, grandfather and husband,” added Zacca.

Sir Edward was born on July 26, 1931 to Wadie Zacca and Angel Shoucair. He married Hope Margaret on October 19, 1958 and the union produced three children Christopher, Edward Jr, and Karen.

His biography on the National Library of Jamaica website notes that he attended Kingston College from 1941 to 1947 and was called to the Bar in Middle Temple, London on February 9, 1954. From 1952 to 53 he was the president of Hans Crescent Colonial Students' Residence.

On June 29, 1954, Sir Edward was admitted to practice and was appointed clerk of courts in January 1958. He became acting resident magistrate (RM) for St Catherine, RM for St Mary and St James (1960-65), and RM for St Andrew (1965-1968).

On January 2, 1985, he was sworn in as chief justice of Jamaica and stepped up to the Privy Council on September 1, 1992, becoming the fourth Caribbean chief justice to be appointed to the Privy Council and the first from Jamaica.

In 2015 he was knighted by The Queen in her Birthday Honours list “for services to the courts of appeal in Bermuda, Turks & Caicos Islands and Cayman Islands”.

The official notice of his award stated that Sir Edward “made an exceptional contribution in guiding the development of the law in Overseas Territories as the president of the Court of Appeal in three UK Overseas Territories”.

The investiture of the knighthood was conducted by Prince William, The Duke Of Cambridge, on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at Buckingham Palace.


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