Court of Appeal resumes face-to-face hearings next week
Governor General Sir Partick Allen (seated, centre); President of the Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Brooks (seated left) and Chief Justice Bryan Sykes (seated right), with members of the judiciary who were appointed to higher office at a swearing-in ceremony at King's House, on Monday. From left are Tracey-Ann Johnson; Christine McNeil; Luciana Jackson; Sharon Millwood Moore; Master Pamela Mason; Justice Kissock Laing; Master Stephany Orr; Opal Smith; and Justice Georgiana Fraser. (Photo: JIS)

THE Court of Appeal will be resuming in-person hearings next week, ending the reliance on virtual hearings which were adopted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Jamaica in March 2020.

Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for acting judges of appeal, puisne judges, and masters-in-chambers at King's House on Monday, president of the Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Brooks said while some people have enjoyed the virtual format which featured attorneys on the Zoom platform, while the judges and court staff were in the courtroom, others have "longed for the more direct interaction between bench and bar".

"We at the Court of Appeal are going through an era of change. When the new term starts next week we will resume in-person hearings at the courts as a matter of course," the Appeal Court president said.

"We are aware, however, that COVID-19 is still with us and so we have encouraged our staff and we encourage visitors to the court to try their best to follow the protocols so that we will all remain as safe as possible," Justice Brooks stated.

In the meantime, he said the Appeal Court will also, this term, begin an e-filing pilot project to increase efficiency.

"This is intended to make life easier for litigants and for their legal representatives. The plan is to train the attorney-at-law and relevant officers at the Department of Correctional Services, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and also the Attorney General's offices to use the Judicial Case Management System so that we can have those persons using the e-filing system and getting accustomed to it, and we can work out any kinks that may be in that process and make it suitable for wholesale use," Justice Brooks explained.

On Monday, Justice Kissock Laing and Justice Georgiana Frazer were sworn in as acting judges of appeal in place of two judges who are on vacation leave. Also sworn in as acting puisne judges were Stephany Orr, Pamela Mason, Opal Smith, Tracey-Ann Johnson, and Sharon Millwood Moore. Luciana Jackson and Christine McNeil were sworn in as acting masters in chambers.

Addressing the judges Justice Brooks said, "The confidence that has been reposed in all of you is not displaced and we know you will all do well."

Speaking of justices Laing and Fraser, who have both acted before in the posts, he said, "We know of their worth and work and know they will both do well."

"Justice Laing has had several acting appointments in the courts and this is because he has proved himself not only as a team player and that is an essential characteristic for being a judge of the appeal, but he is also a consistent producer. The learned chief justice is an ardent advocate of the principle that everything can be measured, and I can assure him that the measure of Justice Laing's contribution to the court is that for every term that he has been with the court he has been among the judges who deliver the most judgements," Justice Brooks said.

He said Justice Laing has been instrumental in the e-filing project that the court is about to undertake.

Turning to Justice Fraser, he said she "has brought a wide range of experiences in law, including that of deputy director of public prosecutions, senior resident magistrate, and judge of the Supreme Court to enhance the performance of the Court of Appeal".

"Justice Fraser has been known to be a no-nonsense judge - strong but fair. Litigants always leave with the feeling that she has considered their respective positions even if they don't agree with the outcome. We at the Court of Appeal are very happy that these two judges have been appointed to act."

The swearing-in ceremony of these judges is a formal event that marks the beginning of the new Michaelmas Term. The Michaelmas Term is one of three court terms, the others being the Hilary Term and the Easter Term. The term begins in September and ends on the Friday before Christmas.

During the swearing-in ceremony, the new judges and masters-in-chambers take the oath of office, pledging to uphold the constitution of Jamaica and to faithfully discharge their duties. The ceremony is a reminder of the importance of the judiciary in Jamaica and of the role that judges and masters play in upholding the rule of law.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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