CCJ can make positive change to Caribbean social order – President

Sir Dennis Byron

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad  – The outgoing President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Sir Dennis Byron says the court, which was established in 2001, to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, is currently poised to contribute to positive change in the social order of  Caribbean societies.

Speaking at the 10th Annual CCJ International Law Moot Competition that was won by the Jamaica-based Norman Manley Law School on Friday, Sir Dennis said that the CCJ’s contribution will be through the delivery of justice, which is “accessible, efficient and reflective of our values and mores”.

Sir Byron, who announced that he would be replaced by the St Vincent and the Grenadines jurist, Justice Adrian Saunders, who has been with the CCJ from its inception, said that the infrastructure is established and technology has been an agile resource.

“At Moot 2018, you have interfaced with our new case management system. All submissions were uploaded to CURIA and made accessible to the Bench and opposing teams. This was a cursory interaction which will be more fully utilised at the next Moot,” he said.

He said the advent of the use of this new software system in the Court has contributed to heightened efficiency.

Curia is an e-Filing and Case Management system that allows court user to file documents and manage their case electronically through the CCJ portal. It also allows users to access all documents filed on a case. It permits the court’s registry staff to electronically process and manage cases throughout their lifecycle. It also carries a performance management and reporting tool which utilises numerous metrics to provide reports and data to designated court staff.

Sir Dennis said this development has positioned the Court to be more efficient and responsive in delivering justice to the region and builds on a process which he pioneered in 2013 with the introduction of filing cases and documents by email.

“The transition to e-Filing was therefore a logical progression. This technological revolution has extended to other areas of the Court resulting in improved video conferencing capabilities as evidenced by the live streaming of our cases for public viewing and the introduction of financing and resources management systems.”

Sir Dennis, the second Caribbean national to head the Court since its inception, said that such advancements support the broader mission of the Court to facilitate access to justice by providing all interested persons with a front seat to witness the adjudication processes of the Court.

He said this increased efficiency has resulted in a tremendous improvement to access to the court. For instance, in the calendar year 2016, 18 cases were filed in the Appellate Jurisdiction, and 35 cases in the year 2017, resulting in an increase by 94 per cent.

“This efficiency is also illustrated by the disposal rate of cases. In the calendar years 2016 and 2017, an aggregate of 46 cases were disposed of by the court. The prompt and efficient disposal of the court’s cases is supported by the court’s policy of actively ensuring that most cases are disposed of within six months from the date of the case being filed until the date a final judgement is given by the Court,” Sir Dennis said.

He said that there have also been some significant achievements during his tenure as President in which he takes great pride.

“The sponsoring of the Advanced Performance Exponents Inc. (APEX), which is a special-purpose, not-for profit, agency, that is committed to delivering technology-based solutions and services to support court ecosystems is one such enterprise. APEX is owned by the CCJ, the regional judiciaries and bar associations.

“I believe that it has the potential to further advance the justice landscape of the region. As APEX develops, I envision it continuing to facilitate programmes and initiatives aimed at strengthening the justice systems of the region and improving the standards of efficiency of court related service,” he said.

He told the ceremony that one project he was especially proud to be involved in is the establishment of the Caribbean Community Administrative Tribunal (CCAT) which is an independent institution focused on resolving disputes between employees and their Caribbean Community (CARICOM) institution employers that enjoy immunity from civil suits.

He said this tribunal finally fills a lacuna that has long existed in the constituent instruments of most CARICOM institutions for the settlement of employment disputes.

“By providing a proper forum for the ventilation of employment disputes, the tribunal is a transformative project not just for the Court but also for the further evolution and maturity of the Caribbean integration movement and regional rule of law.”

But he said it must await the final authorization of the CARICOM governments for its implementation

“Clearly the structures and operations that constitute and support the architecture of the CCJ are up and functioning. All modalities necessary for its operation exist. Yet the most compelling matter for the Court is member states’ acceptance of it as the Court of final appellate jurisdiction.”

So far only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are signatories to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, which also has an original jurisdiction and serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member CARICOM grouping.

Sir Dennis, who leaves office within the coming weeks, said that the CCJ is now positioned to acquire, analyse and understand good local knowledge for administering justice in the region.