By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
CHIEF Justice Stephen Isaacs died in hospital on Friday.
The 63-year-old was reportedly battling cancer.
He was recognized in a Cabinet statement confirming his death as a “judge’s judge…the epitome of the highest standards of conduct of a judicial officer; and for upholding the Rule of Law, justice, order and proper decorum in his courtroom.”
Justice Isaacs was sworn in to the substantive post of Chief Justice two weeks ago, filling a post left vacant by the retirement of Sir Hartman Longley last year.
Speaking to reporters following his appointment, Justice Isaacs listed better efficiency, an improved judicial complex, and more effective manpower management among his goals for his tenure in this position.
He also expressed hopes of advocating for a better “case to judge ratio,” improving the country’s plea bargain system and introducing an overall shift in the judicial culture of the country.
“Having a purpose-built judicial complex is still in the works. It’s been in the works since I was registrar. And with any luck you may see it before I retire,” he said.
On Friday, Opposition Leader Philip Davis described his passing as cruel irony.
Mr Davis underscored that Mr Justice Isaacs was a “good Bahamian”, who had done his best to administer the law without fear or favour.
“His life was not easy,” Mr Davis said in a statement.
“He rose up from difficult personal circumstances to reach the top of his profession. It is often one of the cruel ironies of this life that just as you reach the top, the final curtain is drawn.”
Said Mr Davis: “Our last conversation at his swearing- n touched upon that which is the richness of the human experience – that which is passed on from one life to the other.
“In this context Chief Justice Isaacs' life of overcoming the difficult personal circumstances will be the hallmark of his legacy.
Mr Davis said: “It illustrates that those unfortunate personal circumstances do not define who you are, but rather they reveal who you are by the way you respond to those circumstances. The proverb says “seven times you fall, eight times you get up."
“On behalf of the PLP, my wife Ann, our Deputy Leader, Chester Cooper, our Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell and the entire party, I offer sincere condolences to his family.”
Justice Isaacs, according to the government’s release, was called to the Bahamas Bar in 1982 and started his judicial career some 12 years later in 1994 when he was appointed Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court.
Throughout his career, Justice Isaacs also served as Registrar of the Court of Appeal, and on the Industrial Tribunal, before being appointed to the Higher Judiciary as a Supreme Court Justice in September 2002 when he assumed office as an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court and was stationed in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
In 2015, he was promoted to the rank of a Senior Justice of the Supreme Court, and appointed Acting Chief Justice in December, 2017.
He was confirmed to the substantive post this past July.
Justice Isaacs is survived by his children Stephen Jr and Capri.
In a social media post yesterday, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin expressed a great level of sadness and issued a plea for the country to “embrace” its brightest and best.
“Condolences to the children and family of Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs,” she wrote.
Her post continued: “I am so saddened by his demise. I am longing for the day in The Bahamas when we will willingly embrace our bright and talented sons and daughters without the petty politics.”
Democratic National Alliance Deputy Leader, Arinthia Komolafe also expressed sadness over the loss, contending the country was looking forward to the years of “distinguished service” by Justice Isaacs.
“It was only a few weeks ago that the late Chief Justice was confirmed in his substantive post. Bahamians had looked forward to more years of distinguished service by this luminary and true patriot,” her statement read.
“Unfortunately, this was not to be and we have lost a brilliant jurist who contributed enormously to the development of the legal profession in The Bahamas.
“Members of the legal fraternity will remember him as a respected gentleman who left an indelible mark on the judiciary and on our jurisprudence. A grateful nation salutes him for his service and dedication over the years.
“On behalf of the Democratic National Alliance, we offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Chief justice Stephen Isaacs. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” she added.
Prior to Justice Isaacs’ appointment, Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker had publicly castigated Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis over delays to name a new Chief Justice.
In April, Mr Parker told The Nassau Guardian that Dr Minnis had a “tremendous misapprehension” of the constitutional provisions relating to the appointment of a chief justice, adding the prime minister did not appear to grasp firmly the Constitution as a whole.
With the sudden and unexpected passing of Justice Isaacs, the process of identifying and naming a successor to the substantive post begins again.