Judicial reforms to give 'clout beyond our size'


Alfred Sears


Tribune Business Editor


An ex-attorney general yesterday hailed the chief justice's reforms as potentially giving The Bahamas "an influence way beyond our size" in both legal services and attracting new business.

Alfred Sears told Tribune Business that the planned digital transformation of the Bahamian court system, together with the construction of a new judicial complex and overhaul of the Supreme Court's rules, represent a key building block for improving this nation's economic competitiveness if properly implemented.

Praising the initiatives unveiled by Brian Moree QC as "long overdue", Mr Sears said The Bahamas was not just competing with other countries in financial services and related industries but is also battling with them in dispute resolution.

He added that fully enacting the reforms, and demonstrating that The Bahamas can deliver timely, efficient and cost-effective justice, could result in parties to international commercial transactions choosing The Bahamas as their jurisdiction of choice for the resolution of any disputes.

And overhauling the judicial system would also help "create momentum and clarify niche opportunities" as The Bahamas works to reposition its financial services industry following the latest tax and regulatory onslaught from the European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

"I certainly support and applaud the chief justice for undertaking these necessary reforms because the digitisation of court filings will expedite and assist with case management," Mr Sears told Tribune Business. "These initiatives are long overdue.

"Also, there's an urgent need for a judicial complex because the Supreme Court right now is scattered across several buildings which are not customised for the unique functions of the judiciary.

"A unified judicial complex will better facilitate the operations of the judiciary, provide better security for judges and court officials, and better security for filings as they are not required to be transferred from one building to the next."

Mr Sears said further advantages from a dedicated Supreme Court complex would be the ability to better sequester jurors, keeping them free from influences that could prejudice a trial's outcome, and better protection of witnesses from intimidation by family or associates of the accused. Record-keeping and administrative support would also be improved.

Both the judicial system's transformation to e-filing and e-services, and the construction of a purpose-built Supreme Court complex, are high on Chief Justice Moree's priority list. The first reforms will focus on eliminating the bureaucratic, paper-based filing of court documents and replacing this with a technology platform that will allow them to be submitted electronically.

This will lead into the development of electronic case management, fee payment, scheduling and other digital services, with the Chief Justice telling Tribune Business earlier this week that all changes will be "sustainable" and implemented over a two to three-year period.

He added that he had also held discussions over constructing a new Supreme Court complex, describing the process as being at "a very delicate stage" and something he may be able to say more about in a few months.

Mr Sears said he and other members of the inner Bar had already met with Chief Justice Moree to discuss the proposed reforms, and yesterday promised he would "offer any assistance I can give to this long overdue initiative".

"The benefits are significant and multiple," he told Tribune Business. "First, we need to ensure justice is not delayed, both in the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the court and, certainly, digitisation and proper facilities and better resources for the judiciary will make the delivery of justice much more timely.

"Secondly, access to the courts and the timely disposition of cases has a direct bearing on the competitiveness of the jurisdiction. Thirdly, the expansion of business to The Bahamas both by foreign direct investment as well as others.

"As the jurisdiction develops a reputation for efficiency and fairness, people all over the world in the choice of law provision in commercial transactions could choose The Bahamas - as they have done Singapore, London and Paris - as the forum for settling disputes."

Mr Sears said the court system transformation needed to be backed by an increasing embrace of arbitration and mediation as alternative forms of dispute resolution - something the Chief Justice earlier this week said will be incorporated into the revised Supreme Court Rules targeted for implementation in early April 2020.

"Investing in the judiciary is important for the peace, order and good governance of The Bahamas, the competitiveness of the jurisdiction and the attraction of The Bahamas internationally to people involved in commercial transactions," Mr Sears reiterated.

"We could have an influence way beyond our size because of the quickness, effectiveness and integrity of our judicial process and doing business in The Bahamas. This is all part of improving the competitiveness of the jurisdiction, and repositioning The Bahamas to play in this increasingly digitised global economy where you're trading really in knowledge.

"We certainly have the expertise, but the infrastructure needs to be redesigned and refashioned to be more attractive to international commercial transaction. We are competing with these other jurisdictions in banking and financial services, but we are also competing with them in terms of dispute resolution," the former attorney general continued.

"There are many opportunities for us to reinvent ourselves, and I think the Chief Justice's initiative can build momentum and clarify niche opportunities for The Bahamas as we refashion and design our financial services sector and dispute resolution, and make this jurisdiction much more attractive and competitive.

"I think he's on to a great start, and we all need to pull together to see how we can assist."


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 9 months ago

Sears has perfected the art of kissing arses by kissing the arses the numbers bosses like Seas Bastian and Craig Flowers. By comparison, Moree's arse must smell a bit better too Sears. LMAO


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