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The State Of The Judiciary

EDITOR, The Tribune.

I hold that the main stream media does not always portray the truth of the status quo of most governmental agencies and bodies as it relates to the dispensation of services expected by citizens. Two cases in point. Even before the onslaught of the pandemic it was difficult for litigants to file documents in the Magistrates’ Courts and/or to obtain timely trial dates.

In addition, the Supreme Court itself is on apparent “lockdown” and “go slow”. Judges are available but most by remote and virtual social platforms. Proficiency herein is not an ideal situation. In order to access a court file or to obtain copies, one is obliged to make an electronic request for an appointment to view the particular file or obtain the copies.

What does this mean for the smooth functioning of the judiciary and the timely delivery of services?

Due to limited operational hours law firms and litigants pro se (in person) are unable to file end retrieve documents and pleadings on a timely basis.

Commercial and criminal litigation has been upended and even lost in the system which is still not yet fully computerised.

Small court claims are being sidelined and persons are fearful of entering the court complex on Nassau and South Streets due to the uncertainty of the health and sanitary status.

Keep in mind that the holding cells at the nearby police station have never been in the best of shape. At any given time more than one individual occupies a cell. Are the occupants tested before entry into a cell and is there running water and hand sanitizers available? I doubt it.

Mothers who have a child or children for deadbeat dads are having a difficult time filing summons for maintenance and child support.

It is a phenomenon of no small order that putative and actual fathers of children in The Bahamas often refuse to pay or contribute a dime to their upkeep and support. Yet we say that we are a Christian nation!

What hypocrites we are! Monies paid into the courts allegedly often go missing and may never be paid to the claimant.

As a legally trained person I am well aware of the practical difficulties with the judicial system.

All of our Supreme Court facilities are in a terrible state of repair and to this very day the annual budget for the judiciary is controlled by the executive in the form of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance.

This is dead wrong and it is time that there be a separate annual allocation for control by the Chief Justice and a select and totally independent Judicial Services Commission.

Of course there would be oversight by the Public Accounts Commission and a Parliamentary Committee. The Ministry of Works needs to conduct a dedicated survey as to the refurbishment of existing judicial structures, especially downtown Nassau and many of the more populated Family Islands.

Lastly there is no adequate Bailiff system in place whereby litigants would pay a fee into a judicial office (set by the Chief Justice and his managerial committee) to have guaranteed service of documents and pleadings on a timely basis. As it is right now, there are on duty and off duty police officers acting as “bailiffs” with absolutely no oversight and many of them are not to be trusted, especially if they ‘know’ the other party to an action.

Documents are not served on time for the court date or at all, yet the officers would have been paid on average B$80.00 per service. Service of court documents by a qualified and sworn in bailiff is critical to the smooth functioning of the judiciary.

Tens of thousands of dollars in income for the judiciary could be generated and used for the regular upkeep of the court buildings.

I invite my good friend and patron, the Hon Sir Brian Moree, QC, Chief Justice, to transform the judiciary and the way court business is conducted. He’d have my full support. To God then, in all things, be the glory.

ORTLAND H BODIE, Jr

Nassau,

November 15, 2020.

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