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Whither bound Caribbean Justice?

By Claude Gerald

Sir Dennis Byron’s recent lecture at the UWI Jamaica cannot go unnoticed as he opined that the character of a judge is the prime ingredient, in the mix to evaluate the success of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as the preeminent body of legal decision making in the English speaking Caribbean.

That quality is believed to embody the legal art of this international jurist, who now heads the fledgling Caribbean Court of Justice and is the chief proponent of selling its worth to the stoutly indifferent and doubting Thomas’s in the region.

Character goes straight to demeanour, transparency, court control and thus judicial decision making in and beyond the reaches of the courtroom. Character models Victorian decency; this precedes the trappings and power of being a judge, especially in largely unquestioning societies.

Stinting as he did on Montserrat in the early 80’s, though a consummate tennis player and a socialite reminiscent of the late Chief Justice, Allan Louisy, Sir Dennis’s mannerisms did not generate any reports or rumours of inappropriate associations, of callous verbal haemorrhaging or side taking on any issue that obligated his attention in the court. His was one of balanced professionalism, probity in and out of the court and a fine example to viewers who wanted to learn and respect the institution of the court of law, thus feeling confident in its direction, decisions and guidance. He recognized the loneliness of the court judge and lived its dictates.

As a public figure Sir Dennis is arguably alone in highlighting and setting the tone for this noble foundational quality. Others have chosen to place emphasis on training and experience and how capable our faculties of law have become relative to world standards. Breaking the colonial yolk is not a viable and attractive argument in itself although it is popular and has sensational appeal to the rabid anti-colonialists, who undervalue lessons from colonial rule somewhat sadly, oblivious to a purported higher moral order of those times.

But why is Sir Dennis so enthralled with who a judge is as opposed to what he has become in a worldly sense? Powerfully placed in an individual’s make up is a core set of values that are either genetically conditioned or acquired normally in the formative years of life, by virtue of human influences. Properly combined this hybridization takes decision making to its optimum level.

Beyond those years a person’s prime tendencies are not a function of anything much more, no matter how major those experiences or accomplishments maybe. So character, Sir Dennis is implying, is of an endogenous origin primarily and you either have it or not despite varying gradations of that quality; if you do not then you cannot be a good judge of anything much less in positions that affect a society as fundamentally as an arm of governance like a court of law.

Law at its core is interpretational. And though the theory of law is intertwined with social mores and taboos in many instances, law cannot function alone. Law is given life by the makeup of the official adjudicator of interpretation – a judge – and it must be conducted in a setting that would equate to a pristine laboratory, in an applied scientific sense.

The judge is like a permeable membrane that determines what passes its cell wall and becomes a part of the court records and guides the summation of the case. The strength of that membrane effectively determines the nature of the organism and speaks to the quality of the judgement and that maybe the thesis of Sir Dennis’s seminal argument going forward.

To legislate a code for that quality is a genuine puzzle. And influencing and finding it is a long term challenge, as such is not a ready and immediate resource in a legal world of scarcity. The fact is that there is a need to sustain it for the good of the institution of justice and this is no small issue for Sir Dennis and beyond him, since not every lawyer can meet that threshold of quality to engender public confidence as a judge.

Moreover to what extent is ethicity a formal requirement to enter law school and is emphasis placed on it at any level along the way? We know that Universities on a whole do not award steel. Instead they award paper. They do not teach character and do not emphasize it. You go as you are and return as you were. Given this importance, there is the need to reformulate the curriculum from the ground up to bring it in line with the market fundamentals of our time at least.

The selection of judges is not a trivial matter as Sir Dennis convincingly aired, evaluatively. The selectors of judges continue to owe society a tremendous debt since they must ensure that a culture of moral and legal excellence is the flagship that beckons and sustains confidence in the court at its various levels through to the CCJ.

And only selectors of quality can select the best quality to afford decision making the highest heritability opportunities.

Selectors must seek and select judges who have a vested professional interest in seeking the truth in court matters and to stay with the facts. To do so you have to cast aside passion, accepted thought, and the inclination to esteem matters and opinions outside the realm of the case or selection issues; with that you shall not be led into error, to the detriment of social welfare objectives.

In an imperfect world with imperfect legal codes judges are expected to safe guard society nonetheless. The distinguished Sir Dennis knows too well of the outside pressures that face court adjudicators in these regional jurisdictions and a key safeguard rests squarely on the shoulders of men and women of moral steel in the court.

Court watchers know that the mob element in tiny societies is the same today as it was at the time of Jesus Christ.

If we disregard the importance of character on the bench, the type of justice meted out to Joan of Arc of France and Robert Emmet of Ireland many centuries ago, will continue to mince away at the moral fabric of our societies, to make a nullity of all human endeavours.

A judgment that lets you off with a warning is one that is forearming.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator on Montserrat. He is at ceegee15@hotmail.com

 

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By Claude Gerald

Sir Dennis Byron’s recent lecture at the UWI Jamaica cannot go unnoticed as he opined that the character of a judge is the prime ingredient, in the mix to evaluate the success of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as the preeminent body of legal decision making in the English speaking Caribbean.

That quality is believed to embody the legal art of this international jurist, who now heads the fledgling Caribbean Court of Justice and is the chief proponent of selling its worth to the stoutly indifferent and doubting Thomas’s in the region.

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Character goes straight to demeanour, transparency, court control and thus judicial decision making in and beyond the reaches of the courtroom. Character models Victorian decency; this precedes the trappings and power of being a judge, especially in largely unquestioning societies.

Stinting as he did on Montserrat in the early 80’s, though a consummate tennis player and a socialite reminiscent of the late Chief Justice, Allan Louisy, Sir Dennis’s mannerisms did not generate any reports or rumours of inappropriate associations, of callous verbal haemorrhaging or side taking on any issue that obligated his attention in the court. His was one of balanced professionalism, probity in and out of the court and a fine example to viewers who wanted to learn and respect the institution of the court of law, thus feeling confident in its direction, decisions and guidance. He recognized the loneliness of the court judge and lived its dictates.

As a public figure Sir Dennis is arguably alone in highlighting and setting the tone for this noble foundational quality. Others have chosen to place emphasis on training and experience and how capable our faculties of law have become relative to world standards. Breaking the colonial yolk is not a viable and attractive argument in itself although it is popular and has sensational appeal to the rabid anti-colonialists, who undervalue lessons from colonial rule somewhat sadly, oblivious to a purported higher moral order of those times.

But why is Sir Dennis so enthralled with who a judge is as opposed to what he has become in a worldly sense? Powerfully placed in an individual’s make up is a core set of values that are either genetically conditioned or acquired normally in the formative years of life, by virtue of human influences. Properly combined this hybridization takes decision making to its optimum level.

Beyond those years a person’s prime tendencies are not a function of anything much more, no matter how major those experiences or accomplishments maybe. So character, Sir Dennis is implying, is of an endogenous origin primarily and you either have it or not despite varying gradations of that quality; if you do not then you cannot be a good judge of anything much less in positions that affect a society as fundamentally as an arm of governance like a court of law.

Law at its core is interpretational. And though the theory of law is intertwined with social mores and taboos in many instances, law cannot function alone. Law is given life by the makeup of the official adjudicator of interpretation – a judge – and it must be conducted in a setting that would equate to a pristine laboratory, in an applied scientific sense.

The judge is like a permeable membrane that determines what passes its cell wall and becomes a part of the court records and guides the summation of the case. The strength of that membrane effectively determines the nature of the organism and speaks to the quality of the judgement and that maybe the thesis of Sir Dennis’s seminal argument going forward.

To legislate a code for that quality is a genuine puzzle. And influencing and finding it is a long term challenge, as such is not a ready and immediate resource in a legal world of scarcity. The fact is that there is a need to sustain it for the good of the institution of justice and this is no small issue for Sir Dennis and beyond him, since not every lawyer can meet that threshold of quality to engender public confidence as a judge.

Moreover to what extent is ethicity a formal requirement to enter law school and is emphasis placed on it at any level along the way? We know that Universities on a whole do not award steel. Instead they award paper. They do not teach character and do not emphasize it. You go as you are and return as you were. Given this importance, there is the need to reformulate the curriculum from the ground up to bring it in line with the market fundamentals of our time at least.

The selection of judges is not a trivial matter as Sir Dennis convincingly aired, evaluatively. The selectors of judges continue to owe society a tremendous debt since they must ensure that a culture of moral and legal excellence is the flagship that beckons and sustains confidence in the court at its various levels through to the CCJ.

And only selectors of quality can select the best quality to afford decision making the highest heritability opportunities.

Selectors must seek and select judges who have a vested professional interest in seeking the truth in court matters and to stay with the facts. To do so you have to cast aside passion, accepted thought, and the inclination to esteem matters and opinions outside the realm of the case or selection issues; with that you shall not be led into error, to the detriment of social welfare objectives.

In an imperfect world with imperfect legal codes judges are expected to safe guard society nonetheless. The distinguished Sir Dennis knows too well of the outside pressures that face court adjudicators in these regional jurisdictions and a key safeguard rests squarely on the shoulders of men and women of moral steel in the court.

Court watchers know that the mob element in tiny societies is the same today as it was at the time of Jesus Christ.

If we disregard the importance of character on the bench, the type of justice meted out to Joan of Arc of France and Robert Emmet of Ireland many centuries ago, will continue to mince away at the moral fabric of our societies, to make a nullity of all human endeavours.

A judgment that lets you off with a warning is one that is forearming.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator on Montserrat. He is at ceegee15@hotmail.com