March 21, 2010

The Caribbean Court of Justice and the Legal Profession:

Promoting a Caribbean Jurisprudence

Author: Justice Adrian Saunders

Published in: Commonwealth Law Bulletin Vol 33 Is. 4 December 2007


The author submits that the main purpose in the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is to promote the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence, based on the Commonwealth Caribbean's common historic, political, economic and cultural experiences and mutual history.

The article examines the role of final appellate courts, noting that judges of such courts must often choose between alternatives which are perfectly capable of being defended as rational, reasonable and consistent with 'the law'. Factors such as life experiences, socialisation, and backgrounds all play a role in determining the choices that are ultimately made. This is why, the author underscores that 'it is so important to have a diverse Bench, to have Judges from different backgrounds'.

For judges to come close to steering the right course they must have an understanding of the society that gives rise to the legal disputes. They must be grounded in that society. In this respect, the author argues, it is remarkable that the evolution of certain landmark judgments relating to human rights, particularly capital punishment, have been rendered by British judges, sitting and residing in England.

The article, which draws on a wealth of jurisprudence, proceeds to examine the original jurisdiction of the CCJ and the role of the Bar in defending the integrity of the Court and the justice system as well as in enhancing the quality of judgments.

Finally, it emphasises the need to promote Caribbean jurisprudence and access to local judgments. In this regard, it is lamented that many truly outstanding judgments of Caribbean judges do not receive the recognition they should because, if there is an appeal, they become almost automatically buried beneath the judgments of the higher court.

* This is an adaptation of an address given to the Eastern Caribbean Bar Association on 21 September 2007, in Grenada

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