CHIEF Justice Ivor Archie will open the 2020/2021 law term with a virtual address on October 1.
A statement from the Judiciary said Archie’s address will be broadcast on state-owned TTT and on the Judiciary’s social media pages on Facebook and You Tube.
Traditionally, the new law term would have opened on September 16 with a church service, a procession by judges, an inspection of the guards outside the Hall of Justice and the CJ’s address at the Convocation Hall.
However, because of the coronavirus pandemic it was proposed in May to abolish the court’s six-week-long vacation for the 2019/2020 term, which would have come to an end in August, and the 2020/2021 term, subject to negative resolution of Parliament.
The proposal to abolish the long vacation and change the court year were contained in plans to amend the Civil and Criminal Proceedings Rules. Questions to the Judiciary on whether the required resolution was approved before Parliament was dissolved on July 3 were not answered, but the change in the rules allowed for the new court year to begin on October 1 and end on September 30.
When the changes were proposed, the Law Association objected to the suspension of the vacation for 2020 because of the disruption of court brought on by the covid19 pandemic.
In a previous response to questions from Newsday, the Judiciary said the proposal was aimed at providing “greater flexibility to judges and lawyers to arrange their schedules and lives and to ensure that the public has enhanced access to justice.
“With the heavy caseloads and with the backlog, it is totally inappropriate and insensitive, and in fact somewhat irresponsible, to shut ourselves off from the public for six weeks of the year while the people’s business goes wanting.”
President of the association Douglas Mendes, SC, however, said the proposal may have amounted to no more than window dressing and would not achieve anything of any real substance.
Mendes reminded Archie that there was already an established procedure for judges to take their vacation outside the normal long vacation, so it was not necessary to abolish the long vacation to provide that flexibility.
He also said the proposed abolition will not enhance access to justice but may lead to decreased access. He said it will not increase productivity and can introduce more conflict and unnecessary wastage of time, with judges having to determine battles over adjournment.
Mendes also said the proposal will greatly inconvenience lawyers.
“While it may be good to say the court is open all year round, it is an insufficient basis for abolishing a long-standing, tried and tested working mechanism when keeping the court open all year round does not mean that more work is being done, or that there is greater access to justice,” Mendes said.