Grenada has been selected as one of the pilot countries for the implementation and benefits of the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) project which is the brainchild of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The six month long project will highlight the introduction of backlog and delay reduction strategies to improve case-flow management in the judiciary.
It is hoped that the initiative will develop public trust and confidence in judicial institutions and also develop more transparent systems and processes that will enable law courts to manage and dispose of cases efficiently.
The legal experts are optimistic that the new project will improve the delivery of judicial services among CARICOM Independent Sovereign States and Associated Member States.
A number of lawyers and litigants gathered last week Thursday at the Radisson Beach resort to engage in a focus group discussion to give their opinions on what needs to be changed and developed in the courts of Grenada.
The session was facilitated by Justice Adrian Saunders, a judge attached to the CCJ.
In speaking to reporters, Justice Saunders said that Grenada is the perfect place to implement the project because of its active bar association and good infrastructure and court offices.
“You also have a Registrar who is also proactive and we have found that the Mediation infrastructure in Grenada is much more robust than in some of the other countries in the Caribbean. All of that creates the perfect platform to implement the project”, he said.
“We did a training programme this week with the judges who will be implementing the project and I’m very optimistic that we would fulfill our goal,” he added.
According to Justice Saunders, the idea of this project is to dispose of cases that are ripe for hearing.
“Everything that has been done has already been done to those cases to be actually heard in court. We thought that many of these cases can go back to Mediation and those that are not settled at Mediation can be tried if we utilise new techniques which we have been training the judges on this week in order to assist in the disposition of the cases”, he told reporters.
“…We want to ensure that the cases proceed smoothly through the courts and that the litigants giving their evidence are not stopped because the judge has to write down but that instead a digital recording of the prceedings is considered the official record,” he said.
Justice Saunders referred to a second mode in the project which is having the judges trained to deliver their judgments orally or quickly, shortly after the proceedings.
Another method, he said is by the court office scheduling matters in such a way that the likelihood of adjournment is eliminated.
“In this pilot project we would also be dealing with some of the aspects of the court administration that has to do with the efficiency in the recording of cases, the storing of the cases on an electronic platform and being able to pull reports from the electronic platform on which the cases are stored”, he said.
Justice Saunders is confident that the new initiative will provide for better management of cases in the court system.
“…It makes for better management of the whole court process if you can just click a few buttons and instantly know how many cases arrive for hearing and how many cases in which a dependent who have supposed to send in a defense have not done so,” he explained.
Justice Saunders stated that in order to ensure that this becomes a reality, a system known as Judicial Enforcement Management Systems (JEMS) will be used in various courts throughout the Eastern Caribbean and wider Caribbean.
Queens Counsel, Celia Clyne-Edwards who attended the session advocated the need for Mediation to be used as a way of solving the backlog of cases before the courts.
She told reporters that Mediation is one of the best innovations in the legal system.
“In a court, lawyers have to question, lawyers have to make their submissions and the parties are restricted in that they could only answer the questions that (are) asked, in Mediation quite often dispute involve much more than what is on paper”, she said.
“…In Mediation the litigants have the opportunity to state their case the way they want to state it and their lawyers are there to protect them to make sure that their interests are protected. It helps to settle matters where both sides could walk away feeling, I compromised but I’m satisfied but that is the good thing about the Mediation system ” she added.
The 20 million dollar pilot project is expected to be complete in November.